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Why “stop doing it” should be your brand’s social media strategy

Social media is completely saturated, so if you can’t follow the proper way to market today, the next best option is to quit. Read on.

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The best way to suck less at social

With the exception of ten brands who do a fantastic job with social media, the remaining 99.999% range from treading water to simply dreadful and some pathetic space in between. So if you’re a marketing exec reading this and wondering “why does my social media suck so bad and what should I do about it?”

I have a very simple answer for you: Do nothing.

OK – actually, fire your social media team and then do nothing.

Wait, they didn’t just go viral magically? Nope.

Social media is mostly used by brands for all the wrong reasons. The best social efforts are gluing together and amplifying an already successful integrated marketing campaign. But the mistake marketers make is they see social as a “free” channel, run by the cheapest possible labor (interns, some enthusiastic freelancer in east South Dakota…), with the delusion that the image they posted of a coupon for fifty cents off a five thousand dollar purchase will somehow go viral by saying “please share!!!!!” in the copy somewhere.

Back to the brands who do a great job at social — they do it really well because of one main secret ingredient I discovered after years of research that I’m going to share with you: CASH MONEY. Lots of it.

Because I can’t think of a single award winning social media case study I saw at Social Media Snoozefest Conferences that didn’t secretly use traditional media buys and public relation spends to support it, but pretended they just posted stuff and it went viral on its own because they’re all social media super geniuses.

How do the smartest of the smart succeed?

Yet, there are these rare models of awesomeness who actually hire and empower smart people to run their social, react in real time, engage their fans, offer great customer support, and fire up their influencers in a real and authentic manner, and this in turn spawned an entire multi-billion dollar ad tech industry designed around giving the rest of the brand’s expensive tools to fake it with.

When I spent my last two years at an ad agency big enough that ad tech vendors regularly wanted to ask me for time to demo their wares and send inedible cookies with their logo printed on them, I was probably pitched by a new platform designed to use some new creepy artificial intelligence algorithm to tell me which hot influencers my brands should bother talking to and which ones to ignore on a daily basis (unless it was Nuvi, which meant constant emails and calls from multiple people in their company sending me and anyone they thought could influence me (including my boss) emails who would enthusiastically forward me their email with “check it out!,” forgetting that he sent me the same email last week).

And this is why social is broken

Often, I have clients come to my digital agency saying “we want to hire you to do our social media.” In that scenario, we’re in a position where we have to deliver value for our fee, often competing against a freelancer or an intern with substantially lower rates – but the reality is, no matter who takes the work, it’s just not going to, you know, do anything. 

Because without integrating social into a full plan that covers all business goals and marketing efforts, it will do absolutely nothing, the client will have a bad experience and we’ll lose the opportunity to do more effective work for them.

Picture this scenario

Imagine you have a camper filled with people you need to get to the top of a mountain. Once everyone gets to the top of the mountain, they can all meet an awaiting helicopter and soar above the clouds to happiness and wealth forever more. But the people can’t walk up on their own, so you need something that can carry everyone up to the top. Also, there’s a competing trailer and they too want to get to the top before you.

So you decide “if I save money now, I’ll have even more wealth once I get to the top.” You put out an RFP and you select a proposal. You decide to hire an inexperienced freelancer, who brings a tired old donkey and ropes him to the front of the camper. He furiously whips the donkey, who struggles mightily against the weight.

Finally, after a week of whipping, alternating the whipping patterns, optimizing the time of day of the whips, when to feed it water, and some highly proprietary measurement tools, your freelancer produces a report showing you that the camper has indeed moved one millimeter, while the competitor’s camper has barely budged a quarter millimeter (they hired an intern, who is trying to push the whole camper himself). Therefore, according to another proprietary confidential calculator, we’re outperforming the competition by 400 percent.

But of course, like your brand’s social media efforts, you can outperform the competition by a wide margin, and have all the best tools and the best of intentions but you are still just not going anywhere.

Everyone is winning the world’s best worst social brand award. Any money spent on social without a purpose is money wasted.

Social has reached the saturation point

Like the rise and fall of social platforms, social media itself has reached a saturation and maturity level that makes it just as, if not more difficult to navigate than traditional media. Being the first on a new, fast growing platform like Twitter five years ago meant it was easier for a forward-thinking company to get some attention. But as these platforms matured, not only did the signal-to-noise ratio become unbearable, but platforms like Facebook and Twitter realized they were giving brands too much value for free and crushed all the organic reach to zero.

But the uninformed marketer still thinks they can post their quota of two tweets a day and someone is actually listening
. They’re not, unless you’re paying for the exposure, just like an ad. Additionally, these platforms got discovered by big brands finally, so your CPC rate just doubled or tripled over the past year.

