Social media grew up too fast. We weren’t ready.
Kids are sexting late into the night. People’s attention spans are severely reduced, all while their political and emotional spheres shrink due to exposure to the same ideas over and over. And, small businesses told that social media will skyrocket their progress (or save them from failure) dive into a world completely different from normal reality, wasting time and money and concluding that social media, if it works at all, is for big brands like Coca Cola or Walmart.
There are a lot of problems with social media. Unlike most cynical people, though, I believe they’re problems of newness. Kinks in the hose that we can work our way through over time. But the internet is anti-time. So far, it has grown faster than most people were prepared to handle it.
I’ve helped dozens of businesses succeed in the social media marketing world. If your social media marketing efforts aren’t working for your business, whether it’s a Facebook page, an Instagram profile, Tik Tok, or a vast linked cornucopia of accounts, I can almost guarantee that it’s one or more of the same three problems that I encounter with just about everyone.
I’ll show you how to fix all of it. Sound good?
Disclaimer: I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, it’s because you really did try social media marketing, for a while, and it hasn’t worked out. Most people who say social marketing doesn’t work for them, when I get down to it, I find out didn’t really try, like someone trying to lose weight who cut calories for three days.
So in that case…
Problem #0: Not Really Trying
There’s a lot of basic, mechanical social media knowledge that you should already know and already be applying to your strategy. If not, it’s time to study up on the basics and get more experience before you bemoan that it isn’t working. To briefly go over what it takes:
- You need content, as in something that entertains people, solves a problem, or is otherwise valuable. The content is what will draw people in.
- That content needs to be good. Goes without saying, I know, but it takes most brands and marketers a while to figure out something actually good, and not just something they “think will work.” What actually works is often a big sidestep from what you initially thought would.
- The content needs to be engaging. Good visuals, exciting copy-writing in the text portion, use of psychological triggers like time-sensitive information and social proof. If you don’t know these things, look them up. I’ll write articles about them eventually. 😉
- The content needs to be consistent. Give people a reason to check in on you multiple times per week if they aren’t subscribed already.
- You need to engage with others on the platform to some degree. You don’t have to waste time liking other people’s stuff for hours, but you should respond to any direct mentions in a timely manner and participate in conversations and trending topics where your brand is relevant. Remember, it’s called SOCIAL media.
If you aren’t doing every single one of these things, or are half-doing one or more of them, you have Problem 0, and you need to focus on that above anything else in this article. From here on out, I’ll assume you are not dealing with Problem 0.
With that out of the way, let’s skedaddle on to the three main problems most marketers deal with.
Problem #1: No 80/20 Content Ratio
Imagine you’re watching TV. It’s a new channel you haven’t tried, and it’s got a movie on that interests you. You caught it when it started, so you’re invested in what’s happening and want to see more. But there are a lot of commercial breaks. You haven’t seen much of the movie.
After about an hour, it hits you: this channel’s airtime is mostly commercials. You’re spending more time watching those than you are the thing you actually want to watch.
What would you do then? Keep watching, power through it? Chances are, no. We’ve been conditioned, by TV and a dozen other things, to expect a generous chunk of the thing we want, followed by a small tidbit of advertising. And if we don’t get it immediately, we’ll find it somewhere else.
So if every post you make on social media is you selling something to your audience, how else do you expect people to react? Social media is a place for people to relax and check on things they care about. Users don’t like being sold to, but they’ll tolerate it, if it comes from a brand or source that they are willing to support anyway. From this, we have the 80/20 rule.
There are many different versions of this rule, but in this context, it means that 80 percent of your social media content should be giving value to your audience. Not selling anything, not asking for anything. They have nothing to lose to you by enjoying the content. The other 20 percent is about requesting something from your viewers, and even then, you need to keep it interesting.
You don’t have to take this literally either, like “Make 1 in every 5 posts a sales post.” In fact, that can come off as artificial. You’re better off making and following guidelines that lead your content to generally follow this rule. For example, with every piece of content you make, 80% or more of the text, video length, etc. should be pure value, whether that’s entertainment, education, or motivation. 20% or less should be requesting something.
An important note about this rule:
The 20% doesn’t just include actual selling, like advertising a product with a link for people to buy it. Anything that’s specifically about your business, and not the viewers, belongs in that 20%. For example, an update on how a business got a new employee, or something else happening in the office, might seem humanizing, but again, what’s in it for the viewer? Do you feel the need to be informed of a new employee working for ESPN or NBC in the middle of watching the channel?
There’s nothing wrong with doing these things. They can work as content. But they belong in that 20% bracket. The rest, the majority, should be stuff that is valuable to someone who is not interested in the business yet.
By the way, the 80/20 rule is a minimum ratio. You may find even better results at 90/10 or higher. It’s about making people know, like, and trust your brand. If they do that, even at a 99/1 ratio, that 1 percent selling can get enough reactions to make it worthwhile.
I think I’ll do more posts on how to specifically come up with content ideas for your brand and industry, because of course it varies depending on what you sell, and to whom. But for now, know that if you’re selling more than you’re giving value, you’re fighting a losing battle on social media.
Problem #2: Not Replicating the Customer Experience
How does a customer buy from you? The answer isn’t “they click a button on my site” or “they go to my store and bring something to the register.” The customer journey is a lot more in-depth, and the better you know it, the more ideas for deceptively good social media content you’ll have.
Taco Bell’s Instagram page is a good example. Look at this post from their page.
