I've had my share of car buying experiences, most of which have been mental beatdowns. On one occasion, I was talking with a salesman who was really pushing me to buy.
At one point, I asked his team to run some numbers on what a particular vehicle would cost me every month.
"Am I going to get your business today?" he asked.
"Not quite sure yet."
"Well, I'd hate to have my guys run these numbers and do all of this work if you're not even sure about buying today."
"But...isn't that your job?"
It was clear this was much more about what he would get out of it than me, it and would be totally reasonable for me to have left right then.
This is one of the many reasons people hate the car-buying experience. They've had so many experiences like this that they practically expect the sales team to do what they can to benefit themselves over the consumer.
The same is true online.
People are used to misleading clickbait, disappointing content and corporate marketing that they've become cynical. Brands must find ways to break that cynicism by writing and producing content that clearly conveys a genuine interest in their audience - no strings attached.
If you've already sat in a car dealership for 2-3 hours, you may tolerate a little more selfishness because you've invested time in it. However, it's much easier to form a negative opinion and disconnect yourself from selfish content.
Getting to know everything about your audience and customer takes some time, planning and strategy. However, there are some things you should already know just by living the human experience:
Finally, when it comes to human behavior online - if you give them a wrong impression, they will instantly go elsewhere.
Here is a quick video sharing three examples of content that will look selfish to your audience.
Can social media be a "gratifying" experience for your customers and prospects? History and current trends suggest that's up to the messenger.
As early as the 1960s, uses and gratifications theory (UGT) was focused on how the mediums of television and radio could satisfy an audience's needs. In the 1980s, D.L. Swanson expanded the study of UGT into understanding the role of messaging in media.
This expanded study led to further research into how media content can generate different forms of gratifications and lead to content consumption interests. Marketers are now trying to figure out how to achieve similar goals through social media and online content. Once again, the concept of UGT has to evolve.
A 2016 study called Social Media Engagement Behaviour: A Uses and Gratifications Perspective explored the concept of UGT in social media because it is designed explicitly for engagement through different types of content offerings. They broke up that content into four engagement content groups:
Information (resourceful and helpful information)
Entertainment (escapism, emotional release, hedonistic pleasure)
Remunerative (incentives, drawings, giveaways)
Relational (connections, friendships, relationships, support, friends, family)
They concluded that UGT in social media expands beyond traditional media ideas because customers were no longer passive but active participants.
In traditional media, marketers could count on a captive audience to consume their content, but that's not enough anymore. Now, the audience scours their feeds, skimming through posts and choosing content that has relevance to them.
Proposing Marriage Before Having Coffee
When marketers could make an instant sales pitch to a captive audience, it was expected and understandable. Doing this on social media is like proposing marriage before you even have coffee.
In other words, leading with "Will you marry me?" is similar to leading with, "Check out this great deal!" Appeals to "check out a deal" and other calls to action tend to result in lower engagement rates from consumers as they ignore the pleas. That's because they face multiple "marriage proposals" every time they go online - even though research shows that only 3% of buyers are ready to buy (or say "Yes").
According to Customer Engagement in Social Media: A Framework and Meta-Analysis, "Customer engagement is based on trust and commitment that then generate satisfaction and positive emotion."
So, the key to positive response is building trust and forming a relationship.
What's More Gratifying than Tacos?
I bet you were wondering when I was getting to the TACO part, right? You thought I got distracted by coffee talk. Don't worry, here come the tacos!
I don't know about you, but just writing the word "tacos" gets me hungry for them. With that in mind, maybe all a company like Taco Bell would need to do on Twitter is just write and share posts about tacos, right? The rest would take care of itself?
Taco Bell is a perfect example of recognizing the importance of engagement. They launched their social sites (like Twitter) and used them as an advertising tool.
The brand name alone was good enough to generate a "following," but they were significantly behind other brands. This is problematic in an industry that relies heavily on customer gratification and loyalty.
Nick Tran (their former Head of Social Media) said, "We were taking content and commercials from other channels and repurposing them for social media.”
When they completely revamped their strategy to focus on content, conversations, variety and engagement, they skyrocketed their following (three times that of Burger King).
They also became an industry standard in social media success.
A key driver to their change in strategy was also recognizing how many fans (mainly college millennials) were advocates and could be accents to their content. In other words:
They now have millions of loyal fans and online advocates because they evolved from an advertising bullhorn to a conversational companion.
