A recent Forbes.com article proudly laid down a challenge to the global business world:
The article claims that creating and sharing interesting content on your website, on your blog and with your social media audience is no longer an option. They’re talking about the need for every company to implement content marketing, inbound marketing, influencer marketing – call it what you will.
I’m not saying they’re wrong, per se.
There are practical reasons you want your company to focus on producing high quality content and to adopt inbound marketing practices – because let’s face it, most people have learned to shop and research purchases online. You gotta go where your customers are! On top of that, traditional direct marketing and cold calling are losing their effectiveness (although they do still work).
I would, however, like to throw cold water on the myth that “being interesting” is the objective of content marketing.
For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”
‘Being Interesting’ Isn’t a Growth Strategy
In social media, there is a limit to how far “being interesting” will take most companies in terms of capturing qualified leads, generating revenues, improving reputation and streamlining customer service.
For example, consider the plight of the lowly radiator valve manufacturer:
(source: FedEx on YouTube)
A LOT of businesses fit into this category of “dull but critical”. Most technology industries fit into this camp.
Not Everyone Can Be The Life Of My Party
Dear Mr. Marketer:
In spite of your attempts to sway my TV-trained mind with your creative content, it is unlikely you’re gonna win my business just by being interesting or entertaining. Even if you rely on my friends, your fans and key influencers to help spread the word.
Here’s why I say this:
- I don’t have time for you right now. We are already highly selective consumers. We know we don’t have enough time to consume every interesting piece of content out there. Your content has to be stellar and on every platform to get my attention.
- Competition for my attention is increasing every day. The amount of content being created and shared in social media is more than doubling every year, but the number of social media users is not. In other words, competition for my attention is increasing very quickly in social media. Can you afford to keep up?
- You lack the talent. Most businesses don’t have the skills available to constantly churn-out world-class entertaining content. A lot of what they publish is crap. This is why 52% of users stop following a brand.
- Your content doesn’t solve a problem for me. “Being interesting” doesn’t address the real reason I might buy something from you. I like a lot of people, but I don’t do business with most of them. I’d like you more if you offered me helpful information.
If we play this ‘battle of the stars’ marketing strategy to its ultimate conclusion, then we will probably witness marketing stunts get stranger and stranger as more brands do whatever it takes to get noticed:
And even then, no one may notice your content in their social streams.
The facts seems to support my position.
It’s fairly well known that engagement rates on social networks are subpar. Most studies show that on average, fewer than 2% of your followers will ever see a given message you post. A recent GroupM Next report showed that fewer than 10% of your followers will EVER see an organic post from you.
It is important to note that these results are from people who already like and follow you online! how many non-follower prospects can you hope to reach by marketing this way?
So can social media help you acquire new customers? Yes, of course it can.
But to ramp your results up, you need to learn how to reach people who won’t follow your account long-term – just to be entertained. And that’s most of your target market.
Alternative 1: Social Ads
Buying ads on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is a scalable way to reach a lot of prospective customers in a short amount of time. With products like Promoted Posts and Promoted Tweets, brands can now insert content directly into the streams of their target customers with pretty good precision.
It appears that Twitter may be launching a new lead generation ad format in the near future, too.
That said, social ads are expensive so far and in general do not perform well in terms of engagement, sales or leads.
But to be fair, it’s still early days with social ads. Let’s just say the jury is out.
Alternative 2: Direct Marketing
Another emerging way to acquire customers in social media is to find and market directly to people who are expressing interest in and discussing the needs you can meet. Not by advertising to them, but by reaching out and building a one-to-one relationship with a qualified prospect – using your existing sales skills and knowledge.
What we are talking about is direct marketing in social media – using indicators of intent as a trigger. The indicators could be what a person says online (expressions), where they go (geo), what sites they visit (behavior) or what content they are most interested in (topics).
This is a relatively new approach to social media marketing that several small firms are testing right now. We are one of them. LocalResponse, Solariat, GoChime and Leadsift also offer solutions.
You’ll notice that all of us focus heavily on Twitter, because Twitter is the best medium for this type of marketing due to its open API and the network’s public & conversational nature. Twitter generates about 70% of all user-generated text content available online that is available in the public domain. And a lot of it contains expressions of commercial intent.
In addition to these specialty services, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn continue to release better and better search tools. Facebook Graph Search promises to be quite helpful for customer prospecting.
So far, though, none of the major networks have offered “intent” filters that can identify the best opportunities for any given business.
At NeedTagger, we believe that intent-based direct marketing is the next logical step for social media marketers who are struggling to reach their target audience using current techniques, for several reasons:
- Mountains of untapped demand. Millions of social media users talk about their commercial and personal needs every day. This occurs in every industry, B2B and B2C. On Twitter alone, there are over 150 million opportunities every month to engage, assist and connect with people who need something a business could provide them. Here are 70 examples.
- It works. Our customers experience double-digit click through rates on messages sent to people who do not follow their accounts (5% to 80%, actually). They also claim that the quality of their audience has markedly improved. Other intent marketing providers report similar results.
- It saves time. When you sift noisy streams for people expressing needs related to your business, you end up spending just a few minutes a day reviewing and engaging with the best opportunities. This means you no longer have to sit in front of a screen all day long, hoping to detect the posts that matter.
- It’s affordable. Depending on the solution you use, you can expect to generate highly qualified traffic at a cost of $0.10 to $2.50 per visit. Your landed cost per lead or per sale depends upon many factors, including your type of business, the quality of content you share and your expertise using social media in this way.
To acquire new customers in social media in this way, you will need to do four things well:
- Craft high-quality solution-oriented content (not infotainment) that meets your market’s personal and professional needs: your content should address the basic needs that your organization and your products satisfy for real customers in the real world. That said, if you can do this in an entertaining fashion, then go for it.
- Find potential customers who need your help. You’ll need good data mining technology to do this well. That’s what we do.
- Share your content with prospects as close to their moment of need as possible. Tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck were designed for this. We can help, too.
- Learn how to engage and talk to people who don’t (or won’t) follow your account. Plenty of businesses market this way today. There are best practices all over the internet to help you learn. Check out our blog post, 10 Ways to Introduce Yourself to a Prospect, for a short list of proven tactics.
By marketing directly to people who may actually need your business, you’ll build brand equity with your audience for being helpful and capture new leads and sales in the process. It will take time to generate results, however: people need time to get to know you.
If you are wondering whether we are recommending spamming people, we are not. Sending links to people to answer their questions is a completely acceptable use of public social networks like Twitter, and it’s done by many people today (including our customers). In fact, some say sharing content socially is now fundamental to SEO. It only gets spammy when you don’t take the time to understand & respect the person and the context of their comments – before you send that link. So do that, please.
That said, not many brands are doing this type of personal direct marketing in a systemic way, mainly because monitoring streams for business opportunities takes too much time without the right filtering tools.
And that’s a pity, because many front-line personnel are perfectly equipped do this type of marketing (it’s a very natural behavior), if only they had the training. This is the type of marketing that the whole company can do, together. And there are tools out there (including ours) that can help you do it, today.
Let’s see if 2013 can be the year that you stop trying so hard to be the life of the party – and learn how to grow your business on Twitter in ways that are more relevant and helpful to your customers.