Book preview: How social media changed the way we communicate



Five hundred years ago, the development of the printing press slowly shifted the way the world communicated. Knowledge, once a preserve of the wealthy and powerful, became something open for mass consumption. But at the time, this frightened people.

In 2018, roughly half the world’s population are on social media. Some might say that our era is mired with fake accounts, false advertising and extremism. We’re in the dawn of a new information age. Yes, it’s scary. No, it’s not going away.

Today, 64% of online shoppers say that a video on social media helped them make a buying decision. Facebook has over 2 billion users, Twitter has 330 million, and Instagram has 800 million. Social media usage isn’t declining, in fact our willingness to document our everyday lives is increasing. More and more users opt for ‘story’ based interfaces, sharing edited video content, temporary content, or live-streams.

Yet, almost two thirds of B2B marketers rate their social media activity as ‘average’ or ‘very poor.’ As business owners, the temptation is to hide under a large blanket. I understand this. What if you say something wrong? What if your post goes viral for all the wrong reasons? We retreat into mediocrity, vanilla content and (ultimately) obscurity. Lean pals, there’s another way.

Social media is in fact, perfectly geared for you to grow your business. Buying decisions are made emotionally, both at the top and the bottom of the buying funnel. Which means, for modern marketers, that the best access to your potential customers is to be found here. However, that doesn’t give you the right to be intrusive. In fact, you need to find a balance between connected, and respectful.

Even with Facebook’s usage shrinking in the light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the opportunity is still growing. As emotional sharing of live content increases, businesses need to show up, and experiment. Variety is increasing, both in channel format, content format and tone. This means that whatever your product or service, there’s going to be a place for it. It’s your job to make tactical decisions about the places to explore, and the places to ignore.

Social media, is first and foremost, a social place. This means that etiquette applies. Just as in a social setting, it’s important to have manners. Tact, politeness and helpfulness go a lot longer than direct selling. So as a marketer, it’s not your job to spam the world with a relentless stream of guff. It is your job, however, to pay attention to the variety and importance of tone across channels, and chose where to place your efforts accordingly.


Why your business isn’t winning online

If you’re not doing a great job finding new customers online, please don’t beat yourself up. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re firmly in the majority of businesses. I’d rather dive into the solution, but before we get there, let’s explore some of the pains you might currently be experiencing.


  1. No direction

This is the thing I most commonly see. You haven’t worked out what direction to take your marketing in yet. Believe it or not, this is the single most important thing you need to decide first. Without direction, you might be posting, sharing or liking social media content at random. You might have a spread of several social channels all at once, but be disappearing into a void of nothingness in each one. Without something to pin your mast to, how the hell are you supposed to know what to say to  customers? It’s like sending a salesperson out into the street with a clipboard, but no script. Without purpose, expect patchy social media engagement, no sales leads, and huge efforts bringing no return.


  1. Lack of key messages

When I first started marketing, I thought ‘key messages’ were some lofty, pointless thing that got in the way of the ‘doing.’ But actually, I’ve learned that key messages are pretty darned important. What are key messages, in English? It’s where your product or service, your customer, and the benefits of what you do, intersect. It’s where the magic happens.

Without a clear understanding of the stuff you need to say, to connect your product with your customer’s needs, you won’t do well. In short, your key messages are the golden ticket to tapping into your customer’s pain points. If you don’t know them, we’ll yank them out later in this book.


  1. Inability to be human and / or vulnerable

This is a big’un. So many brands think they need to be ‘corporate’ in social media. No, no, no. Be a person. Be a real, living, breathing, person with empathy and experiences to share.

Be vulnerable. Share what you’re actually up to. How you feel. What’s going on in your life, and your company’s lives. But not in a ‘We’re delighted to announce we had a corporate training day’ way. In a real, relatable way. And if you don’t know what to say to relate to your customers, you’re beginning to understand why in the hell your social media is doing so badly.


  1. Inexperienced hires

Look, it’s not their fault. So many companies thrust the maintenance of their social media accounts into young employees. These younger digital natives may use social for their own personal use, which is where the problem lies. They have absolutely no idea how to share stuff on behalf of a company.

Are marketing directors and managers actually doing their jobs, and training these people, or (dare I say it) briefing them properly? No. Because they’re terrified of social media, and believe *wrongly* that the younger hires know better. They don’t.

Your social media executive needs clear direction, both for brand personality, tone of voice, marketing direction, target audience, and clear sales KPIs. They need to be doing lots of proactive engagement. Social listening for lead generation. Social listening for corporate opportunities. And if they’re not doing those things, it’s not their fault. Marketing managers must step up and lead properly.


  1. Advance mentality

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media, is that we can do it all in advance. A lot of businesses use scheduling tools to pre-order their social posts, stacked up in a huge queue. There’s nothing wrong with this, I do it myself. But, if that’s all you do, you’re in trouble.

Social media scheduling tools have been around a long time, but they haven’t evolved. And I’d argue that if you really want to use social media properly, you need to be doing it live. This might mean a combination of pre-planned, approved posts (especially in larger companies) and a commitment to engaging daily in online chatter.

The most important lesson here, is that whatever channel you’re using, you’ll glean better results if you post your ideas, thoughts and feelings live, rather than using a tool to rattle out sales messages day after day.


  1. Piggyback nonsense

The sixth cardinal sin of modern social media marketing is that we can ‘piggyback’ on other themes. This is laudable in some cases, but if you’re posting on behalf of a business, tread carefully. Yes, engage in relevant industry events, join in group chats and curate content for relevant national holidays. But please don’t ‘piggyback’ on events that are nothing to do with your business purpose.

If you’re a charity, or a not-for-profit business, then you’re absolutely allowed to promote causes. But if you’re a profit driven business, then don’t attach yourself to a cause, in order to increase sales. The recent disaster by Lush Cosmetics, attaching itself to a campaign about undercover police ethics, was so bizarre that it brought nationwide derision on the marketing team behind Lush’s social media accounts. So, tread carefully. If it feels even slightly icky, then please don’t do it. There will be plenty of relevant, appropriate events for you to engage with. Leave the politics to the politicians.


This was a preview of the book, Lean Social Marketing, due to be published in mid October.

To order a copy of Lean Content Marketing, click here.