When social media was born, businesses and marketers had the greatest opportunity in business history. It was the chance to build an audience, engage with them and establish a direct line of communication, and all on platforms that offered this service for free. Instead of embracing this opportunity, most businesses have incorrectly used social media as a push mechanism. Social media is a push-pull platform. Gary Vaynerchuk of Vayner Media would describe it as a Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, whereby you give, give, give value, then you ask for something in return. The ask doesn't have to necessarily be an ask in the traditional sense, it's really more of an earn. When you cater to your audience and give them tons of value upfront, you earn the right to directly or indirectly push a marketing message to them.
That is how social media is done. Is this how most marketers approach social media? Absolutely not. They instead throw right hook after right hook hoping that something will land and convert into a lead or a sale. This is tom foolery.
If you're a social media marketer or in anyway touch social media in your business or at your job ask yourself this one simple question, when you're on your social media channels outside of work are you interested in your feeds being cluttered with shameless promotions or are you there to keep up with your friends and family and catch the latest news headlines, funny videos and Internet memes? I'll venture to say that most people are there for the latter.
Why then do you think that it's ok to push your blatant advertisements to other people's newsfeeds if you're not interested in having them in yours? Here's the problem plain and simple. The Gen X and Baby Boomers who are the mid-upper level managers are used to traditional marketing which is all push. They can't wrap their head around the concept of caring about their end-user. They don't see them as people, they just see them as prospects. The world no longer operates this way. Social media marketing and online marketing in general has balanced the power dynamic. There are far too many ads for yours to stand out anymore, so there's only one solution. You must push your promotions and advertisements in the context of content. Do away with the notion of sharing videos of executive speeches and PR videos on your YouTube channel. No one wants to see that self-serving garbage. When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, stop posting links to your site or blog about company events and news. No one wants to see that garbage either. Discover why your customers do business with you, harvest that emotion into content and give, give, give. Once you do this, then and only then have you earned the right to ask.
It shocks me in this day and age when businesses still say, "I don't understand social media. What's the R.O.I?" Social media is simple. Simply breakdown the two words and you have social and media. Media is content. It can be textual, image, or video based. Your media must fit one of the following criteria: entertaining, educational, informative, inspirational. Social is what happens when you develop good media. People share it with others and this is the R.O.I. When you develop remarkable media you earn the right for your content to be spread with others thereby pushing your marketing message to hundreds, thousands, or millions of people for free!
When you create that next piece of content, ask yourself if this came through my personal newsfeed on one of my social media channels, would I share this? Also ask yourself is this content entertaining, educational, informative, or inspirational? If your answer to either one of these questions is no then you need to go back to the drawing board. Use this simple lens with every piece of content you push out to determine if it's appropriate for your audience.
Lastly, for those of you who have the misfortune of working for a company who isn't approaching social media correctly and isn't willing to get beyond posting narcissistic self-serving content, do yourself, your career, and social media a favor and jump ship. The world does not need another marketer ruining social media. It's time to stand up, be authentic and take accountability before social media becomes less and less effective as a viable marketing tool.
Michael Price is an entrepreneur and author of What Next? The Millennial's Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World. An advocate of ideas for radical change, he has received critical acclaim for his lessons in education, career, entrepreneurship, and personal finance.