Professional boxing is the perfect metaphor for doing business in the social media age. Prizefighters don’t walk into the ring and immediately go for the knockout punch. Instead, they first deliver a series of well-planned jabs to set their opponent up. They work at getting the lead-up jabs working so their right hook will then connect when it is unleashed.
This is how you should approach marketing in the digital age as well. Instead of going for an immediate sale the first time a prospect gets to hear about your brand, you should first build the relationship by providing high-quality micro-content with no strings attached. That’s the equivalent of a prizefighter’s “jab.” Once you’ve delivered a series of jabs, you can then present them with an alluring offer (your “right hook”) to buy something you sell. If you’ve engaged them intelligently, they will then respond to your offer.
Admittedly, fights aren’t won on jabs alone but most businesses today aren’t working on perfecting their jabs nearly enough. If you can be a little more patient and distribute stories and content people like using social media tools, your subsequent attempts to make sales will be far more productive.
Every social media platform is different and has its own strengths and weaknesses. To succeed in social media marketing, learn how to use each platform to best effect to deliver the jabs you need.
Social media’s cannibalization of traditional and digital marketing will continue to accelerate in the future and will become an unstoppable force. Using social media to market is now well on its way to becoming an imperative rather than something which is nice to do if you get around to it.
Instead of constantly delivering hard sell offers (right hooks) you’ve got to jab first. Jabs are lightweight bite-sized pieces of micro-content which make people think, giggle, feel appreciated and valued. You have to start a conversation with consumers, respond to their questions and then jump in with offers only after they have warmed to you and given you permission to do that.
The idea of selling more stuff by telling stories on social media sounds counterintuitive at first, but the key is to be delivering great stories with your micro-content jabs. Great stories not only inform people about your product or service, but inspires them as well. You have to deliver the stories your future customers want to hear and get their attention by providing them value first. Only after you’ve invested in the relationship should you then ask for their business.
“No one wants to be interrupted and no one wants to be sold to. Your story needs to move people’s spirits and build their goodwill, so that when you finally do ask them to buy from you, they feel like they’ve gotten so much it would almost be rude to refuse.”
So what exactly are the characteristics of great content and compelling social media stories? Several factors will be important to make your stories outstanding:
1. You have to deliver material which is native to the platform you’re using — rather than stuff which has been adapted from elsewhere. Each social networking platform has its own set of requirements in terms of allowing hyperlinks, visuals and text. Each has its strengths and you need to develop content which is platform optimized. Show you understand and respect the platform first and foremost. Have good content which also has the right context.
2. You need micro-content which doesn’t interrupt — which is a natural part of the conversation rather than a distinct breakaway. Traditional advertising puts intruders into the consumer’s experience when they’re trying to do something else. Savvy social media marketing figures out what people are trying to achieve and helps them get further down that track. You should help people today, so they will feel inclined to buy in the future.
3. You stories shouldn’t make demands — be generous, informative, funny and inspiring rather than always asking for the sale. Specifically, deliver micro-content which helps people connect, which entertains and which helps people get things done.
4. Your stories should leverage pop culture — and show that you’re up with the play rather than locked into the days of records, cassettes and CDs. Today’s consumers use their phones for everything. Create content which shows you understand the issues which face them right now.
5. Your stories need to be micro-sized — tiny, unique nuggets of information, humor or commentary. People are busy. Bite-sized content will appeal much more than major productions.
6. You need to be consistent and self-aware — that is, saying things which build your brand, but at the same time stays true to your values. Create stellar content and you will own the customer relationship.
Marketing contrarians view…
Gary raises some good points, but even great stories may not be enough to move consumers to customers. Telling great stories and providing great bits of micro-sized information via social media sounds like a great idea, but unless you other parts of the brand experience reinforce your values and social media noise marketers are going to ask more and more “why isn’t this working?”
A great example is Coke. They have a lot of followers on Facebook yet the brand is in trouble because people are drinking less soda. I mean are you going to become a Coke customer because they told a story about the origins of the design of the Coke bottle?
Originally published at www.newmediaandmarketing.com on January 6, 2014.