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Social Media Marketing

“All great things have small beginnings.”

-Peter Senge[1]

Content created by Darin Gerdes. Copyright Great Business Networking.

In The Trusted Advisor, David Maister, Robert Galford, and Charles Green explained that you goal is not to be a salesman, but to become a trusted advisor. They wrote:
None of us begins our career as a trusted advisor, but that is the status to which most of us aspire. We usually begin as vendors, performing a specific task or ‘one-off’ service. . . At the next level, the client may sense that we possess capabilities not directly related to our original area of expertise. When operating at this level, we begin to focus on our ability to solve more general problems and not solely on our technical mastery. Our clients see us increasingly this way as well and begin to call upon us for issues with more breadth, and earlier on in the initial defining stages of their problems.
At the third level (valuable resource) we might be consulted on broad strategy issues related to our specific expertise, but not limited only to that expertise. . . . The highest level, the pinnacle, is that of trusted advisor, in which virtually all issues, personal and professional and professional, are open to discussion and exploration. The trusted advisor is the person the client turns to when an issue first arises, often in times of great urgency: a crisis, a change, a triumph, or a defeat.[2]
 
Becoming a Thought Leader
Your goal as an advocate of your company should be to become that type of trusted advisor. You want to be top of mind when your customers are considering any changes to their business in which you might play a role. In the social media realm, this top of mind presence is called being a thought leader.
You will have noticed from previous lessons that I cite Peter F. Drucker quite a bit. There is a reason for that. Drucker is the premier thought leader in business management. Over the course of his lifetime, he wrote thirty-nine books from 1939 to 1999 and he was “hailed by BusinessWeek as ‘the man who invented management.’”[3] If I was talking about leadership, I might cite Stephen Covey or John Maxwell. If I was talking about marketing, I might cite Seth Godin.
Who are the thought leaders in your industry? If no particular name comes to mind, you have a golden opportunity. You can become that thought leader, and social media marketing is the way for you to do it.
 
Be Remarkable
You will not become a leader in your industry unless you are a remarkable. In Purple Cow, Seth Godin explained that, “Something remarkable is worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting.”[4] Are you? What do you do that sets you apart from the crowd? Are you really good at what you do? That’s not enough. Godin continued:
The Opposite of “Remarkable” is “very good.”
Ideas that are remarkable are much more likely to spread than ideas that aren’t. Yet so few brave people make remarkable stuff. Why? I think it’s because they think that the opposite of “remarkable” is “bad” or “mediocre” or “poorly done.” Thus, if they make something very good, they confuse it with being virus-worthy. Yet this is not a discussion about quality at all.
If you travel on an airline and they get you there safely, you don’t tell anyone. That’s what’s supposed to happen. What makes it remarkable is if it’s horrible beyond belief or if the service is so unexpected (they were an hour early! they comped my ticket because I was cute! they served flaming crêpes suzette in first class!) that you need to share it.[5]
The need to be remarkable applies to people, products, value propositions, and in the context of this lesson, social media marketing. The founders of HubSpot agree. They applied this type of thinking to social media marketing. In their book Inbound Marketing: Get Found using Google, Social Media, and Blogs Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah explained:
Beyond a remarkable value proposition, you must also create remarkable content about your company and products, for two important reasons.
First, remarkable content attracts links from other websites pointing to your website. In other words, you want your content to prompt other content producers on the web to “remark” about your products and services and link back to your site. Every one of these links (remarks) gives you a double win: The links send you qualified visitors, and they signal to Google that your website is worthy of ranking for important keywords in your market. More links equals more traffic from relevant sites, in addition to more free traffic from Google via search—double win!
Second, remarkable content is easily and quickly spread on social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you create a remarkable blog article or white paper, it can spread like wildfire within your market.
 
