Learning To Love To Hate Internet Marketing

Learning To Love To Hate Internet Marketing
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It’s that time of year when businesses take a look at their marketing for the past year and go through the gut wrenching process of determining what worked and what didn’t. Inevitably, businesses start talking about how they can use Google and Facebook and every other channel to try to make more sales and generate more leads.

I’m here to tell you that you’re wasting your time.

I read a marketing book a long time ago that proposed that when a business is reimagining their marketing, they should not look at what their competitors are doing. The author argued that by looking at your competitors, you set an unintentional goal of parity with them. By ignoring your competitors, you don’t have limits or constraints and instead of replicating what your competitors do with some improvement, you can disrupt your market with innovation.

I’ve always loved that bit.

But with the economy being what it is and small and medium sized businesses struggling, many businesses have conceded the “good enough” principle of marketing.

What’s worse, many businesses have sold out their best interests by leveraging all their skill, passion and talent in the service of companies that have no vested interest in their business.

How many times have you heard, “We need to optimize our site for Google?” Have you heard that more or less than, “We have to optimize our site for our customers?”

Today, I’m going to force a few new paradigms into your life. Maybe my thoughts are right on. Maybe they aren’t. But if they get you to rethink your strategy, then I’ll consider it a win.

Google. Fracking Google.

Penguin and Panda and all the other Google animals ruined life for every sentient being on the Internet over the past year or two. It’s yet to be seen if the long term effects of their latest algorithm changes will be good or bad for business, but a new wave of algorithmic changes are coming in January 2014 that are sure to make things better. And by better, I mean worse.

The fact is, the Internet is a big place and getting bigger every day. How does a small or medium sized business compete against the massive amount of content – mostly bad – being dumped on the Internet every day?

It can’t.

But what about magical, mystic content marketing? Or as some people call it: writing. Content marketing certainly adds value to your brand when people find your content, but finding it is getting harder and harder. There are a bajillion self-professed content marketing ninjas, gurus and mavens out there telling their clients to dump as much content on the internet as possible, with keywords, keywords, keywords. “Quality content,” they all cry while pumping out bile. All this does is create more noise in an already noisy playing field.

The result: you and your business get harder to find. And the cycle continues.

Does this mean you should ignore Google?

Yes. Yes it does.

I get the weirdest looks when I say that to a client.

Ask yourself this; what has Google done for you lately? And how much money does it make you to constantly try to serve your Google master?

How about this for an alternative; instead of focusing so much of your business’ valuable resources on search optimization, how about spending all of that energy on people optimization?

Make your offerings valuable to people. Especially people who give you money. Google ain’t gonna write you any checks so you might as well focus on those who will.

And given that Google is focusing on a much wider range of signals to present search results to people, if you create a product that customers find worth talking about then you may land in Google’s good graces. I’m not saying that keywords and content aren’t important, but I am saying that those keywords and that content are only meaningful if they serve your customer.

Facebook. Fracking Facebook.

Carol Lynn posted an amazing series of thoughts on what Facebook will mean to business in 2014. Her post seems to have resonated given the length of the comments greatly outweigh the length of the original article.

The only thing I’ll add is this; Facebook is not a social media platform. It’s an advertising platform that moonlights as a social media platform. It is designed from the ground up to capture as much data about you as possible so that data can be harvested, repurposed, packaged and sold to the highest advertising bidders.

Should a business be on Facebook? Maybe.

What is certain is that marketing to prospects will become harder given that the content you publish to Facebook will be seen less and less after Facebook rolls out its new algorithm.

Fact: People who “like” a Facebook page almost never return.

Fact: Even if someone “likes” your page, they will only see your content a small percentage of the time.

Once the algorithm is updated, even that percentage will decline.

Facebook has published a statement “urging” businesses to buy ads to compensate for the drop in visibility. How quaint. Facebook invites businesses onto its platform, changes the rules and then offers ad space as a consolation price. Even the mob is left scratching its head while saying, “Hey, we shoulda thoughta that.”

But there is a bright side. Facebook can give businesses an opportunity to advertise to super fans. Those die hard consumers that will spend money. Dino Dogan categorizes those folks as Type II on the Insane Loyalty chart.

Is it practical to market to that very small subset? If it generates revenue, it sure does. Getting loyal customers to spend money on your offerings is far less expensive for your business than trying to get brand new customers.

The new marketing paradigm should be to use Facebook with caution and consider using it as a tool for the super fans of your business. Your business just might be invisible to everyone else.

What Other Pinteresting Things Are There Out There?

Now that Google and Facebook have all but broken up with you, it’s an ideal time to look at some other avenues and what they may or may not offer your business.

Twitter.

If your target demo is young people then maybe you should be using Twitter. Twitter isn’t without its flaws, but it does have some maturity behind it and let’s face it; it’s now a household name.

Instagram

People are very visual. A year ago, Facebook was pushing people to be more visual in telling their “stories”. There is no more visual medium than Instagram. One of the local restaurants that I recently visited launched an Instagram campaign that consisted of asking patrons to take a picture of any special on the menu. The best pictures would be voted on and the winners would get prizes and gift certificates. Was it successful? You bet.

Pinterest

I’m not totally sold on Pinterest yet, but my favorite Texan, Cynthia Sanchez, has been convincing me more and more every week that Pinterest is a viable platform for marketing. I have to say that for me personally, I’ve engaged with new people and had a number of shares of {Web.Search.Social} articles via Pinterest. So practically speaking for {Web.Search.Social}, Pinterest has been a success.

I have my own personal rule about Pinterest; when Cynthia speaks, I listen.

At this point I find myself hitting the Pinterest widget all the time and there are countless people doing the same. Some of those people could be your customers.

Triberr

Ok, so I work for Triberr as a developer and it’s probably a conflict of interest for me to tell you what an amazing platform it is.

But Triberr is an amazing platform.

It just is.

It breathed new life into {Web.Search.Social} after it was garroted by Google’s algorithms and that story has been echoed by many solopreneurs and small businesses.

Triberr isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a look for businesses who want serious amplification of their content.

So What’s The Ultimate Answer To The Ultimate Question?

There is no answer to the ultimate question that is your marketing. It’s all trial, error, strategy, hard work and a dash of luck.

I strongly suggest that you rethink using platforms simply because they exist. Maybe you don’t need a Facebook page. I know. Crazy right? Maybe you don’t need to hire an SEO or an SEM. Double crazy.

The answer is to create a business that provides an offering that people want to buy, build a culture that people will respect and identify with and then make that the foundation of your marketing.

Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments.

Ralph M. Rivera
Hi, I'm Ralph! I'm a web developer at Rahvalor Interactive, a creative marketing services company that I founded in 1999 with my wife and business partner Carol Lynn. In January 2012 we created Web.Search.Social as a branded service offering that brings enterprise-level services to small businesses in an affordable way. I'm also founder and CTO of Podcaster's Toolbox, a SaaS platform designed to help podcasters plan, produce and promote their shows. I teach web development at Manhattan College in New York City. Carol Lynn and I are home based near the Jersey shore but we're currently location independent and traveling the country for a year, working and podcasting. I'm also trying to build a flux capacitor, but that's not going as well as the other stuff I do.
Ralph M. Rivera
Ralph M. Rivera