Five Social Media Pitfalls to Avoid

There are a lot of great reasons to invest in social media. It can be inexpensive. It’s immediate and instantaneous. It invites interaction. It can get shared and even go viral.

If all that’s true, then why do so many businesses feel they don’t get the return they hoped for from social media? Here are five possible culprits

1. Failure to Invest
Social media’s free, right? Only if you have the time and ability to manage it all yourself. Because time is money. And it takes both to develop consistent content that’s relevant, engaging and worth sharing on a regular basis. And it takes both to manage your accounts.

2. Failure to Respond
A lot of people see social media as the easiest way to contact you. And the easiest way to complain about you. If you’re not watching those notifications, setting up alerts and responding appropriately and immediately, your social media presence can actually do more harm than good. Have a written policy and follow it.

3. Failure to Commit
Ramping up your social media is like buying a puppy. At first, it’s fun and exciting. Then it starts to get a little boring. Then it just becomes tiring. That’s why so many social media accounts have a flurry of posts early on, then fewer and fewer as content ideas slow to a trickle. Have a schedule. Check your analytics. Stay the course.

4. Failure to Follow
We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Follow your customers. Follow your competitors. Follow your prospects. Follow trade associations and media. Like and share their posts when they deserve it. Add comments. Mention them in yours. It’s called “social” media for a reason.

5. Failure to Grow
“If you build it, they will come” is a great line for a movie, but a terrible approach for social media. It takes work to build fans and followers, especially if you want them to spread the word for you. Some of it is doing all of the above (content, following, responding) and the rest is finding ways to get people to follow you — contests, surveys, special promotions and more. If no one’s there, nothing else matters.

Fear Cripples a Brand

You probably believe (or at least hope) that your company has a vibrant brand — a position in the market that you can call your own. But a true brand is really hard to build. And of all the things that can cripple or even kill a brand, fear tops the list. Fear chokes off a brand’s power to build your business in two critical ways.

First, fear makes marketers or business owners avoid creative solutions — ideas that could be truly game changing. Those ideas might involve changing products or services, or changing the way they’re delivered. But most of the time, they’re about changing the marketing itself. And most never see the light of day.

Here’s why. If your marketing messages look and sound like the industry norm, they feel safe and comfortable. They don’t make waves. They don’t ruffle feathers. They get approved easily. They look the way they’re supposed to.  

In other words, they blend in perfectly. And they sink without a trace.
Breakthrough ideas make us nervous. They’re risky. They’re untested. They’re not what everyone else is doing.

So even though they can cut through the clutter and engage the prospect, they sit on a shelf unused, out of hesitation or nervousness.  

But blending in, while it feels safe and sure, is neither. It’s brand repellent — and it’s nearly 100% effective.

That leads us to the other kind of fear: fear of senior management. Not that senior management is inherently scary. But senior management does not like different. In fact, most senior management hates different. Senior management got to be senior management by being careful and watching numbers. Senior management did not become senior management by taking chances.

Over the years, countless frustrated marketers have shared how they were hired to energize a brand, only to watch their ideas for doing exactly that die a slow, painful death. Over time, death comes more quickly, but no less painfully.

The end result? A demotivated marketing director or team stops trying to do anything that would truly move the needle, because, in their words, it’s just not worth the fight.  

By the way, if you’re senior management, and you don’t buy this, take a good look at your marketing. Does it really seem different from your competition?  

If not, and if you have good marketing people, then there’s a culture where actual branding — standing out in your market in a consistent and meaningful way — isn’t a goal and isn’t valued. Rather, it’s silently discouraged. Quietly crippled. Leaving money and talent on the table.
It’s simple math. To sell anything, you have to be heard. To be heard, you have to stand out. To stand out takes a team willing, able and empowered to try new ideas, to make a few mistakes, and to discover different ways to sell what you have to offer.

Remember, fear eats the soul. But not if the soul eats it first.
What has to change for you to market fearlessly?

A Perfect TV Commercial

It hasn’t played during the Superbowl — and it never will. It won’t show up on any “people’s choice” lists. But there is a perfect TV commercial airing right now. And you should pay attention to it. It’s a template for how to get your message across in 30 seconds in a way that sticks and sells.
It’s the new spot for Coppertone Sport Clear. It’s called “Sunscreen Haters,” and you can see it here: https://www.ispot.tv/ad/IPLc/coppertone-sport-clear-sunscreen-haters. So why is it perfect? A lot of reasons.