Continuing to post to social media without having at a million followers and not paying boosting your posts (and having a real integrated plan behind why you’re posting, who you’re targeting and what you want the customer to do) is as insane as these guys holding a meeting for no one. Because no one is listening, yet thousands of dollars are wasted by brands every month posting dreck that no one cares about just to be “active” in social.

Okay, I get it, this sucks, so what now?

What do you do if you’re a smart marketer? Here are a few options:

  1. Stop doing social media. If a brand stops posting and no one notices, does anyone care? From the myopic point of view of being inside one company for too long, it can seem like stopping your posting would mean hundreds and thousands of conversations like this at the dinner table: “Honey, you know what’s weird?” “Are you talking about my new bra? It’s supposed to lift and support…” “No, I just noticed that I hadn’t seen a tweet from Mediocre Farms Brand Lactose-Free High-Protein Greek Gluten-Free Certified-Organic Yogurt in forever. I wonder if they’re ok!”
  2. Ditch “social media experts” for integrated marketers.  In the infancy of social media, when a majority of actual people in marketing and consumers in general did not have social media experience, it might have made sense to have someone on the team who really “got” social. But now everyone is on it, so being an expert loses its meaning. Knowing social media should be table stakes for any good marketer, so instead, work with someone with an integrated marketing background who is thoroughly cross-trained. Because that’s the only way you’ll find the integrated strategy that will make social media efforts effective. Siloing your marketing into “the social team” “the PR people” “the SEO weirdos” is like throwing the parts of an engine on the ground and expecting it to run.
  3. Integrate social into the DNA of the business. Great social media blurs the marketing, customer service, research, and branding lines, which means everyone in your company needs to be included in social. Having a top down overarching strategy combined with the permission to run the channels without a great deal of friction is the fastest way to achieving the integration and authenticity “social media experts” yammer on endlessly about at their conferences. That means social media becomes a C-level priority, with its components trickling down from there and making it a function of the company, not a cost with no ROI in sight.
  4. Treat social as a paid channel. With the ability to target your audience so precisely, social media is a huge opportunity that’s often wasted on the notion that it’s free. If you can get over the fact that it is, in fact, not free and is even more expensive in some cases than traditional media spends, there’s the ability to microtarget your campaign based on an infinite combination of interests, geo-targeting, demographics, psychographics, and behaviors.

You can still get a lot out of social media, but if you don’t have the budget or the motivation to do it correctly, your next best option is to cease doing it at all.

#StopSocial

Marc Lefton is a creative director and tech entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. He’s a partner in Digikea Digital based in NYC and Gainesville, Florida.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Julie

    March 28, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    As a owner of a marketing, social media and PR company the best thing you could have said is #4. Unless you realize social media is pay to play you are going to not come out a winner. We no longer take clients who want us to manage their social media without having an adequate budget. PERIOD. We also require to understand the entire marketing pie. We want to know and understand exactly what your marketing goals/plans/strategy are and we also want to know if you don’t have one!

  2. Michael Romano

    March 29, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    I think a simpler bit of advice for social media marketing would be, “Be more interesting.” We’ve all seen the painfully-awkward social media campaigns (the ones that look forced and out-of-place while scrolling through Facebook). But I’ve also seen some really clever campaigns, and I’ve had some limited success with a few campaigns of my own. For social media, your ads have got to have broad appeal and be equal to or more interesting than the other things on people’s feeds. That’s a challenge because social media feeds are created by some pretty sophisticated algorithms that have used feedback from the user to actually create an interesting feed tailored to that user. But the good news is that a platform such as Facebook allows you to really target a specific audience according to their “likes” and interests. I’d prefer that any day to the old days of radio, tv, or print media.

  3. Fran Stephenson

    May 2, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Thank you for this- boring is boring. Would you mind if I tweeted this at all my clients? ;).

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Opinion Editorials

If Reddit goes IPO, will it have to shed its soul?

(EDITORIAL) Reddit is known as a firebrand, a bastion of free speech, but if they go public, will they be able to remain as they are now?

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Reddit, the eighth-most popular website on the Internet, is reportedly considering an IPO. As a site valued at over 1.8 billion dollars, this is great news for the company itself – but how much of Reddit will remain if the IPO goes through?

Reddit’s history is steeped in controversy, from minor incidents such as invasion of privacy and a few creepily quirky community members to allegations of child pornography and egregious hate speech. While Reddit’s policy has allowed it to tighten posting restrictions regarding the latter two, the fact remains that Reddit – for all its usefulness – is viewed by many as a ticking time bomb.

An IPO would certainly lend back to Reddit a degree of credibility not seen since its inception, but the problem is that Reddit itself (the haven of free speech and original content that made it so popular in the first place) might not survive the offering. Given the platform’s controversial past, many believe it likely that stakeholders would move to tighten further the restrictions on the platform, ultimately ending a significant era in Reddit’s history.