You Don't Have to Offer Tacos to be Gratifying
If you have it in you to add tacos to your SAAS company or product, feel free. However, that's not really the takeaway here.
When you look at the exchange Taco Bell had with their audience, ask yourself:
What would be more gratifying experience with a brand - that example or one that just grabbed stuff and make it work on "social" media?
Just based on the presence of interactions on others, wouldn't you feel confident about asking a question and getting a human response?
Outside of the fast food world, can you visualize how communication instead of promotion) promotion builds relationships?
One of the reasons that building a relationship of trust is so gratifying is because so many other brands are still loading their feeds with self-serving content and demanding calls to action.
Start with meeting for coffee.
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According to Forbes, the growing interest in podcasts is not slowing down. Here is a quick list of stuff.
Why should you start a podcast for you business?
What mistakes should you avoid?
What steps should you definitely take?
How will you grow audience and generate business?
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I am about halfway through earning my Master's Degree (Interdisciplinary Studies: Professional Communication) from Southern Utah University. One of my recent classes was Professional Social Media, and I wanted to share an assignment that was part of my Final.
I had to find a company, evaluate their social media and produce a presentation (as if I worked there or consulting) that gave suggestions for improvements. I decided to pick Podcast.Co because I love podcasting, and I liked what they were offering to the market.
This isn't about criticism, because at the end of the day, a lot of companies could make improvements to their social media. I wanted to share this to help you come up with ways to evaluate your social media and maybe help a podcast company in the process.
You can also listen, download or share the audio version of this blog.
What makes a good relationship between marketer and their target audience has changed. This has been true for several years, but many marketers have been unable to adapt.
Two ways marketers can ruin a relationship with their target audience are:
1. They approach conversations with a "sell first" attitude
2. They cling to outdated marketing strategies
As Judy Ungar Franks, author and clinical assistant professor in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University, says - when you apply old-school media thinking to a new media world...nothing happens!
What changed in the relationship?
In simplest terms, the catalyst of change in the relationship between marketer and audience is the internet. Trends in social media posts, influencer blogs, customer reviews and instant communications gave the consumer more control in the relationship. Marketers had a lot more power when the relationship was more linear. Back then, they made sales pitches to captive audiences through TV, newspaper or radio.
Then, the world of media and communication began to change.
Suddenly, people could skip commercials and turn to the internet for entertainment. So, marketers followed them and tried to communicate the same way they would on traditional broadcast media.
They found out the results were not the same:
As Dr. Franks points out in her book, Media: From Chaos to Clarity: Five Global Truths That Make Sense of a Messy Media World:
Old school marketing was about four Ps: Product, place, price and promotion
There was certainty in every medium, limited selection and media was product
Now it's about the four Cs of social: Content, connecting, community and curating
Media are strikingly similar (it's all on screen)
Today, people flock to all kinds of media for a comprehensive, engaging experience, and consumers are the distributors and accelerants of the marketer's content.
What Do Consumers Want in a Realtionship?
If the "sell" or "pitch" is the end goal, you can't spend all your time focused on that part of the conversation.
Recognizing the change in the relationship is only half the problem. The second half deals with a crowded room of people trying to woo the same consumer. If everyone is talking the same way, it's harder for brands to make their case.
One of the best ways to optimize communication in a personal relationship is remembering to put yourself in the other person's shoes. This relationship is no different. You have to think like a marketer and a consumer.
When marketers are not thinking like marketers, they can find similarities in how both parties respond to online content.
Think about that. When you're not at work (or wherever you spend time on marketing strategy), how do you answer those questions?
Remembering your consumer habits can help you develop better marketer habits. At that point, your focus goes deeper than just selling to the other person and puts the relationship on a better path.
Do you find yourself struggling to develop topics for your company blog? You're not alone. Have you ever considered why it's so difficult to generate content? It could be any number of reasons:
The lack of time to write a blog
The product or industry doesn't "inspire" topics
The belief that blogs can't translate to sales
Well, the good news is there are solutions to all of these challenges. Here are some concepts to help you break these content creation barriers.
I have simple response to that blog.
Do you think I'll be fooled by that company again? Nope.
