This post was inspired by Mark Schaefer’s post, A simple strategy to increase your influence on Twitter
There’s too much boasting among social media marketers. We like to believe we’ve redefined marketing and social media will disrupt every marketing and advertising tactic ever developed…EVER! This attitude reminds me of the creative arts. My heart will always be with writing. As a writer, great stories seem to come from a magical place in our heads and don’t fit any “model.” But every great story that’s been analyzed has been found to follow principles and triggers which ignite a particular reaction in the reader’s mind, and those principles are followed intentionally by some and accidentally by others. Either way, they’re evident in every great story.
Writers, however, have a tendency to believe that their stories reinvent the wheel. But if they pick up one of the volumes that exist on dramaturgy, they would realize that their brilliant solutions to storytelling problems were discovered long before they were born.
Social media marketers also believe they’ve reinvented the wheel. They disregard proven principals, and, frankly, disrespect the old school (and this is coming from a “totally digital” 23-year-old).
I think there’s a lot to learn from the old school way of marketing and advertising. No greater example sticks out to me than when the agency I was working for folded last year and, while searching for employment, I stooped to the level of selling office supplies to small businesses door-to-door.
In door-to-door, you do everything that’s considered ineffective by social media evangelists. It’s cold, impersonal (in that you don’t know the prospect), and heavily sales focused. The tactics seem counter-productive.
So at first, I didn’t follow the system. I didn’t listen to the principles. And I loosely followed the tactics. After a while, I found that even though prospects loved me, they didn’t buy from me. I was really friendly, and I could chat about just about anything with customers.
But I couldn’t close.
When I finally married the sales techniques with the relationship building skills I had mastered, I started selling like a monster. Then I quit. I still hated the “walking door-to-door” aspect of it and dreaded what that would be like during NY winters.
But I learned valuable lessons that are lit ablaze by my social media peeps. I like the industry. I like the theories. I like the people. I dislike the rose-colored glasses. I dislike the echo chamber.
And lately I’ve been feeling that some of my thoughts may brand me as an outcast, like in this Ogilvy quote:
“I run the risk of being denounced by the idiots who hold that any advertising technique which has been in use for more than two years is ipso facto obsolete.”
Does that mean there are no worthwhile thoughts and tactics being used by social media marketers now? No, but it does mean that a lot of the tactics used to create relationships, build trust, and ultimately drive sales through social media have already been discovered, mastered, and improved upon by door-to-door sales dudes long before we started commenting on the practice of marketing.
If you’re a social media marketer feeling a bit “icky” about hearing these thoughts from another social media marketer, please remember that I’m not telling you to be a huckster. That’s a misconception about door-to-door salespeople. The most successful door-to-door salespeople build relationships and do pretty much everything we advocate. The difference is that they also use persuasion techniques to help drive the prospect toward a desired action, and those techniques hold valuable lessons worth considering in order to get the most out of the relationships we’ve built.
In the end, I do believe that for the most part we do what salespeople do. The biggest difference is we do it all over a computer rather than while standing in a prospect’s living room or office.