Mark Schaefer, author of Marketing Rebellion, is a master marketer and futurist in his field. He made a silly joke about Coronavirus, but we forgive him because he shared with us the six-step process to determine a social media strategy that really gets eyeballs.
According to Schaefer, we live in a society where, over time, every channel becomes saturated. Everyone is doubling down and sending yet another tweet, yet another YouTube video, yet another blog post. Businesses and marketers are in a constant war for attention.
So, how can you and your business stand out? How can you win this war for attention? According to the American strategist, to be in with a chance to be noticed, you need to be able to answer this 6 questions:
1. Only we…
First of all, you need to be able to finish this sentence. If you are, you have a marketing strategy. If you don’t, well, sit down and don’t get up until you’ve found an answer.
Because if you don’t have a marketing strategy, what is the point of doing social media? If you don’t know why people buy from you, what is the message you’re pushing out?
Answering this question will make your unique selling point surface out. It goes without saying that chichés like “we have great service” or “best location” should be avoided like the plague. Mark gently shared with us his “garbage collection” of overrated, void selling points that won’t get you anywhere:
You have to dig deeper. You have to find out why it is that people love you and keep buying from you. Why it is that your competitors fear you.
Schaefer also shared two tricks to efficiently answer this question, the spade and the hoe to dig out your true unique selling points:
- Ask your existing customers. Who knows better than those who already love you?
- Get your company’s decision makers in one room and ask them to finish this sentence on a piece of paper. No one can leave the room until you all get the same answer!
2. What is your culture?
Having a company culture shared by everybody, from the top executives to your secretary, is of utmost importance, as it defines your company’s internal and external identity. Your culture is your brand image and, therefore, it is your marketing. It’s either going to propel what you do or limit it.
Something Mark always looks for when he works with a brand are the following cultural touch points:
These are all very good points. Whichever you choose to include in your company’s culture statement, is going to sound great. However, it loses its meaning unless you stay true to it. Don’t let it become a buzzword: stick to it and make it the riverbed underlying your every business’s operation, statement and decision. Let’s take the first cultural point as an example.
“We are a customer-centric business.” A statement we probably heard even more than “from Monday I’ll start exercising”. But what does it even mean?
According to Mark, it means that the customer is in charge. The customer’s place is at the heart of your business culture and everything you do should revolve around it.
It also means, surprise surprise, that your main concern should not be profit, but customer satisfaction. Did you make a person’s life a little bit easier today with your product or service? Did you make them a little bit happier?
And here you might say: “Ignoramus, I have target goals. I have to sell 1 million bolts by the end of the month and a person’s happiness won’t help me achieve it.” But it will. Because if they’re content with your product they’ll keep coming back for more. They will even refer you onto their peers and become ambassadors for your brand. The customer is the marketer.
If your company’s culture is ready to accept it, you’re destined to succeed. But beware, there is no grassroot revolution: the people on the top have to be on board. They need to understand why you chose to focus the budget on promoting a blog on “How to prevent bolts from loosening” instead of a conversion campaign optimised for sales. So, brace yourself and educate them, be the Georges Danton of your company’s revolution!
3. Are we a conversational brand (or could we be)?
People go on social media to spend their free time or, as Mark put it, “to waste their time”. The implicit message behind a post on Facebook, a story on Instagram or a video on TikTok is: “come waste time with me”. So, the question you should ask yourself is: why should they waste time with you?
Now, if you are a company called HBO who has just issued an international success such as Game of Thrones, it will be quite easy to get people to waste their time on your page. If you are a small business working in one of the industries listed on the right, it will be very hard. Unless you become conversational.
Any business can become conversational. A shining example of how an absolutely non conversational brand was turned into a successfully conversational one is Blendtec. This american company sells blenders. Not a very exciting product. And yet, the founder Tom Dickson managed to make blenders a conversational topic. He did so by creating a series of videos entitled “Will it blend?”, where he attempts to blend the most random objects: tablets, phones, marbles, airsoft guns and even explosives.
The first video was taken in his lab by his nephew and got 300 million views. Today, his youtube channel has almost 900,000 subscribers and even his website was renamed “willitblend.com”.
4. How can we maneuver?
The disheartening aspect of nowadays marketing scene is that, in this extenuating fight over a little exposure, marketers tend to flock to whatever is popular until they ruin it. Every year a sappy marketing guru tells us there’s a new platform you should be onto, a new story filter you should be using or a new age group you should target.
And yet, successful marketing is about independent thinking and nonconformity. Maneuvering consists exactly in the ability of using the brain in creative ways to trigger different ideas and doing things differently. Or as Mark said it, “if everybody ziggs, we have to find a way to zagg.”
A very good example of someone who managed to maneuver successfully and storm out the competition is Susie, a real estate agent living in a community of less than half a million people that counts 6000 registered real estate agencies. How do you stand out in this insanely competitive market?
While other agencies Instagram profiles consisted of polished pictures of staggering houses, posed portraits of their successful closed deals and impeccable, colour-matching feeds, Susie was posting pictures of the stupid things people left behind in the houses they were supposed to empty: tacky ornaments, plastic ponies, ceramic cats or even real pets.
Doing things differently turned out to be an excellent way to attract new agents to work for her and, above everything, new clients, who saw what she was doing on Instagram and decided to do business with her.
5. What’s your source of rich content?
If the answer to this question is Instagram or Twitter, we might need to clarify what content actually is. In marketing, content is the valuable, relevant and consistent form you use to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.
Social media are not content, they are channels. The content is what you share on these networks to reach your audience. It can be written, oral, video or visual. People will not engage with your brand simply because it’s on Instagram, but because of the quality of your content.
If you’re a brand like Nike, you probably have the resources and the manpower to master all forms of content. If you’re a small business with limited budget and personnel, Mark’s suggestion is to focus on one channel and one form of content and do it really well.
According to Schaefer, the most successful social media content has two preponderant characteristics, no matter the form or the channel:
- It has some human presence: we can all agree that the picture of a bolt has zero appeal on the totality of the world’s population. But the picture of a middle aged man using that bolt to fix something in the house with a happy middle aged woman smiling at him will definitely kick some guy when he’s down.
- It has unique value: your audience is getting some value out of it. It can be entertainment, learning, information or even human connections.
A definition that leads us to the final step of our social media strategy outline:
6. Be human
Sometimes we fail to remember that the true essence of marketing is building an emotional connection between what we do and our audience. Conveying raw emotion and true human connections should be at the centre of your strategy and content creation.
So, take a step back, rethink your approach to social media marketing and, above everything, stop asking your intern to share stock photos on your profile. From now on, every post you share, every tweet you send has to provide value to your audience, be original and be authentic.
The best case study for how successful social media can be when a human component delivers unique value is Walmart Charlene. In Maryland, there is a completely ordinary Walmart shop, with absolutely normal products and a very unconventional employee: Charlene. Charlene is a grumpy little old lady who poses with the boring products in Walmart making every post of the supermarket worth wasting time on.
Charlene went viral. She made many newspapers’ headlines and she keeps attracting customers from all over the US who travel to Maryland just to meet her. Charlene is the living proof that the most human company wins.
Mark concluded with our favourite quote from the whole conference from his university professor Philip Kotler:
We couldn’t say it better. The reason why we love this quote is that it perfectly sums up what people expect from brands on social media. They’re not looking for perfection, nor for the best deal. They want to belong, to feel a connection and crave real, authentic relationships. A thesis that leads us to the next takeaway: build relationships.