This post doesn’t show a single piece of food. It doesn’t have a particular artistic vibe to the way it is shot, aside from catching the lighting on a good time of the evening. It’s just a picture of a Taco Bell restaurant with a car in the drive thru. The distance is not ideal, from conventional advertising photography standards. The text is minimal as well, saying only “Come thru.”
What’s the secret to this post? Why does it have over 40,000 likes? Why does it inspire people to say things like “I have stopped being friends with people who didn’t agree you have the best tacos.”?
The secret is that it’s real. This is a real viewpoint that an ordinary person might have, driving home for the day after a long shift at work. They see the Taco Bell, and they think about maybe driving through to get an easy dinner.
I’ve never heard a name for this, so let’s call it the “in reach” effect. Something is in reach, in the same way that it has been before. It awakens the exact same feelings as if the viewer was really there, and the thing was really in reach.
I don’t want you to focus too hard on advertising gimmicks to get your social media working, but this is an example of how you can create content that taps into the customer experience, without actually selling (remember 80/20). Only two words, Come thru, are doing the selling. The rest is an image that evokes the customer’s viewpoint without pushing them, flashing anything in their face, nothing like that.
If you’re not grasping the difference, take a look through several posts on Taco Bell’s Instagram page, and then compare it to any Taco Bell TV commercial. Not the same, is it?
How do you evoke the customer experience in your content? Simple:
1: Map out your customer’s journey. You can get the best ones from actual interviews with customers. What started them on the path to buying from you? What were the steps?
A gym might have the following customer journey for young male customers: Get picked on at work, get in an accident while working, get diagnosed with a health problem that’s preventable, go to several gyms to try them out, decide not to go to them anymore because of various objections and flaws, and finally finding the gym in question, which doesn’t have those flaws and provides the best value.
2: Use content to build the scene of one step. Just one. Getting granular and specific is how you evoke emotions. Sonic does this quite well with their ads, which are always set at the very end of the customer journey, after the customer has bought their product.
We don’t want to replicate TV, but think about why this content works for them. They’ve been doing these ads for a long time because they tap into that feeling of talking with a friend in the car after getting your food. It’s less about the food and more about their shenanigans. This subtly builds that step in people’s minds, the endorphin rush of a completed fast food run with a friend.
3: Provide guidance on the NEXT STEP. You don’t have to do this all the time, but it’s a handy tool.
Keep in mind, providing guidance for a next step is not telling people to buy from you. That’s a general desire, not a step. Going to the gym example again, for guys who are getting picked on at work for being scrawny, being told to sign up to a gym is likely going to inspire an immediate, instinctual “screw you, I don’t need you” reaction. It might even be one of the insults they’ve heard from their bullies. That’s how easily hard selling can blow up in your face on social media.
Instead, provide guidance for the next step. Maybe tips on posture, or how to fire back at someone who insults you. With an honest, legitimately helpful mindset, you’ll start to see dozens of potential directions to take with your social content.
You see the Taco Bell with the drive through open. Next step? Come thru.
Problem #3: Not Measuring the Right Things
What you can’t track, you can’t improve. The sooner you internalize this concept, the better.
No one will say that social media marketing is fun starting out. The reason is, just like with paid advertising, you are most likely going to lose out in the beginning. While you build up a bare-minimum following and content base, you’re not going to get great results.
But you’re not setting up a lemonade stand that you’ll tear down later. Your social media accounts are a long-term investment that snowball and grow in value in a remarkably short time, if you…
A: stick with it, and
B: TEST EVERYTHING!
If you’re not testing the effectiveness of one post over another, and are simply watching something basic like buyer link clicks or increased follower count, how are you able to truly judge which of your content ideas are the most powerful? How are you supposed to come up with more of your best content if you never learn what that content actually is?
It’s fine to take a scattershot approach in the beginning. In fact, it’s necessary. Go nuts, experiment. Do things that seem a little embarrassing or off-brand, because you might be surprised by what people consider on-brand.
But if you don’t measure properly, it’ll all be for nothing.
For social media analytics tools, there’s too many to mention, and many depend on using specific websites. It doesn’t really matter that much. Just because measurement matters doesn’t mean you need to get caught up in minutia. As long as you have a way to judge:
- How much traffic your posts are getting.
- How much engagement, and what types, they’re getting.
- Click-through and bounce rate for links.
- Something that represents reach growth. It’s fine to get more followers, and thus more views and clicks to your content, but what we really want is greater reach, which means that every post on average is earning more and more viral traffic from your fans sharing it, and their friends sharing it, and so on. This post can shed some light on that.
Get Your Social Media Problems Solved
Whether you’re a one-person operation handling social media yourself or you’re having outside talent handle it, these are three problems you need to address when you want to turn an ineffective social media presence into an effective sales machine.
Social media is an incredible source of free traffic to the important pages in your online business, and that’s just the beginning. Brands have built and used social campaigns to change the world.
But as with pay-per-click ads, it’s largely a game of consistency, experimentation, and patience. You will have setbacks, and you will not succeed immediately. Your mindset needs to be “okay, let’s find the next roadblock to fix so we can make more progress” over “why isn’t this working yet?”
Learn to love the process, and don’t chase immediate, gratifying returns. If I had to boil down effective social media marketing to a single sentence, it would be that.
Now then, the rain for the past few days has stopped, so I’m going to go suntanning. Hope this was useful to you!