Social media marketers, here is my top pet peeve. Designing content is difficult, agreed, but at the very least, the content should do something for the reader other than extol your products’ awesomeness. A lot of the current social media content appears to be based on the old school thinking that typically follows the three steps.

  • grab attention, get reader to notice
  • include a call to action, somehow, even if it seems forced
  • pimp products/services or brand, hoping for a purchase

This works well for the typical print advertisement and has even carried over to email marketing and sometimes television. This works for certain approaches but almost never on social media. It has already been noted and shown multiple times that advertising on social media does not work. Several noted experts have mentioned that we need to do stop thinking about “pimping out your stuff on social media.” Yet, hundreds of posts across dozens of platforms do just that.

Pause for a moment and contemplate this from the point of the receiver. What type of content do you want as a social marketer. Content that aggravates or frustrates like advertising, or content that I, the recipient, found so useful that I want to share it with my ‘friends’ and my social peeps. Social media content does not necessarily need a call to action, this is not a magazine and you are not creating an advertisement. So, social media marketers,

Stop thinking about “will you buy this” start thinking about “will you share this”

  • gain attention
  • tell a brief story on something that the reader wants to share
  • make it easy to share

Still boils down three steps with nothing force fed. Instead of hawking out your products proud attributes, talk about its different uses or a story about how some people have used it that is of value to your community. Create a how-to post, write about how your employees use the product in their daily lives, or feature a departments role in getting the product to the consumer.  Use it for recruiting, use it for storytelling, use it for almost everything except to just pimp our your products. Content that is share worthy is just all around you, you just have to look.

Inspiration for post: This post was inspired by my involvement in a rather long term social media research effort that I am attempting to share socially. This is the result of several rounds of interviews, content analyses and number crunching.

5 Responses to Stop thinking about ‘will you buy this’ instead think ‘will you share this’

  1. Josh Rood says:

    Essentially we’re back to the same problem most modern advertising and marketing campaigns are faced with every day: conditioning. Today’s empowered millennial consumer grew up expecting that companies are always try to sell them something (which is true), and so they naturally developed a literal contempt of such methods to the point that they have built up a full-blown tolerance. Very few of these advertisements trigger any desired response. To the contrary, millennial relish reading “between the lines” and using the details to tear down an ad’s credibility. It’s a generation-wide revitalization of distaste for the responsible crisp, suit-and-tie world. And it’s fashionable and trendy to do so.

    At the same time, the old-school three-step process you cited retains general popularity in print and TV advertisements because adults Generation-X and older are accustomed to receiving information and ads through that medium. Like millenials Gen-Xers have a certain tolerance to these methods, but unlike millennials, televised and printed information sources are still the Gen-X preferred medium for information. It’s the need for information and the comfort of familiarity that helps to override any conditioning that may be present. Still it is these Gen-Xers who are the leaders of today’s marketing firms, and so while they are eager to embrace the new social media channels as a marketing medium, it’s difficult for them to grasp the subtleties of exactly how to utilize these new tools, much like you said.

    From what you’ve discussed in your article, I do agree with your new three-step process you’ve outlined here with one exception: the order of importance of the list. Maybe something like this instead:

    ■tell a brief story on something that the reader wants to share
    ■make it easy to share
    ■gain attention

    If gaining attention is the number-one priority, then a marketing firm runs the risk of falling into the trap of advertising to advertise, the very thing we’re trying to avoid. Instead by focusing on what you’re creating, i.e. a story of interest, it helps make sure that the content will be interesting enough from the start to trigger the desire to share it. Then (so long as it’s easy to share with others), it will have no problem gaining the attention needs to become a successful social media campaign.

  2. rajsmurthy says:

    Hi Josh, what a well articulated argument. Allow me to provide justification for the order using a scenario. The only way to win the lottery is to participate in the lottery by buying a ticket. Having said that, the chances of you or I winning that jackpot are indeed abysmally low. Now, advertising or any marketing communication has a similar problem. The chances or it being convincing enough to convert you into a loyal customer are minuscule. However, it has no chance of working unless it at least gets your brief attention, however distracted you may be for that moment. Attention of course is limited, expensive and often the finicky currency of social media. In the end it ends up being a loop, more attention begets attention but how you do get that first bit?

  3. Josh Rood says:

    It’s the type of attention that matters though. That may seem ambiguous, but it’s true; just because said post succeeds in getting attention does not mean it will be shared. That takes something else. First and foremost, whatever is being posted has to be as relatable as possible, preferably unique, quirky, surprising, shocking, and/or memorable. I call it a sharing-cascade reaction. While there’s no guaranteed success rate, once that interesting element is there, then the rest will follow and build upon itself as you mentioned, but ONLY if the original content maintains that sharing power. That’s why social media is such a great tool for companies that foster a community following, such as Apple, Nike, or Microsoft. That’s not to say those companies have all used social media perfectly, but a marketing transition to social media was much easier when the latest information was already in demand. But even at that level, simply grabbing the masses with raw attention is not enough. It has to be intriguing, and have substantial staying power. Otherwise social media is reduced to nothing more than supermarket-tabloid marketing, and is dismissed just as quickly.

    Now your lottery analogy works well enough, but the literal act of buying a ticket every week or every day doesn’t decrease your chances of winning. Not so with social media. If a company continuously makes attempts to launch a viral campaign with repetitive, loud, attention-grabbing posts, eventually the company runs the risk of its followers getting annoyed and simply leaving, or worse continuing to follow them but removing the company from his or her newsfeed. When that happens, the use of social media as a marketing tool vanishes altogether and actually becomes a liability. If there are people listed as followers but who have in fact chosen to block any new content, it generates a false network reach and demographic information.

    Sharing is just a delicate thing, filled with many sociological and psychological triggers that can shift the path of the decision-making process at a moment’s notice. Remove the business and marketing element from social media for a moment, and it’s all about the individual. When we share something, it makes us vulnerable to the opinions of our peers, and so we ask ourselves subconscious questions. Will they like it? Will they think differently of me for showing it to them? Would I be okay with that result? It is a risk to share, and if it is to succeed, should not be forced. Preserve the thrill of sharing excitement and entertainment, and the attention will follow.
    But maybe it’s simply a matter of semantics. What about this list instead:

    ■tell a brief story that OTHER readers would want to share
    ■make it easy to share
    ■If successful, follow through with more of the same to gain attention

  4. rajsmurthy says:

    Well said Josh. I like that list, its a hard sell but it is a good list. Say this to anyone who tells you that their strategy is to create a viral video, post, tweet etc. Planning on a viral post is like going to Vegas for your Retirement plan.

  5. Josh Rood says:

    Haha, well said yourself. I’ve found that it’s a major misconception amongst companies using social media for the first time. There’s no golden-ticket method to make a post viral, so banking only on viral success is foolish. Treat social media as simply another tool, and not a magic wand, and it becomes a powerful marketing force.