Why businesses struggle with social media

by JASON FALLS · December 20, 2011

Social media marketing is not easy. At its core, you’re trying to market to audiences that broadly do not wish to be marketed to. While there are exceptions, and mainstream consumers aren’t as fervent about getting rid of advertising messages in their precious social spaces as the echo chamber, you’re still pushing a boulder up hill.

People don’t go to Facebook looking for commerce or brands. They go there looking for their friend’s latest update on her kids or a family member’s update on his job search. They go there to play silly games and waste time.

People don’t go to Twitter looking for brands to follow. They go for conversation and have, over time and probably accidentally, occasioned upon a company account that serves some usefulness in sharing content or similar.

People don’t go to LinkedIn hoping to check out the latest ads companies have launched there. They go do scout for prospective customers or beg people for informational interviews.

And People don’t go to Google+ hoping to see the latest coupon update from the manager of the local Payless Shoes. They go to find content from interesting people or share pictures of their kids or something silly they saw at the park.

English: Potter at work on potter's wheel.Image via Wikipedia

Ere go it’s hard to market through social media. Brands are still, and will probably always be, interlopers here. This doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. It doesn’t mean their messages will always fall on deaf ears. It just means success takes working hard to reach consumers and doing things differently than before.

All the social media purists and evangelists in the world can give you all their tokens of advice. And, as a company or brand, you can take the advice, implement it and have some success in social media. And yes, you can have failure, too. But you will never drive social media success in your company until you do one thing:


It doesn’t matter if you’re “human” as a company. It doesn’t matter if you “join the conversation.” And, no, it doesn’t matter if you respond quickly to whiny bastards on Twitter.

If you can’t offer up a message to your audience that makes them pull back, double take and say, “Holy shit! That’s cool!” You’re just going to be another hack trying to “engage.”

And even if you do craft that message, if you aren’t able to promote the message and get it in front of people, it won’t matter. The web is not an environment where if you build it, they will come. You have to build it, promote the crap out of it, beg people to look at it, then remind them again to go see it. If they do AND it’s a “Holy Shit, this is cool,” message, then you’ve got something.

And then there’s the scale factor. Some messages will blow everyone’s mind. Others will only appeal to a few select folks. As long as those few select folks are potential buyers, you’re still going to see results. But if the message drives an audience that doesn’t match the brand’s target population, you’ve wasted your time.

So for today, forget about your editorial calendar. Put down the keyboard and let that blog post wait. Stop Tweeting meaningless drivel about your product or some silly event coming up.

Do something to help you not struggle.

Close your eyes. Picture your ideal customer — the one who will not only buy what you’re selling, but love it, love you for making it and tell all their friends about it. Put yourself in his or her shoes. Become that person for a minute, if just in your imagination.

Now imagine you, as that person, are reading a blog post, seeing a Tweet scroll by or browsing the stream on Facebook to see what interesting things are happening there. And then ask yourself:

“What message would make me stop, double take and say, ‘Holy Shit! That’s cool!’”

Now, go back to your editorial calendar, blog or Tweet. And write THAT.


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