It Identifies the Audience.
The first words you hear are these: “Calling all sunscreen haters.” If that’s you – if you hate putting sunscreen on – you self-select to watch what happens next.

It Makes a Promise.
It next says, “You’re gonna love this.” It doesn’t talk about a product or benefit yet – it tells you what emotion you’re about to experience. In other words, it creates anticipation and expectation.

It Shows the Product.
It simply says the name and shows the product: Coppertone Sport Clear.

It States the Problem.
Next, it reminds you of everything you hate about sunscreen by stating what Coppertone Sport Clear isn’t. “Not thick. Not hot. Not messy.”

It Positions the Solution.
After the list of things we hate, it says what the product is: “Just clear. Cool. Protected.”

It Shows the Product Again.
Once more, it names the product and shows it, adding the tagline, “Proven to Protect.”

Visuals Reinforce Words.
The spot uses images to amplify what it says. When it mentions thick, hot and messy, it shows those qualities in a visceral way that sunscreen haters will instantly recognize. When it says cool and clear, the images reinforce the words, and you almost feel the relief wash over you.

Words Reinforce Words.
As the voiceover proceeds, the same words show up on the screen, nice and big. You cannot miss the point.

Color Coordinated.
Even the colors within the spot connect to the colors in the product packaging. Subliminal? Maybe. But it makes the product easier to find in the store when you know what color the container is.

The spot does all of this in just 30 seconds, setting a careful rhythm that never breaks and pays off at the end.

Takeaways? Help your audience know that you’re talking to them. Demonstrate their problem in a way that engages. Show the solution in an equally engaging way. Make it revolve around how the problem makes you feel. Use every tool you have to brand the solution. Make it easy to remember. Keep it short and keep it fun if you can. And execute it at a high level.

No matter your medium, follow those rules, and you’ll end up with perfect marketing.

Get Annoyed

Do you want a truly unique and powerful brand? One sure approach is to solve a problem that none of your competitors have solved for customers of your industry. The first step? Figuring out what that problem is.

That seems to be the insurmountable stumbling block for most businesses. It’s just hard to look at your own industry or your own company objectively when you’ve been on the inside for awhile. And the longer you’ve been there, the harder it gets.

So try this. Start with an industry other than your own. Think about businesses you use, personally or professionally. Maybe it’s a delivery company. Or the cable company. Your phone service provider. Or a college. Or your dentist. Or the BMV.

Whoever it is, think about something that annoys you about that company or that industry. What is it about their product or their process that gets under your skin — especially something that seems obvious as a customer. How do they make it harder or less pleasant to do business with them?

Once you’ve picked a business and an irksome issue, ask yourself this: how you would advise them to solve it if you had the ability to do so? What do you think they should do? How much would it cost? How much could they gain from it? Where would they start? How long would it take? And how should they get the word out once it’s done?

Now that you’re warmed up, let’s circle back to your own industry. What’s something about the way your industry (or if you’re truly fearless, your own company) does business or what it offers that probably annoys customers? How can you change it for the better? What steps are involved? Who has to be on board? What would it take to sell them?

If you’re still stuck, here’s one more option. Ask a customer. Better yet, ask a former customer. Or if you’re feeling very, very brave — we’re talking Arya Stark killing the Night King brave — put the question out there on social media.

The good news — and this is really good news — is that you’ll be the only company in your industry to do this. And that comes with a competitive advantage big enough to supersize any brand.

And because we can’t mention this often enough, the value of a true brand is…lower cost of customer acquisition, higher customer retention, lower team turnover, higher profitability, etc. So find out what’s annoying about your industry or your company and get to work fixing it. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s Free AND Makes Your Brand Stronger?

It turns out that simply being nice to customers can actually make them…better customers. In Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference, physician scientists Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli make the case that being treated nicely has a measurable physical impact.

Extensive research compiled by the authors reveals that compassion has a direct and profound positive effect on patient outcomes. Now imagine the consequences for your business, regardless of the industry you’re in.

When you’re treated with compassion, science shows that you experience distinct, positive physiological and psychological reactions that are out of proportion to the amount of care being shown to you. For example, patients who are treated nicely actually recover more quickly and completely.

