There Are No Top 10 Best Rules for Social Media Marketing

The other day I was working in my home office when the FedEx Ground guy pulled up. I noticed on his dashboard was a box of Milk Bone dog biscuits. When I asked him about it, he said he keeps them in case of wild homeowners dogs. I thought that was a very smart strategy that is probably not in the official FedEx employee rules. It was something he learned from unique experience between him and his customers.

This led me to thinking about all those self proclaimed “Top Strategies for Social Media Success” lists that we see everywhere online and off. Bloggers and journalists love lists and we are told top 10 lists generate top traffic, so we write them. A simple Google search returns 135 million various forms of “top tips for social media marketing.” But if we are honest with ourselves (I’ve written plenty of these myself) there really is no one-list-fits-all social media strategy. What worked for Comcast Cable and Best Buy and Universal Studios latest movie launch probably will not work exactly for your local bank, tech start up or package good.

The problem with posts and articles like The Best Social Media Tells A Story, and Top 6 Social Media Marketing Tips, or  Social Media Marketing: How Do Top Brands Use Social Platforms is you can’t really build a social media plan out of them. Just because 80% of top brands are using Pinterest, does not mean that you should. Even if you did, how would you use it, what would you post there and how would that tie into what you’re doing on Facebook? Is it a good idea to tell a story in Social Media? Sure. But what story do you tell and where?

These are answers that can not be found in a blog post or article about the latest social media platform, technique, tip or survey result. Like my FedEx delivery guy, you need a strategy unique to your experience and customers. So how do you find your Milk Bone solution? Despite saying that lists don’t work, I suggest this basic social media strategy framework:

  1. Identify your business goals, marketing strategy and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  2. Determine your target audience, discover where they’re talking online and what they’re saying.
  3. Engage the target on their social platforms with meaningful branded content in a way that leverages each platform’s key capabilities.

Even this list is woefully incomplete, but at least it starts in a place rooted in your unique situation and starts to drive a strategy of choosing social platforms and creating content based on your business objectives, marketing strategy and target audience. Otherwise you are left to chase 135 million different people’s top tips that may or may not be good suggestions for your business.

Perhaps this explains why in a recent AMA survey only 9.9% of CMOs believe their social marketing is “very integrated” to the firm’s strategy and a full 15.2% admit that it is not integrated at all. This despite the same CMOs all planning to increase social media spending more than two folds in the next five years. If you want to really integrate social media into the rest of your marketing and business operations, you need to go beyond the tips and lists. Dig deeper with a good social media strategy book and/or workbook or enlist the help of a consultant who can take you through a more complete social media strategic planning process. And a white paper report such as “How to Integrate Social Media Into Your Marketing Strategy,” will help get you a lot further down the road towards true social media integration. The result will be a treat for you and your customers.

Trouble Harnessing Social Media? Relationships Can’t Be Automated

Today I can’t imagine recommending a brand not be on Facebook. It’s hard to ignore reaching one billion people. A recent survey of CMOs indicate they know this. In fact 82% said they plan to increase their use of social media over the next 3-5 years. But that same IBM study indicates marketers are struggling to harness their social media investment. They feel overwhelmed by the volume of customer data on websites like Facebook and consider themselves ill-equipped to leverage it.

IBM’s solution is more robust software. Marketing executive Marcel Holsheimer says, “Marketing is going to become much more an automated software play than it was in the past. This is why IBM is now making the investment in this space.” I agree that automation is key to collect and analyze social media information, and we need more robust software to manage big data. But we shouldn’t pretend that is the only part of the solution. In all the hype over big data let’s not forget the human at the end of the technology.

Social media has exploded because it connects real people. Humans by nature are social creatures. Relationships give meaning and purpose to our lives like no other activity or endeavor. Despite the attempts of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey you can’t have a relationship with automated software. Use all the social media dashboards you want, but there still has to be a human with that update, post and tweet investing time into the customer relationship.

How do you develop strong social relationships? Student health services at University of Indiana suggests the following as essential relationship skills:

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying.
  2. Develop solutions that suit both of your needs.
  3. Express your appreciation.
  4. Show empathy and genuine concern.

A similar list emphasizes these key interpersonal skills:

  1. Look
  2. Listen
  3. Ask
  4. Learn
  5. Understand
  6. Acknowledge
  7. Provide
  8. Commit
  9. Contribute
  10. Follow up

If your brand is on Facebook, good, you probably need to be there. But are you acting the right way? Go to your page, look at the activity and compare it to the two lists above. Then estimate your brand’s social skills score. How are you doing?

For those who have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey you know how HAL 9000’s personal interactions turn out for the Discovery spacecraft and crew. If you haven’t seen the movie, take a break from big data software automation to interact with an epic film filled with real human drama.