How to Spread Your Virus With Social Media Marketing
As we learned in the last lesson, the purpose of social media is to expand communication. In that lesson we talked about social media from the customer’s perspective. In this lesson, we will talk about it from the perspective of the seller. Entire books have been written on the subject of social media marketing, so I am not going to even attempt to be comprehensive. My goal is to give you everything you need to understand it in the fewest words possible.
Social media marketing is using social media platforms to create conversations to bring customers to you. This is called inbound marketing. It takes that conversation dynamic we discussed in the last chapter and it uses it to your fullest advantage. If you understand networking, you understand the philosophical approach of social media marketing. Like networking, it is inherently relational. It is not free. There is a cost in both time and effort, but it pays big dividends over time.
If you are comfortable with technology, you have an advantage in social media marketing.  If you understand basic principles of marketing, the concepts are largely the same even if the mechanics are different. While advertising on television does not directly translate to advertising online, the purpose of advertising has not changed.
In The Social Media Bible, Lon Safko and David Brake explained that they are often asked:
‘Where is the ROI in Social media marketing?’ and ‘How much should I be spending on social media marketing?’ My answer is always, remove the term social media from those questions and asked them again: ‘Where’s the ROI in marketing?’ and ‘How much should I be spending on marketing?’
Social media isn’t a tool box of silver bullets given to us by aliens, it’s just a new set of technologies and concepts that we need to add and integrate into our existing marketing strategy.[6]
People that don’t understand this are often disappointed by the lackluster performance of their social media marketing campaigns. A few years ago I worked with a reasonably successful businessman who was trying to ramp up his social media marketing efforts through a Facebook fan page. He was convinced that because he had posted a meager bit of content on Facebook, and poured in a number of marketing dollars to promote it on Facebook, it would “go viral.” After all, he built it, so they must come.
A year earlier, he had seen a truly viral social media campaign through a Facebook group. I had seen it too, so I was familiar with the context and I understood what he was trying to replicate, but this time things were different. The context had changed.  He defied the basic principles of social media by not continually creating a conversation, and he defied the basic principles of marketing by not targeting his audience effectively.
Nevertheless, he constantly chirped about “going viral.” He thought he could buy his way into social media marketing success. The site went as viral is a dead fish that had washed up on a sandy beach. The whole situation reminded me of Guy Kawasaki’s saying: “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.”[7]
 
Blogging
In previous chapters we talked about all the tools that you need in order to effectively engage in social media marketing. If you’ve never blogged before, you may feel intimidated by the thought. The good news is that it’s a lot easier than you might think. The purpose of a blog is to amass meaningful content that your buyer personas will find attractive. This provides an advantage because they will come back again and again, but as Halligan and Shah explained, there are many more benefits.
First, a blog will help establish your company as a thought leader in your market. Second, due to its dynamic nature and the fact you’re creating new content on a regular basis, a blog will change your website from an online brochure to a living, breathing hub for your marketplace. Third, a blog gives your potential customers a way to engage with you versus being hit with a premature sales pitch; by conversing with your potential customers via your blog, you build trust over time, so that when you actually talk to them about your product and service offerings, they’re prepared to hear from you. Fourth, a blog will dramatically improve your search engine rankings; a blog is a great way to create more pages on your site (each article is a page), and the more pages Google has, the more your site shows up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for dozens of keywords. And, because search engines like to see sites linking to one another, a blog helps your search engine results because other bloggers are far more likely to link to a remarkable blog article about your industry than to the products page on your website. The more inbound links pointing to your site, the more traffic comes your way and the more Google views your site as an “authorative hub”— and thus the higher your site goes in the SERPs.[8]
 
Action Plan
If you haven’t started your own blog yet, try this: Think about your three most valuable marketing personas.  For each, list the top twenty questions that they might have about your product but don’t limit it to your specific product. Talk about your product category, or the problems that such a product solves. Set some time aside in your calendar to answer each of these questions in writing. Limit yourself to a page per question. You’re not writing a book. You are just answering customer concerns. If you post only once a week, you now have a years worth of content. It really is that simple.
Your goal in social media marketing is to create content that positions you as a thought leader in your industry. All other things being equal, others would rather do business with a thought leader in the field than an average, if competent, employee. Your blog allows you to set yourself apart in this way. Just remember to provide remarkable content.
What you write on your blog has to be meaningful to your target market. Social media sometimes gets a bad reputation. Often, people fall into one of two traps. The first trap is personal; the second professional. Those who fall into the first trap spend all of their time posting pictures of what they had for lunch, endless selfies, and irrelevant rantings to no one in particular. Then, they are disappointed when they have not received as many likes as they hoped to generate.
Those who fall into the second trap have forsaken the selfies in favor of continual advertisements of their products. “Have you tried my product?” “Wow. This is the best product,” “Want to know more about my product?” While it appears that the first person is vain, and the second is a business juggernaut, such an approach is just as selfish. It is not focused on the customer. In contrast, “Good content shares or solves; it doesn’t shill. In other words, it doesn’t hawk your wares or push sales-driven messages. Rather, it creates value by positioning you as a reliable and valuable source of vendor-agnostic information.”[9]
Such an approach is remarkable. If used correctly, social media can project a powerful message about who you are and what you have to offer. Give away your knowledge for free. Demonstrate that you possess insight about your industry. Don’t hold back. In time, you will become a thought leader in your field.
 