In other words, being nice to everyone — customers, employees, team members — offers a competitive advantage. It creates positive physical and emotional reactions that draw them closer to your company. The best news? It’s free. It costs you nothing.

Even more good news? It makes the person who’s being nice feel better about their job, about your customers and about the company. That means higher job satisfaction and lower turnover. All from being nice.

Of course, there’s the flipside. Not showing kindness and compassion to customers has the opposite effect, creating outsized negative physical and emotional reactions that the customer relates to you.

So how can you measure nice? How can you hire for and train to nice? How can you make nice a core value of your organization? Start with this. Look at all of the ways you serve or come into contact with customers and team members. Identify each opportunity to inject niceness into every contact and every process, however small. Then make that part of training and performance expectations.

After seeing all the evidence, the case is clear. Being nice matters in meaningful, measurable ways that can build your brand.

It Pays to Be a Follower.

When it comes to social media, you’re probably focused on who’s following you. And that’s important. But you can magnify your social impact by being a good follower. Here’s a short list of who to follow and why.

Follow Your Followers.

First of all, follow everyone who follows you. Pay attention to what they’re posting, liking and sharing. It will give you immediate insight into what matters to them. And that helps you keep your own content more relevant.

Follow Your Competitors.

Next, follow your rivals. What are they posting about? Are they doing a good job or a poor one? Observing your competition can help you avoid the mistakes you see them making — and it can inspire you to take your own social game up a notch.

Follow the Media.

Follow the people who cover your market and your industry, including specific reporters and editors. Share their posts when it makes sense to do so. Comment on them when it’s appropriate. This allows you to gently build relationships with the media, so that you have another avenue for getting your own story out when you have news to share.

Follow Your Prospects.

If you want to get closer to your prospects, start following them. Notice what topics and issues seem to matter most to them. You’ll not only get a closer look at their needs and priorities, but by liking and commenting on their posts where appropriate, you begin to build (or build on) relationships that can turn into new business.

Follow Industry Leaders.

Following thought leaders in your industry can help you stay on top of the latest thinking and best practices. Beyond that, it can give you ideas for your own future content, building on topics that an industry insider has talked about — with the goal of becoming a thought leader yourself.

Follow Your Partners.

Finally, follow the people you do business with — vendors and partners. Mention them in your own posts when the opportunity presents itself. Give them good reviews when they’ve earned them. Comment on the content they share. You’ll build stronger ties with your associates, and cultivate a potential source of referrals.

A little strategic following can offer a lot of advantages, helping you do social media better and opening the door to new business relationships in the process.

(And if you need a hand developing a content plan or social strategy, talk to Idealogy about how we can help. Just reply to this email to get in touch.)

Recruiting Is a Marketing Problem.

Many — maybe most — companies say that recruiting and retaining good people is their top priority and their key to growth. But you’d never know it from the way they market.

Start with the websites. For the vast majority, the only place on the site that refers to available positions is the “Careers” or “Jobs” page. Nothing on the home page, no buttons or call-outs anywhere else on the site.

And for most, the Careers page simply lists the available positions — and a handful include an online application. But little or nothing about why you’d want to work for this company. No testimonials —video or otherwise — from current team members. Nothing about values or benefits. Nothing about the brand or the future.

Think about that for a minute. If you marketed your products or services that way, you’d be out of business. You don’t just list what you offer. You sell it. You promote the benefits. You lay out case studies. You post testimonial videos. So if finding top talent — or even warm bodies — is truly critical, why treat that problem any differently?

Move over to social media, and the story is pretty much the same. Companies are using boilerplate language to promote available positions, without taking advantage of all the things that, done correctly, make social media so compelling. So each posting is just another job opening among many.

In fact, most companies would never consider using their normal marketing channels for recruiting. No digital campaigns or targeted direct mail. No email or outdoor. No point of purchase, either.

If recruiting the right people is the key to your company’s success, add these to your to-do list:<

  1. Craft the message that will sell you as a premier place to work. Think of it the same way you would any of your offerings. What makes you special? What advantages do you offer? What’s your story?
  2. Rethink your web and social content to reflect your need for people. What changes do you need to make so that every visitor knows you have great opportunities waiting.
  3. Think about all the tools at your disposal. Which ones can you use for recruiting. Can some do double duty, selling both your products / services and your positions / career choices?

If you need people, make sure your marketing shows it. And if you need help doing that, call Idealogy at (812) 399-1400.

