Recently, I was conducting a marketing workshop for small business owners. When it came time to discuss how to use traditional marketing tools and tactics, something happened in the workshop that caught me off guard.
One of the workshop participants blurted out that he just heard about a cool, new app. Emphasis on ‘cool’. To this day, I can’t recall the name of the app was or what it did. I don’t even remember if the app was related to marketing. But what I do remember is what happened next.
The workshop participants turned their attention and focused their energy on what this person was saying about the coolness of the app. Picking up on his excitement, the participants started asking him questions. I felt the energy in the room completely shift from the topic at hand to a discussion about the app. I realized I better intervene quickly before this discussion escalated into app mayhem. It took me a few minutes to gently shift the participants’ focus back to the topic at hand while trying not to offend this man.
After the workshop, I told my wife Gail what happened. It seemed like the workshop participants got sucked into some kind of a social media abyss. It was as if I could hear each workshop participants saying to themselves, “that’s cool, I gotta get it…whatever it is”. I dubbed this phenomenon the Social Media Vortex. I didn’t realize how powerful the Social Media Vortex is.
So, what is the Social Media Vortex and what happens when you get exposed to it? The Social Media Vortex acts as an anesthesia. It’s as if your brain’s pre-frontal cortex (part of your brain that is in charge of abstract thinking and thought analysis. It’s responsible for regulating behavior) goes offline and all you’re left with is raw emotions. You get caught up in the excitement of experiencing the new social media app, and any logic or rational thought you have gets dulled. You don’t see the social media app for what it really is. You’re no longer thinking. You’ve lost sight of your goal – to promote your businesses, using the most effective strategies and tactics you know.
OK, I admit it. I got sucked into the Social Media Vortex. My friend Artie told me about a new travel app. He was amazed at how many functions this app offered. I got caught up in his excitement. So, what did I do? I went home and downloaded the app to my smartphone. And, there it sits. I’ve probably used the app twice in a year and most likely will delete it when I can remember it’s on my phone.
When I look back at this incident, all I could think about was how people react to a fad. The dictionary defines a fad as “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one which is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze”. Maybe I’m exaggerating but you get the point.
Back to the workshop. When it came time to discuss the objectives and the messaging strategy involved in using online and social media, no one mentioned the app.
I was proud of myself for giving this phenomenon a name – the Social Media Vortex. Let’s look at this in a slightly different context. I notice people fuel the Social Media Vortex fire when they hear astounding social media or social networking statistics. I do not want to fuel your fire by assaulting you with lists of amazing social media facts and statistics. Here are a few examples of what I mean (I purposely omitted the statistics associated with each example):
- The number of people around the globe who use social media on a daily basis – So what?
- The percent of people who access social media on their mobile device – How does knowing this help you?
- The best time of the day to retweet – Do you have to be punctual?
Is it necessary for you to know about social media facts and figures? I unequivocally say, “it depends.” How are all of these numbers and facts going to help you establish and maintain relationships with customers? If you stumbled over answering these questions, move on and focus on satisfying the needs of your customers.
I was consulting with the marketing manager at a small trade association. I was hired to evaluate its existing social media and online marketing strategy and recommend areas for improvement. The marketing manager said the association’s social media efforts weren’t producing any results. When I asked what results the association was looking for, she said they wanted to increase sales of three publications (sales were flat). And, they wanted to regain lost revenue (breakeven) for their online courses.
A bit of history: Two years ago, the marketing manager got sucked into the Social Media Vortex by the association’s leadership (mostly executive board members). They wanted the association to be on the cutting edge of digital communication. Prior to this time, the association’s foray into the digital world was its bare bones website. Because of the association’s need to be on the cutting edge of digital communication, they went full steam ahead into the unknown world of social media.
Today, the association:
- Occasionally tweets
- Has three educational videos on their website
- Has an updated Facebook business page
- Sends emails to its members and prospects about every six weeks
The marketing manager planned to produce least one podcast a month. This never happened.
In the course of listening to this, I noted the association’s marketing efforts shifted from meeting the needs of the membership to “let’s jump on the social media bandwagon” (I took this as meaning that the leadership got sucked in the dreaded Social Media Vortex). The marketing manager lost sight of meeting the needs of the members. Instead, she got caught up in the board’s enthusiasm with social media. What happened to the needs of the members? If their needs are not being satisfied, chances are members will not renew their membership. This is the worst thing an association executive wants to hear.
Fast-forward three months. I conducted a survey of association members and based on the finding and with interviews with the leadership, I made the following recommendations:
- Reposition their marketing strategy to focus on getting members to attend live events
- Use email and its online newsletter as the primary communication vehicles to communicate with members and prospects.
- Keep the website up and use it as a repository of member-related information
- Suspend all Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook activities
- Assign the marketing intern the job of producing three podcasts a year
- Create a series of local and regional networking events. These events would feature a speaker and leave time for networking activities
- Increase the frequency of emails as a way to motivate members to attend live events.
Because of implementing these strategies, attendance at regional events increased and the number of requests for printed literature (newsletters, white papers, etc.) decreased.
Here are three questions to ask yourself so you don’t get sucked into the Social Media Vortex.
- Do I have a thorough understanding of what communication vehicles my customers prefer?
- Do I want to use social media to promote my business to customers because everyone else is?
- How much time, energy, and money will it take to build and maintain a social media presence?
Once you get clear on what exactly your goal is (capturing new customers, retaining or upselling customers), determine the best marketing vehicle to reach that goal. Then figure out what resources you need to get to your goal.