Your Blog Post
When you think about blogging, you want to keep two important concepts in mind. First, to borrow Stephen Covey’s phrase, you want to “begin with the end in mind.”[10]  After that—and only after that—should you worry about the writing process. In other words, know why you are writing before you concern yourself with what you are writing.
 
Part I – Planning
Remember that you are writing in order to be found by your particular audience. In the exercise above, I asked you to identify the top 20 questions that your leading personas might have. Before you write anything, ask yourself how they would conduct the search to find the types of products you offer. Take a moment and step into their shoes and google the key phrases you think that they would use.
If you are unsure about what terms to use, check out Google’s Keyword planner (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner). It will help you refine the list. This is a free tool that Google offers marketers to help them compose targeted Google ads. It’s a rich source of data that will tell you how many people are interested in your particular search phrases. Blogging requires you to thoughtfully sprinkle keywords and phrases into your posts. This helps search engines such as Google identify you as someone who brings meaningful content to the table.
For example, if you’re an insurance salesman, you must be sure that potential customers can find you when they Google the phrases they will use to search for the information they’re looking for. Out of curiosity, I asked an insurance agent to list the top 10 phrases she thought that her customers used to find insurance.
The phrase “auto insurance” was high on the list. Google Keyword planner shows that that phrase had an average of 135,000 monthly searches. However the phrase “car insurance” had 246,000 average monthly searches, “car insurance quotes” had 110,000 searches, and “cheap car insurance” another 110,000.  None of these other terms were on her list. If she only used the phrase “auto insurance,” she would remain invisible to hundreds of thousands of people who could benefit from her services.
You must know the keywords for your industry as you write your blog posts. If your most important keywords are “auto insurance,” “car insurance,” and  “car insurance quotes,” and “cheap car insurance,” these phrases can become anchor texts (e.g., phrases that link to other articles—preferably articles you have written demystifying the insurance process for consumers) within your posts and you should consider some variation of your most important keywords in the titles of your posts.[11] You will also use these key words as tags for your posts. This will help Google identify your post when prospective customers are trying to find information about car insurance.
 
Part II – Writing
It’s edgy when musical artists name their songs something unrelated to its apparent content. It shows just how deep, brooding and, self-important they are. This is not your purpose. You want to write for clarity.
In school, you were required to write papers you weren’t interested in writing to submit to teachers who weren’t interested in reading. It was all artificial. You were assigned a topic, and if you deviated from that topic, you lost points. You also were constrained by artificial word limits (e.g., a five page paper) and you lost points if you didn’t write at least the prescribed amount. For many of us, this was a painful experience. The good news is that blogging is as liberating as your English class was frustrating.
There are number of key components to any meaningful blog. The content must be informative. There are no rules about length. You could write a paragraph or a book. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. In general, however, less is more. Each blog post should focus on one main point. Be clear about your message and be sure that the message is worth reading about.
Blogging is not formal writing. While you want to get a subject and verb in every sentence, most social media experts suggested you should write conversationally. Try to sound human rather than professional.[12] That is really all you need to know.
 
