Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Social Media Snake Oil and Ginsu Knives

So last week, I attended a half day seminar about improving sales technique and marketing strategies.  I won't say where I was, who were the speakers, etc., because...  well...  I was checking out a friend's competition.  My mission was to see the ways in which the speakers connected with their audience.

One of the speakers, a self proclaimed marketing expert in a shiny suit, whipped the crowd up by walking up and down the room, sometimes invading personal space asking if the audience was afraid of success, competition, being overwhelmed, etc.  Many nodded yes which was permission for him to probe and expose many (common) insecurities we have as business owners and executives: expenses, lower revenues, competition, etc.

The frenzy reached a fever pitch when he started talking about social media.  He stirred up many emotions when he talked about how the social platforms can be so darn confounding, that no one had enough time in the day to figure it out but it is where the most money is made and that we could all use more leads that we should be closing more successfully.

He managed to share at spitfire pace that he had 47 websites, made millions per year and had a custom web/Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter team to figure out all of this social media stuff.  And because he's figured it all out, he would share it with us so we wouldn't have to waste time figuring it out on our own.  He offered pre written tweets, offered pre written FB/LinkedIn status messages, told us that pictures were better than words in Facebook Ads, teased us with beautiful FB landing pages, said our marketing budgets couldn't exceed greater than 7% of total budget and more...

This was offered for the low low price of $1995.  And, if we acted by the end of the next ten minute break, he'd give us an additional $500 discount.  And he reminded us again that he's got many customers, made millions and that we can be just like him if we forked over the cash.  Generous, no?  Conjures up this famous commercial...

Shockingly, about 15% of the room took him up on the offer furiously scribbling down their credit card numbers on a piece of paper and dashing up to him right as the break was ending so they wouldn't miss the extra $500 discount and chance to purchase the snake oil.  It'd be comical if it weren't so darn depressing.

I was torn about whether I should tell you this story but two tweets convinced me it was the right thing to do.  One was from Leyla Arsan whom we just interviewed (here).  This is what she said:

"When people ask me, what's the best way to gain followers - I tell them "One by One"."

The other was a Mitch Joel tweet with a link to his new post that came very quickly after Leyla's tweet.  In it he describes how Coke's Facebook page was borne of a grassroots like fan club instead of some ingeniously constructed campaign by an agency and foisted upon us via cutesy tweets or pre written status messages.  Coke leveraged its goodwill by correctly identifying, incenting and rewarding its evangelists for spreading the love.  Here's a nice excerpt:

"If Social Media has taught us anything, it's that people love these real interactions between real human beings. And, as those relationships grow, those who are interested can play, connect and contribute to the brands that matter most to them. That's no small feat."

This perfectly sums up why the snake oil presentation last week was so bothersome to me.  It's no small feat to build and grow relationships regardless of large brand or a startup.  It requires meaningful exchanges with your prospects and customers for them to want to learn more about you.  People are smart and savvy enough to reject cutesy tweets.  It takes time and effort to gain followers one by one.

Serious, smart customers know how to separate the wheat from the chaff -- how to separate authenticity from gimmick.  If we want to have a steady stream of loyal and referring customers, it's exactly as Leyla tweeted and Mitch wrote in his post.  These good relationships are borne of time, dedication, focus and our contributions.

Has anyone ever tried to sell you social media snake oil?

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

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