Is Your Website Worth The Trip?

Companies like yours pour a lot of time and money into search engine optimization. And rightfully so. With all the competition out there, and more lining up every day, your site has to work harder than ever to attract visitors. And a strong SEO program can pull them in.

But there’s a problem. All too often — more often than not — there’s no there there.

Sure…the site is stuffed with keywords and meta data, backlinks and landing pages and videos. But too often, what’s missing is the thing they were searching for in the first place. The site is so optimized and packed with SEO nuts and bolts that they can’t find anything easily — least of all something that makes you stand out and stay top of mind, or makes them want to pull the trigger on a purchase.

So while you continue to invest in robust SEO, consider the user experience first and foremost. Try to look at everything from the point of view of a new site visitor who isn’t familiar with you — a prospect who just needs the quickest path to what they’re looking for.

What they don’t need is endless industry jargon, or countless clickable links and options. And what you don’t need are the typos and grammatical errors that are showing up with increasing frequency as companies leave their content to outside firms without proofing. (When was the last time you read your own website from front to back?)

If you want to turn your SEO into real ROI, make 2019 the year you give your website’s content and user experience a closer look and the attention it deserves. You’ll be rewarded for it.

(And if you want Idealogy to be that fresh pair of eyes, we can inspect your site from top to bottom and make recommendations that will make the most of the SEO you’re pouring into it. What? You’re not investing in SEO? We should talk.)

Your Competitors Are a Bad Influence

It’s always a great idea to pay attention to what your competitors are up to, including their marketing – especially since you’re trying to win the same customers.  But all too often, companies become reactive, basing their own marketing on what their rivals are doing.

In 2019, try this.  Look closely at your prospects.  Now look at companies outside your industry who target that same audience.  What strategies are they using?  How do they differ from the way your own industry approaches the same audience?  What’s working for them?

Most of all, how can you adapt some of these ideas or tactics from other industries to create a new path forward in your own?  Doing so would instantly help your marketing and your message stand out from your competitors, and help you gain top of mind awareness.

Let’s get you started.  This evening, settle into your favorite chair with a laptop and beverage of choice, put your feet up and follow this simple three-step process to get the ball rolling:

1. Identify three industries who share your audience.

2. Identify the local, regional or national leaders in those industries.

3. Find out as much as you can about their marketing approaches:

    a. Visit their websites.

    b. Sign up for and read their emails.

    c. Dissect their advertising.

    d. Check out their social media.

You’ll end up with really good information – and at least a few ideas for bringing a fresh approach to your marketing for 2019.  Good luck!

(If you’ve enjoyed your Marketing Minute in 2018, we hope you’ll consider forwarding this to one marketer or business owner / leader who you believe might benefit from the insights we share throughout the year.  And Happy New Year!)

Winter Wonderbrand

You know the words, right?  “Later on, we’ll conspire, as we dream by the fire, to face, unafraid, the plans that we made…”  It all sounds so lovely, bathed in that warm holiday glow.  But…

It’s one thing to be fearless when you’re comfy and cozy, making plans for the future.  But it’s something else entirely to put your feet on the ground and put those plans into action when there’s skin in the game.

Why?  Because that’s when fear really kicks in.  All the hurdles suddenly rise up to their full height.  Naysayers crawl out of the woodwork to predict doom and gloom.  Second guessers slow things down to a crawl.  Perhaps worst of all, those inner voices sound off, reminding you of all the ways your plans can go south.

Everybody wants a powerful brand.  But nobody wants to step away from the herd and be discernibly different.  Nobody.  It’s uncomfortable.  It leaves you completely exposed and vulnerable.  No one is fearless about this; by its very nature, it’s a fearful proposition.

But some companies are courageous.  They muster up the determination to face those fears, quiet their doubts and move forward with a bold brand even when it’s terrifying.  Don’t believe it?  Read a few biographies of the visionaries who launched lasting brands.  Every last one of them was afraid.

To quote writer Greil Marcus, “yes, fear eats the soul…but not if the soul eats it first.”  It’s unlikely that you can face truly bold plans unafraid in the harsh light of 2019.  That’s okay.  You can still stare down your reservations with courage and conviction, and transform your brand into something remarkable.

(“Winter Wonderland” ©1934, Felix Bernard, music and Richard B. Smith, lyrics)