Today, I woke up with a private, unsolicited message on LinkedIn from a guy -- we'll call him Kevin -- who wrote me the following:
First, Kevin's message was so obviously impersonal -- which is super ironic because his business is built on creating "personalized" cards, but that's another post for another day.
My real beef is with the amount of people and businesses that are using social media to sell. It makes me sick.
Friends, social media is NOT like traditional advertising and marketing. This isn't just about sticking something creative on a billboard, in a magazine or newspaper, on a website, or with radio and TV -- all places where advertisers and marketers usually compete for people's money.
With social media, you're not competing for people's money; you're competing for their time and attention. You're competing for relevance.
Without commanding time, attention and relevance, you sure as hell aren't going to get anyone's money.
Understanding the end of the means
Once you accept and understand that we're competing for people's time and attention on social media, you'll start to realize that interrupting them with sales-y, promotional crap is the complete opposite approach to attracting new customers, increasing the lifetime customer value of existing ones, and maximize online and offline word-of-mouth.
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Trying to be "cute" and bubble up your business because it's the holiday season -- or at any other time during the year -- doesn't work, either. As I've said time and again, unless you're curing cancer or developing life of Mars, no one really cares about what you and I are selling. Our products and services are simply the means to an end.
Therefore, the first thing we need to do is understand the end, and then create experiences which will provide the means to it. That's one of the key pillars for effective marketing.
For example, our good friend Kevin could've taken the time to understand that, since I'm an international social media consultant, I want to make my clients happy from afar. That's the end -- delighting my clients, especially during the holiday season.
With that in mind, the means to that end could've been a blog post titled "3 Ways to Surprise and Delight Your Clients During the Holiday Season" -- with his product or service being one of those three ways. I certainly would've been a lot more receptive to that.
Back to my conversation with Kevin
The conversation with Kevin continued. I responded to his initial message by encouraging him to stop using LinkedIn to sell, to which he said:
Kevin: Okay, I can see you're social media consultant. How would you reword my "advertisement?"
Me: I wouldn't reword it. I'd get rid of it altogether.
Kevin: I like to use LinkedIn for its intended purpose, i.e. networking and information sharing. I shared my info, so where is the problem?
Me: You're misunderstanding the purpose of LinkedIn and any other social media channel. Add value, instantly and always, and most importantly -- don't sell.
Kevin: We obviously have different views on what social media is about.
Me: My opinion or your opinion doesn't matter. The only opinion that matters is that of the consumer.
Kevin: The only opinion that matters to me is my own.
A lot of people will read the above back-and-forth and conclude that Kevin is simply a poor marketer, but this isn't just a Kevin problem. This is a problem that plagues the vast majority of marketers, managers and business owners.
Look in the proverbial mirror and be honest with yourself: Are you developing your marketing around you and your opinions, or around your customers and theirs?
If your answer is the former -- that, my friends, is a one-way ticket to a place called going out of business.