Projecting Your Knowledge
Once you have written your first blog post, you have what you need to become a social media marketer. It just does not feel like it until you have interactions with others. At first, you might feel like you are writing to no one in particular. That is OK. Just start answering the most important questions systematically. By the time you have a dozen remarkable posts, you will appear credible—worth reading and following.
Now the task is to spread the content through multiple social media channels
In Content Rules, C. C. Chapman and Ann Handley used the concept of the food chain to describe how to repurpose content using social media.
A food chain, as you know, is the sequence of who eats whom in a biological community or ecosystem. A food chain starts with the primary energy source—usually the sun or boiling-hot, deep-sea vents—that feeds the organisms in the mud, which fertilize the grass in the field, which feeds the rabbit, which feed the snake, which feeds the owl, which feeds the alligator.
In the Content Food Chain, your content is not literally feasting on other content; rather, you are creating an overall content plan fueled by a single Big Idea, or core message, which is a rich and robust source that can act as the energy source for feeding and sustaining the rest of the stuff you reimagine.
The ensuing material can rely on that fuel as source material, allowing for new distribution and new channels (figuratively giving it new legs), reaching new audiences along the way (or at least reaching audiences again), and propagating your ideas through social media channels.[13]
This should be your approach too. Write eBooks, position papers, or blog posts as your primary energy source. Post them on your blog. Then, subdivide, repackage, and redistribute meaningful pieces on other networks.
Say you’ve written a post entitled Seven Insider Secrets of the Car Insurance Business. You’ve written the post, optimized it with relevant keywords, and posted it on your website. Now, cut and paste an interesting paragraph and the link and post it on Facebook. Post another excerpt on LinkedIn. Tweet about each of the secrets individually on Twitter. Use appropriate hashtags and be sure to include a link to your blog each time.  By doing this, you extend your range far beyond the sad, lonely corner of the World Wide Web where your brand-new blog is being hosted.
But don’t worry. Over time, by continually adding remarkable content, you will invite lots of people to come see you. When they do, interact with them. Remember, social media is a conversation, not an announcement. Be sure to do one more thing: Add share buttons on your blog so that others can share what you’ve written with the click of a mouse.
 
Building Momentum
Developing a blog takes time and effort. You have begun the social media marketing process when you have written your first blog post, but it will take a while to feel the results. Don’t let that discourage you. Put a plan in place to continually write, post, and tweet. Block out regular time in your calendar to write—such as two hours per week—and treat this time as you would treat any other business meeting.
Chapman and Handley offered the “1-7-30-4-2-1” publishing schedule which they borrowed from Russell Sparkman of Fusionspark Media. What follows are their ideas, not my own, and I want to give them full credit right up front. Here’s how it works. The numbers stand for increments of time—a day, week, month, quarter, 2-year, and one-year intervals.

  1. Daily

Tweet about something of value to your target market. This does not have to be your own content. In fact, it should not be your own content. Michael Hyatt suggested that most of what you tweet should not be about your product or service but it should be something of value to your customer base. He uses the “20:1 Rule”.
It means that you have to make 20 relational deposits for every marketing withdrawl. This isn’t science. I don’t have a hard empirical evidence to prove it. But I have observed that if you just keep asking people to do something—buy your book, come to your conference, sign up for your cause—without making adequate deposits, they will begin ignoring you. Eventually they will unfollow you and disconnect from your updates[14]
The 20:1 ratio is good news. You don’t have to generate remarkable new content every day. You just have to be plugged in to what’s going on in your industry. As you pass along interesting content, sprinkle in a bit of your own. Don’t limit yourself to daily tweets either. You can use other social media platforms too—Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. just choose the platforms that work for you.
 

  1. Weekly

Write your blog post at least once a week.[15] If you can publish two or more, that is even better. You already have a year’s worth of content topics. You just need to start writing. Preset your blog post to appear at the time of your choosing (e.g., Monday or Friday). This will give your followers a consistent experience. If you want faster results, blog more often. Michael Hyatt wrote:
I have always known there is a correlation between frequency and growth in traffic, but I proved it to myself empirically. For most of last year, I posted three times a week. I decided I would post five times a week, Monday through Friday.[16]
 

  1. Monthly

      At least once a month create something of greater significance. This could be a super-blog post (a much longer post that extends to many pages), a Q & A, a webinar, case study, or a short video. This longer content can be chopped up to become fodder for your content marketing food chain.
 

