The Wrong Way to Market Social Media

Entrepreneur Kevin Ready shares his three-pronged strategy to social media that actually works.
Strategic Facilitation & Ideation,
February 09, 2012

Entrepreneur Kevin Ready tells a sadly humorous social media story in his book StartUp: An Insider's Guide to Launching and Running a Business. The airport parking company that he uses has a shuttle bus that runs from the lot to the airport terminal. Plastered on the bus windows are posters that say: “Like us on Facebook. Plus us on Google. Follow us on Twitter.”

"This makes sense doesn’t it?" asks Kevin. "Not. Let’s break it down.

A. Somebody at the parking company has been tasked with the job of handling social media.

B. Second, that person’s boss has probably established some sense of the metrics in the space: likes, plusses, and follows.

C. Since this is what the social media person is being measured on, he or she creates the sign as described and posts it in the bus.

D. The irony is that they've 'missed the bus' with the marketing collateral that she just made."

Sadly, this is how many small businesses are marketing their social media in an attempt to build an engaged following. So what’s wrong with it?

"Simple," says Kevin. "They're telling customers what the company wants. Why would any customer ever care what the company or someone's boss wants? Why, why, why? I would not be surprised if out of 50,000 customers per month in those busses nationwide, not a single one ever responds to this poster as it is written."

Every company needs to compose messages that get customers to do what the company needs done. But you shouldn't confuse your need with the customer's.

So what should the company have done? Kevin offers a three-point strategy:

1. Start with “why.” Under what circumstances would customers ever want to interact with messaging from her brand? What do they need? What are they interested in?

2. After identifying possible whys, evaluate your resources and see how you can provide a solution to one or more of them. This is the process of building a value proposition around that why. The mantra here is, “Provide value. Provide value.”

3. Finally, follow up by attaching the desired actions (in this case, like, plus, and follow) to that value proposition.

How about these?

“Get one free day of parking! Just ‘like’ us on Facebook to receive your coupon.” (Value plus desired action)

“Love Hawaii? So do we! We are sending two lucky families to Oahu—just follow us on Twitter and we will enter you to win!” (Value plus desired action)

“A lizard in a suitcase? The funniest travel stories ever told—only on our Facebook page.” (Value plus desired action)

By providing value, and arranging the message in such a way that customers who are interested in the value do what you are asking them to do, you greatly increase your chances of getting customer buy-in.