In today's content overloaded world, you should just assume you're audience won't fall for a clickbait-like tease. These days, people tend to already be cynical about what brands put in front of them. They already assume it's probably more self-serving than valuable. It's also why when they land on content filled with links that benefit the content creator, they're likely to bail out in a matter of seconds.
Ask yourself why someone would want to read your blog, and don't say it's because your content is awesome or your company is unique. As Joe Pulizzi says - “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves.”
Your customers can create blog topics
Focusing on customers and topics can address two common blog strategy barriers:
The time challenge
The company product/service topic issue
What if you just took the answers your customers ask and turn them into blog topics?
This is how Marcus Sheridan saved his swimming pool business - making the the question a blog title, and featuring the answer (even if it's short) is the body of the blog.
Now he makes a living teaching businesses how to create value by answering questions that customers are asking - often times via search. It's amazing that Marcus turned this into a content phenom, because on its surface it seems kind of an obvious idea.
This concept helps with the challenges of time, length and sales. It's a prime example of how blogs don't always have to be long, time-consuming epic reads.
And Marcus will tell you - his They Ask, You Answer strategy works for all businesses.
Beyond conducting internal research to find out what your customers and prospects are asking, there are online resources like AnswerThePublic, HubSpot’s blog topic generator and Buzzsumo that help generate blog topics.
Some People Don't Want to Read Blogs
When it comes to time, you shouldn't just consider how much time a blog will take to write. You should also consider how much your audience is willing to read.
Brand and digital content strategist Chris Brogan expanded his content strategies beyond the written word when he noticed trends pointing towards video and audio. In making his case for why watching and listening is the new reading, Chris pointed out that people only spend an average of 19 minutes a day reading - including their texts and emails.
How many minutes do you spend reading your emails or phone communications?
How much time is left to read a few articles and blogs?
Chris's point doesn't mean you should stop writing blogs. It's a reminder not to solely rely on content content that takes a lot of time to read. Limited time and skimming habits are reasons why more blogs offer a written and audio version to their audience.
If you choose to record a video, just share some insights. Make it fun and engaging. Talk to your audience and save them some time by recording something that can also be shared on your blog.
Simple Blog Ideas Can Still Provide Value
Once you realize you don't have to write an epically-long blog post, you may realize just how much content you can create. It's all about providing value, and there are a variety of ways to prove you have a lot to offer your customers and prospects.
When I first learned about this approach from a content marketing expert, they said something that has always stuck with me:
If you provide a lot of value through content, your audience starts to think, "If I get this kind of value for free - imagine what I'll get when I buy something from them."
So, take the time you might spend on an extremely long and complex blog and use these 60 ideas for bloggers, entrepreneurs, marketers and businesses to generate ideas.
Whether it's Terminator 2 or the AMC series Humans, people have always had that worry in the back of their mind about "the machines" taking over. My question is - why don't we have the same concern in marketing?
After all, you can do something about it before it can start to damage your business. Before you get visuals of your office computers growing legs and saying, "Must destroy the company - resistance is futile," let me explain what I mean.
We've seen this story before
Whether it's Humans or Westworld, the story always starts the same - we develop robots to make our lives easier, and then everything goes to crap. In the realm of social media or content marketing, we're seeing an overreliance on making things easier through automation and analytics while forgetting to be human.
Unlike the apocalyptical machine stories, I'm not suggesting it's something you shouldn't be doing in the first place. However, like a recent Forbes article pointed out - automation still has to have a human touch. This is especially true on social media, especially since it's called social media.
You'll find plenty of brands of all sizes that are doing nothing but automating the content on their feed. They'll post content all of the time, hoping that it will gain them the benefit of your engagement, and that's where the effort ends. You never see them start a conversation, or start one with wanting all the replies to come from you, but they don't feel they have to add anything more.
This is actually a pet peeve of mine. I've been known to unfollow social media feeds that feature easy automation but not human interaction. It tells me they don't care that much about my involvement in their online presence. On the brand side, lack of a human element can cost you engagements, shares, reputation and advocacy.
Unfortunately, I also see an overreliance on automation and a lack of human effort from many content marketing and social thought leaders. To me, promoting yourself as a thought leader in social media and then never engaging with people on a platform is like an ad agency touting their social media strategy tutelage while showcasing terrible following numbers on their platforms.
