Don’t Believe The Hype! Social Marketing “Truths” That Aren’t

Don’t Believe The Hype! Social Marketing “Truths” That Aren’t

Listen to this episode.

Marketing is complex. There are options within options, new tools and platforms every day. The moment you feel like you’ve wrapped your head around one social network, a new one pops up to become the new must-do.

It can feel so utterly overwhelming that a good chunk of people I meet say thing like, “I don’t have time to figure out this online marketing thing.” Another good chunk of people try the Thing du Jour, don’t get much out of it and then blame the messenger. “Blogging doesn’t work.” Or, “Social media isn’t for me.”

If marketing your business “these days”, especially in an Internet world, seems overwhelming or confusing… if you’re not sure where to start or if you’ve started but aren’t sure where to go… if you’ve spent money or time (or both) for little results…

It might be time to realign your thinking about marketing altogether. Here are a few things you may have been conditioned to believe, some misconceptions and misperceptions that will do nothing but stand in the way of engaging in productive, lead-generating marketing.

Social Marketing Is New

Repeat after me: there is NO new marketing.

There are new tools, new platforms, new opportunities to try new tactics. But marketing is still marketing, no matter how you wrap it in technology.

It amazes me day after day how many businesses try social marketing and fail. And they don’t fail for any reason inherent in social marketing or because they didn’t have the right tools or because their audience wasn’t there or because they didn’t tweet the right number of times at the right times of day.

They fail because they think social marketing is new.

Rewind back to pre-Internet days. Think about how you generated business for your law firm or your landscaping company or your craft business. Chances are you did a good bit of networking. You talked to people. You answered their questions and soothed their fears. You probably got to know them a bit so that when you talked with them again, you could ask about their vacation or their kids. You built relationships with people so you could tap into their needs and fill those needs.

Bet you never thought of what you were doing as “social marketing” but think about it… you were being social. And you were marketing. And you generated leads.

When you met a prospect over lunch, did you ever once say to yourself, “My God, what is this ‘menu’ that has been placed in front of me? However shall I close this deal when there are options like ‘mushroom omelet’?”

When a customer called you with a complaint, did you ever once fail to handle the situation because you got hopelessly tangled in the curly cord and couldn’t figure out what to say because the handset in front of you was so round?

Yes, it is that ridiculous!

Social media is just a different set of tools to help you accomplish the same thing. The only reason people get confused and don’t know what to do or do very stupid things and call it marketing is because they think of social marketing as some newfangled thing with new rules and all sorts of requirements that are too myriad to understand.

People fail because they have probably read a thousand blog posts about the precise times to post to Facebook and Twitter, the right way to use hashtags, the proper tone and word count and image size for status updates.

And they build arsenals of rules to follow and forget completely about the “social” and the “marketing”.

Are there certain tactics that apply to online social media platforms? Yes. There are weird things like hashtags and @ mentions and while you shouldn’t be appending your personal conversations with “hashtag thanks!” there are interesting and productive ways to incorporate those into your online marketing.

But a hashtag doesn’t make or break your marketing. Or even matter to your marketing if you spend enough time focusing on the right things. Which is the social. And the marketing.

Social Marketing Is Complicated

The people I know who are most successful with social marketing are not the ones who study and follow rules and watch trends and stay on top of hashtags. They are the ones who start out totally clueless. Who start out by saying things like, “I’m going to try this Twitter thing.” And they get on and instead of treating it like an exotic wild animal, they jump into the conversation, share their thoughts, listen to the thoughts of others and respond.

Nobody told them how to set up an auto DM so they never worried about it. Nobody gave them the best time of day to tweet. So they never worried about it. Nobody taught them the 80/20 rule of sharing so they never spent a single moment worried about curating and timing the right content.

They just got social.

Is there an art to being social? You bet! But that’s as true in life as it is online. If you say something stupid, it’s just as stupid online as it is offline. If you speak truth, it will resonate with the right people online as it will offline. The only difference, as far as I can tell, is that you can tweet in your pajamas, which you probably wouldn’t do if you were having a conversation over lunch.