  1. Quarterly

Once a quarter, publish something truly significant. This should be original content and it will help establish you as an authority. Write an eBook (it’s not that difficult to create a free PDF or publish it on Amazon), produces series of short videos, write a research paper, etc. These activities establish your credibility in the field. If you are being systematic about the process, you can chip away at this larger activity while you’re writing your other posts. It does not have to be a daunting task.
 

  1. Bi-Annual (and 1. Annual) Events

These are the big ones. Host a conference, speak at one, or produce a virtual event.  Whatever it is, it should make a splash. Perhaps your one-year goal is to speak at a major industry conference and the following year you will host a virtual conference. If this feels overwhelming, don’t worry. You have time to get things together.
Think in terms of alignment. Everything you are reviewing to post or tweet, everything you are blogging about, videos, podcasts, and your eBooks should build toward these big events. Then, on the other side, these big events can be repurposed and become bits and pieces of future posts, tweets, (and if you videotape your event, multiple videos that get you extra mileage).
You might think it is OK to simply skip this last step. Please do not shortchange yourself. Let me explain why.
I’m comfortable with most social media applications, and I know enough about Google AdWords to be dangerous, but I know I did not personally have the expertise that I needed to optimize Google AdWords. A few years ago, I attended my first GoogleFest. I came to the conference hoping that I would learn about AdWords. After the event, I hired the speaker because she demonstrated thought leadership. Since then, I’ve asked a few conference speakers why they come to these events and their number one answer is that the event is a prime source of business leads.
 
Do What You Can and Get Help if You Need It.
You now have everything that you need to get started. In previous lessons, I showed you how begin LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. I showed you how to start a blog. We reviewed the basics of marketing and social media marketing. There’s only one thing missing—your action.
You have to get started. Do what you can. Make some mistakes. Mistakes are less costly in the beginning because very people are paying attention. If you get stuck, get help. If the entire process terrifies you, find an organization that can do it for you such as Stingray Branding (www.stingraybranding.com).
Professionals will charge you for their time and expertise, but the alternative is that you fail to build authority and credibility in the market.  Do what you can and get help if you need it.
Actionable items:
Now that you understand social media marketing, write down your action plan. List the steps you need to take in order to get started.
Where do you need help or expertise? Who can you contact that can guide you as you begin the process?
 
 
End Notes
 
[1] Senge, P. M. (1999). The dance of change: The challenges of sustaining momentum in learning organizations. New York: Currency/Doubleday. (p.39)
[2] Maister, D. H., Green, C. H., & Galford, R. M. (2000). The trusted advisor. New York: Free Press. (pp. 7-8)
[3] Peter F. Drucker’s Life and Legacy. (n.d.) The Drucker Institute. Retrieved from http://www.druckerinstitute.com/peter-druckers-life-and-legacy/
[4]Godin, S. (2003). Purple cow: Transform your business by being remarkable. New York: Portfolio. (p. 3).
[5] Godin, S. (2003). Purple cow: Transform your business by being remarkable. New York: Portfolio. (p. 67).
[6] Safko, L., & Brake, D. K. (2009). The social media bible: Tactics, tools, and strategies for business success. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons. (p. xvii)
[7] Miller, B. (2013, April 24). Guy Kawasaki talks content marketing, social and Google+. Search Engine Watch. Retrieved from https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2263598/guy-kawasaki-talks-content-marketing-social-google
[8] Halligan, B., & Shah, D. (2010). Inbound marketing: Get found using Google, social media, and blogs. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley. (p. 29).
[9] Chapman, C. C. C., & Handley, Ann. (2012). Content Rules. Wiley. (p. 69)
[10] Covey, S. R. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York: Simon and Schuster. (p. 95)
[11] Halligan, B., & Shah, D. (2010). Inbound marketing: Get found using Google, social media, and blogs. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
[12] Chapman, C. C. C., & Handley, Ann. (2012). Content Rules. Wiley.
[13] Chapman, C. C. C., & Handley, Ann. (2012). Content Rules. Wiley. (pp. 56-57).
[14] Hyatt, M. S. (2012). Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson. (p. 203).
[15] Halligan, B., & Shah, D. (2010). Inbound marketing: Get found using Google, social media, and blogs. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley. (p. 32)
[16] Hyatt, M. S. (2012). Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson. (p. 134).