Admittedly, Reddit has come a long way since its early days of supporting user-created content regardless of persuasion: this past year saw entire subreddits shut down for violating the terms of use regarding hate speech, and the platform certainly has cracked down on illegal and abusive content. Unfortunately, the history might be too much to shake off going forward, which is why we think that Reddit’s branding won’t be a part of the final IPO.

The platform’s developers’ dedication to free speech and truth-seeking is what makes Reddit so fantastic, and that’s not liable to change – it’s the most marketable aspect of the site, after all – but perhaps the rationale behind going public lies in a sense of duty rather than routine. 2017 has seen some of the most reprehensible instances of false reporting and deliberate misguidance in recent history; maybe Reddit’s team feels that they can provide a stable news platform at the cost of some personality.

At any rate, the IPO itself isn’t set in stone, and is unlikely to take place for quite some time. As the situation develops, it will be interesting to see if Reddit embraces its past, or sheds it altogether.

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Opinion Editorials

‘Follow your passion and the money will follow’ is bulls**t advice

(EDITORIAL) Following your passion can create success, though it may not be financial. So should you really just “do what you love” and hope for the best?

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If you asked anyone who knows me, they would tell you that I’m a strong advocate for people following their passion. However, when I encourage people to pursue their dreams, this comes with a big asterisk.

I recently heard someone use a phrase along the lines of, “if you do what you love, the money will follow.” Um… no.

While it’s great that you’ve found something you’re passionate about, that’s only a trillionth of the battle. You need to be willing to work your ass off and be willing to sacrifice everything in order to make that enthusiasm into a success.

Most people that have started their own business will tell you that it took a while into the process to begin paying themselves. Again, if it truly is your passion, this is all worth it in the end. But if you like food and shelter, it might not be.

Say, for example, your passion is acting and your goal in life is to become a famous movie star. Now, you can’t pull a Tobias Funke and simply say, “I’m an actor” and then expect everything to miraculously fall into place.

Like any other passion, you need to invest in yourself. You’ll need to get headshots, take acting classes, and find a flexible day job that allows you to go on auditions. Cutting corners on any of this in order to expedite the process or save a few bucks will end up hurting you in the long run.

For the sake of this article, let’s define “passion” as loving something so much you couldn’t imagine doing anything else… you would even do it for free. And, as there is no correlation between having passion for something and money, you just might.

While doing what you love is admirable, be aware that it may take an incredibly long time to see results in the form of numbers. Because of this, it’s wise to always have a back up plan to support yourself financially and pursue passion with a strong business plan in tact.

It is never wrong to want to follow your passion. I personally think that everyone should give it at least something of a shot during the course of their career so that you never ask “what if?” But following passion because you read a cliche statement can lead to major financial and emotional losses, so put on your business hat before blindly chasing dreams.

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Opinion Editorials

Tech CEO tweet ruins years of a young designer’s hard work

(EDITORIAL) With a tweet here and there, thoughtless questions have potentially bullied a young Asian woman in tech out of her career.

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It’s hard enough for women, particularly women of color, to make it in the world of tech, without rude jerks questioning if you literally exist.

Sadly, that’s what happened to Naomi Wu, also known as “SexyCyborg,” a 23-year old cyberpunk superstar from Shenzhen, China who has amassed a huge following for her 3D printing experiments and other techie pursuits. Wu has 140,000 followers and millions of views for her YouTube channel, where she shows off her experiments and provides educational tutorials.

Unfortunately, some rude dudes from America can’t seem to imagine that a young Asian woman is capable of the feats that Wu has accomplished.

Dale Dougherty, CEO of the DIY magazine Maker (and an official schmuck), has cyberbullied Wu so badly that it is said to have damaged her career. He tweeted, “I am questioning who she really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people.”

This despite the fact that Wu says that she has actually spoken to Dougherty, and that he knows she is real. “For Westerners who don’t understand the important of reputation in China it seems like a very minor thing,” says Wu, “it is everything here and there’s no repairing this.”

Wu has even lost a sponsorship deal from a 3D printer company over the accusations that she isn’t who she says she is.

Dougherty eventually apologized, but Wu says that “the damage had been done” at that point, and that Dougherty knew the accusations would be “devastating” to her “reputation and professional prospects.”

Wu says that the attack is motivated by white male entitlement to tech spaces.

She says that she can’t imagine Dougherty attacking “a white lady from San Francisco.” Wu has been an advocate for diversity in tech and maker spaces. “I kept pushing for more inclusion – not just me, other underrepresented people,” she says. “They didn’t like being pushed. This is payback.”

We stand behind Wu as she continues to push the edge in tech spaces, and say shame on you to bullies who won’t make space for women and racial minorities. Sorry you’re not as cool as SexyCyborg, but that’s on you and you need to get over it.

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