There are complicated rules, yes. There are rules that will tell you how and when. Rules that will tell you why and where. Rules that will insist you need to be and do.

Repeat after me: there are NO marketing rules.

Well, maybe one: be good.

If there is one rule that sums up all the rules of all marketing it’s that you need to be a good person, running a good company with a good product or service.

Is that an existential question?

No. It’s actually very practical. Everything you say and do and put out into the world is a reflection of you and your business. If you’re snarky with your customers, prospects, leads or total strangers then you’re going to get the same wide-eyed stares as you might in a meeting.

If you’re helpful and personable and thoughtful you will get the same smiles and handshakes online as you would over coffee.

If you have a crummy product or an unreliable service, it will be as evident online as it is offline and that will haunt you no matter how you market. But if you consistently provide value, it will be recognized, recommended and appreciated, however you market.

Will the gurus try to sell you books about how to do social marketing? Will the experts insist on special secret sauces that you have to master? Of course.

But now you know better. You know that while there may be nuances and tactics for using tools and platforms, social marketing is the thing you’ve been doing since the fist time you tried to sell your mom on the idea of letting you ride your bike across the street by yourself.

So. All this to say that if you want to give social marketing a shot – or if you’ve jumped in and feel sadly disappointed – stop and forget what you think you know about how you’re “supposed” to do it and do the thing you’ve known how to do all along.

Are there tactics you may learn as you go? Of course. Better ways to size your images or embed your videos? Sure. Will you discover that posting in the morning is way better than mid afternoon when everyone ignores you? Something like that (it will be different for everyone.)

But learning the nuances of a tool the more you use it is a whole lot different than relearning everything you already knew about being a human being, connecting with people and doing business.

Now get out there and market. And if you’ve got a question, doubt or “rule” you’d like to discuss, let me know! We can “do social” online, offline, via chat, phone or smoke signal if you like. Just reach out and let’s talk.

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • Rae Francoeur

    Great article. Thanks for writing it.

    • I hope it helps you think about your marketing a little differently!

  • “The Arsenal of Rules and Hashtag-ing Fools”

    Don’t wrap yourself in the technology
    New platforms spring up like weeds
    Social marketing isn’t about the tools
    It’s about meeting customers’ needs

    No surprise there is no new marketing
    You can toss out the arsenal of rules
    Just always remember to BE GOOD
    And don’t become a hashtag-ing fool

    Don’t claim that blogging doesn’t work
    Or say that Pinterest isn’t your style
    Don’t blame LinkedIn for lack of sales
    Social marketing takes time and trial

    There are no new ideas under the sun and there is NO new marketing. Isn’t that a relief?! 🙂

    • hashtagging fools…. now that’s a phrase I will have to remember! Did I ever tell you about the day I was walking in NY and a couple of women walking nearby were literally having a conversation with each other in hashtags? It was quite amazing. I think the first stanza of your poem should be emblazoned on every business person’s wall! Poster-style. If every long wordy thing I said can be summed up in one snippet, you just did it!

      • Oh, how I wish you could have recorded that conversation. What’s the world coming to when people converse in hashtag? 😉

    • Krithika Rangarajan

      Aha – imma Melanie rocks! WOOHOO – missed ya! #HUGS

  • Thanks for saying what many of have been feeling for a long time. By the way, I think your podcast is a fantastic resource and I having recommended it to friend and clients many times. Keep up the good fight!

    • Thanks, Stephen! I’m glad you enjoy our podcast and thanks so much for sharing, that’s the best compliment of all.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    WOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO – I MISSED YOUR BLOG POST, Carol! *grinning*

    Sorry for the all-caps, but I was eagerly awaiting a new post from the Riveras 😉 As usual, I am giggling out loud here. And, as usual, my dog thinks his mum is a crazy fool who talks to and laughs with herself 😛 hehe

    LOVEE YOU
    Kitto

    • Well, all caps is a nice way to get enthusiastic feedback on a post! Glad I could amuse you 🙂