I love when I tell people what I do for a living. “You get to play on Facebook all day? That’s awesome!” Sadly, social media strategy is anything but sexy these days. I remember back in 2008 when viral cat videos were new and your one million follower count on Twitter made you like the Elvis Presley of the internet. Example: I met Ben Huh, the creator I Can Haz Cheezburger in some fancy bar in Vegas at a conference in like 2009. I have no idea how I got let into this bar, by the way. It was full of the new social media elite. Hell, Pete Cashmore was there! I turned to the other random person next to me that appeared out of place and asked, “Who is this weird little dude with white framed glasses?” He leaned over and said “That weird little dude gets 500,000 hits on his website every day” I was blown away. A human being actually monetized silly pictures of cats. Possibilities were endless. I embraced my new career and dove in head first. Fast forward 2014…
Let’s face it. Social media is not what it used to be. Facebook is 10, for crying out loud! (Congrats, Facebook! You employ my husband! Stay awesome!) There are young people graduating with actual degrees in social media! Queue eye rolls from those of us born before 1992. We now know that social is not the “cure all” for all your marketing woes. You can’t just throw out a tweet or magically create a meme and expect people to buy your product or donate to your cause. You have to be smart. You have to have a strategy. Social has now been folded into the nice hearty marketing casserole along with the ingredients: email, billboards, direct mail and tri fold brochures. I mean who doesn’t love a nice wholesome casserole? But here’s the thing – casseroles aren’t sexy. Casseroles aren’t like having cocktails in a hip bar in Vegas with a Korean-American internet-rock-star with crazy glasses. They are meals you make ahead of time and throw in the oven you get home from a long day at work. Social media transformed from a lobster bisque to the tater tot casserole of marketing.
Before all the community managers begin to sharpen their claws, let’s back up a bit. Let me tell you about my Gen-X self and my Baby Boomer of a father. My dad recently retired after 40 long grueling years as a sales rep in the electronics industry. In my mind the man was/is a sales god. He was King of CES. He was always “on” and always wore the best suits. To this day all of his casual shoes still have tassels. My dad was known in his business circles as a trustworthy hard ass. Not the kind of guy that would ever accept a “no” without first banging on every door in the office. He was a sales machine. So, for a brief moment in time I thought I would take up the “family business”. I worked in corporate sales for a cellphone company. I hated every minute of it. The rejection sucked. People were totally rude. The product was terrible and no one would let me in the door because I had the stench of failure. I broke down and called my dad for some fatherly advice. He said, in his tough dad mentoring voice, “The basic rules of sales and marketing haven’t changed since the dawn on time. Buck up kiddo. They can tell you no, but they can’t eat ya.” So there we have it. Sales is sales is sales.
Getting in the door
Finding the decision maker
Explain why your widget is better than the 2000 of widgets just like it on the market
Then praying to the ghost of Don Draper that your business card didn’t make it into the “blue folder”. (Our recycling bins were blue)
Dad was right. The basic rules of business have not changed. There is no silver bullet. You have to reach out proactively. You have to prove your worth every time you interact with a donor or client. You have to show why you are unique and you have to truly believe that your product or your mission is THE way to move humanity forward. The shine of social may have worn off and the “next big thing” may never compare to the first. Social is a tactic – just like cold calls and presenting best practices at conferences. The thing that puts a mound of grated cheese on top of this tater tot casserole is what it gives organizations in return for efforts. You now have the ability to actually connect personally with the people buying your product or donating to your cause. Now you have the ability to truly interact with thousands or millions of people and feed them your mission. So, what will YOU serve? Serve whatever you want – even tater tot casserole – but whatever you do, put some cheese on it.