Robots make mistakes that hurt you more than them
If you've spent quality time on social media over the last few years, you've probably witnessed or experience an automated response fail. For example, there was the time Dominos apologized for a customer's great pizza. I've also seen automation offer a positive response to a post about a negative experience or situation. In this case, the "machine" isn't intelligent enough to respond, but people definitely know the difference.
Another example of an automation challenge that does more harm than good is utilizing a powerful social listening software that doesn't have the right data incorporated into its processes. For example, if Chevrolet told its social listening engine to track people talking about "Chevrolet," they would overlook the audience that refers to them online as "Chevy" or "bowtie."
View your humanity as an advantage
Bots and automation aren't the only things that provide a critical pros/cons dynamic to your marketing efforts. Humans are also capable of taking data, analytics and code and jumping to the wrong conclusions:
Andrew makes the same point - Could you pitch an idea featuring someone riding a skateboard on an actual highway with one hand guzzling a branded drink and lip-syncing? If your automatic response is no, you may have some good reasons why:
It doesn't directly sell the product (where's the CTA)?
It doesn't fit the brand (but what brand would this fit)?
Then again, you would've never tested it and seen the amazing results. In Ocean's Spray's case- skyrocketing sales and doublimg their stock. Some people think it's nothing more than one of those lucky viral video stories. Mark Schaefer says it's a prime example of the power of creating "human" commercials.
"The video is real, raw, human, and vulnerable. Generally speaking, everything ads are not," he said.
If I was new to the planet and asked you how humans feel about the car buying experience, what would you tell them? I assume you wouldn't describe it the same way you would a Caribbean cruise. However, there are too many people that don't mind infusing the annoyances of car buying to their LinkedIn marketing strategy.
When you walk onto a car lot, you know you're going to have someone approach you and talk to you about buying a car, but why is that so bad? Marcus Sheridan points out:
"Imagine you walk onto a car dealership lot and a salesman comes striding out. Do you expect that salesman to have your best interests at heart, or are you anticipating the whole 'Have I got the perfect car for you' routine?"
In other words, you feel like the conversation is going to be driven (no pun intended) by what benefits them - not you.
How are people getting a similar experience on LinkedIn? You can find plenty of promotion-filled sales lots filled with robotic salespeople communicating through canned and repeatable rhetoric.
There are Lots of Waving Tube Men
Many LinkedIn profiles are full of brands talking about themselves and their perfect things for the audience. Their pages are the equivalent of having a bunch of wacky waving inflatable arm men in a used car lot, and both are about equally as effective in inspiring someone to buy.
You'll notice that when LinkedIn announces their best page announcement winners, it's all about the ways brands are providing value and building trust. For example:
The Staff Follows a Script
Poor Bert Healy. He just wanted his script to sound like a natural conversation, but it's more than evident that Mr. Warbucks is reading a prepared set of sentences. It didn't help matters when Warbucks closed with, "Did I just do a commercial?"
However, Bert had a good excuse. It was the 1930s, radio was big, and he had a captive audience. Yet today, people are willing to follow a similar formula using LinkedIn messages, and it's not as funny as this scene. In fact, it's annoying, lazy, unprofessional and sad.
Like a stereotypical used car salesman, they may greet you in a way that seems like it's an attempt to get to know you, but once you respond, it's all about their benefit.
It starts with a disingenuous connection request
Disingenuous reasons for wanting to connect generally include an interest in "expanding a personal network and wanting to connect with like-minded people." Or the more amusing invitations to connect are the ones where they tell you upfront that they think you're stupid.
For example, they tell you your recent "great blog or post" that "showed up on their feed," drew them to you. Granted, they aren't going to tell you specifically which post it is because this is a cut and paste script that goes to several people. It's the car lot greeting before things go into sales mode. Once you connect, you'll get more cut and paste messages that signal no real interest in connection, conversation, value or trust.
Because it's not about you. If it was, things would sound a lot less scripted and the conversation could be very different. As Marcus said in his blog, your content (or communication) could say:
“Why HubSpot is right for you.”
“Is HubSpot the right fit for you?”
One shows bias, one does not.
Creating value, starting a conversation or building trust means avoiding what Chris Brogan would call treating people like purses and wallets. One of the simplest pieces of advice I've ever gotten about social media marketing is - You have to give to get.
Prove them wrong. It will benefit you both.