Training for a marathon is long. I just starting my four-month training program for a fall marathon. This after months of setting a solid base of 30 to 40 miles a week and years of consistent running before that.
The marathon itself is long. The beginning is exciting with the crowd, the newness, the scenery. But then somewhere after the halfway point, away from the crowds, the novelty wears off, replaced with grueling mile-after-mile. This is when I start thinking “Why am I doing this?” “I am so stupid.” “This isn’t fun!” “I am never doing this again!” Then you “hit the wall” around mile 20 when all energy is used up. Yet if you pop some energy gels and “will” yourself to the end, it is all worth it. A feeling captured in The Baltimore Sun describing a runner who crossed the marathon finish line, threw up and said, “That was the best time of my life!”
Social Media can be like this. Not the throwing up part (perhaps sometimes), but the day-to-day posting. Despite all the talk of ROI and immediate measurement, social media marketing doesn’t give immediate return, like a new TV campaign that can spike retail sales the weekend you run it. Many are jumping into the social media race, but you must be in for the long haul to see real results.
As Jay Baer said in “Are You Slow Enough To Succeed In Social Media?” social media adoption is quick, but interacting and engaging with customers and prospects happens on a one to one or one to few basis and that takes time. Social media is built on trust. Building trust takes time. Jay likens this to recruiting a volunteer marketing army one soldier by one soldier. That doesn’t happen overnight. We may think it happens overnight because we read an article about a social media star and never get the years of hard work background story. Like all those overnight success bands that actually gained popularity on their 10th album.
Seth Godin has been publishing a blog post everyday since 2002. No I didn’t miss the “1” in front of that last “2.” For over 12 years, he has faithfully put out daily social media content and it wasn’t always highly successful. His first post “Death of a myth?” to this day only has 1 Tweet and 4 Likes. But today his post “Trading favors” received 1,162 Tweets and 568 Likes. Of course he is also the author of nearly 20 best-selling business books.
A 2014 survey on MarketingCharts.com reveals that social media marketing’s main expense is staff and the staff spend the majority of their time (60%) on content creation. Content development takes up nearly 6 times the amount of time as the next nearest activity – strategy development.
Being a writer, a content creator for nearly 20 years, I can understand this. Advertising agencies are the same. Our main cost was staff and we spent most of our time developing content. The great novel, short story, brilliant 6 word headline (It’s Everywhere You Want To Be) or brand building 3 word tagline (Just Do It) takes a lot more than the time to type out the letters.
Quality content comes in the idea before you write. Quality content comes in the 10th rewrite of the same sentence or paragraph. Quality content will come into its own, but it takes time to build a mass audience and response. Who remembers Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Divine Gesture?” It was his first professionally published piece in 1922. Thirty years later he published the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning Old Man and the Sea.
For those who have patience social media does deliver results. It may not take 30 years, but it may take longer than you think or are willing to accept. In June I presented at INEGRATE, WVU’s IMC conference. Before my session I saw David Higdon, NASCAR’s IMC Managing Director, talk about the brand’s remarkable overhaul.
The effort has been successful. Sponsorship deals have risen 8% since 2008 – higher than before the recession, and 23% of Fortune 500 brands are now part of NASCAR up 20% from 2012. A survey also found that 61% of 18-34-year-old avid fans are more interested today in NASCAR than the year beforeand 65% of those have been fans for less than 5 years. This increase in fan interest is attributed to NASCAR’s social media engagement.
Yet the story behind NASCAR’s success is these results came after an 18-month review and then a 3 to 5 year plan to achieve these goals. That’s right 3 to 5 years. How does that work in a business culture where the average CMO is out in 2-3 years? By the way David Higdon (the NASCAR Social Media Guy), his father is Hal Higdon – famous marathon runner and author of best selling books including “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide.” Perhaps his father influenced his social media strategy?
What’s my long-term marathon goal? Qualifying for Boston. I may not qualify this year or next, but I will keep trying. Logging in those miles week after week. Like in social media, the only way to see the return is to put in the daily effort over the long-term. But daily training isn’t so bad, I get to run next to the beautiful river you see in my masthead. I wonder what kept and still keeps Seth Godin writing daily. What is his and what is your Boston Marathon jacket?