A marketing deal with the CEO

shakinghandsYesterday I got a phone call from someone working in the marketing and social media department at a rather large company in Ottawa that operates internationally. This person, lets call her Christine, called me to pick my brain, as I’m working as a consulting partner for the company, about a task she was just assigned. Christine proceeded to tell me that her boss had walked into her cubicle telling her that by the end of the week he wanted to see 1000 more likes on Facebook. So Christine had called me asking me how to do that. Of course if you’ve been following along on here or know me at all you know what my response would be, why the hell does he need that number? To which she replied and this is what I heard: “blah blah blah wah wah wah….statistics…blah blah blah board members…important growth…wah wah wah.”

It took me about 10 minutes to tell her that I would be coming to visit very shortly and we could talk about the strategies very shortly in person. I also proceeded to book an appointment with the CEO and the Executive Board at the regular meeting.

A few days later and the evening had arrived, there we were all sitting around the mahogany table, even Christine was there much to her embarrassment and dismay (she didn’t think she belonged there.) The first point on the agenda was the companies outreach and their social media strategy. The first questions came from me: “what do “likes” on facebook me to you?” “what is your message on social media?” “what does social media mean to you?” Then I shut up and sat there in complete and utter silence. I laughed inside as the CEO and all the board members looked around the table at each other. They kind of looked like I was speaking another language, they didn’t know what I was asking. After probably 2 minutes of utter silence each and every one of them slowly turned their heads towards Christine and the CEO said “well Christine can answer that best.” Of course I knew she could answer it best but I wanted to know since it was so “important” to them what their answers were so of course I challenged him. “I know Christine can answer it but I’m just curious about what you folks think about social media and it’s importance in your company. Why are you using it?” was my response. Then corporate dribble spewed out at me. All I wanted him to say was that it was a chance to connect with their audience, to build relationships, to grow as a company, to understand their customers better, anything along those lines.

Now you know how the conversation went (how the conversation with every company I work with goes) and it was time to get to the point, the ominous question. Why did they need 1000 new likes on their facebook in such a short period of time? We talked about it and we had a really great discussion which I was very happy about.

The CEO was still very stuck on the idea that they needed this many likes really quickly so I offered him a challenge. He was keen to hear the challenge.

CHALLENGE GIVEN: Christine and I will get 1000 new likes if you do 1 thing for us. I want you sir to go out this week and meet and make friends with 1000 new people. 

Of course his response to me was “well that is crazy I couldn’t possibly do that.” My reply, “that’s right.” Then we got into the discussion about quality over quantity. Read more about my thoughts on that in an earlier post: It’s a numbers game

It can be rather easy to go out and get a bunch of “likes” for your company page but we, as human beings and especially as marketing and communications folks, have a big responsibility to educate people about what social media is. Not even really sure anyone has this answer but the one thing I know about social media and am very adamant about  is that it is a not a number producing factory. It is a place to be social, to share (NOT sell ALL the time), and to be a human being. 

Christine’s problem was resolved and the company is now on track to becoming more human like. They are sharing all kinds of interesting tips and tricks and sharing other people’s tips and tricks, heck their even admitting their errors on their own page and assuring customers that they are working hard to minimize those errors. Guess what is happening? Their numbers are growing, albeit slowly, but it is steady slow growth. Each and every one of their new “likes” or fans is becoming a part of the company.

Christine, the CEO, and even the Board Members are so much happier with their Social Media existence and they can’t believe how this new community is so supportive of the work they are doing.

Word of mouth is social media

Lately I have been hearing a lot of the same comments be it in a training I am offering, a conference I am speaking at or attending, and/or a client I am working with, “I just don’t have the time to do social media.” This is usually followed by, “plus my business really runs on word of mouth advertising so social media isn’t really that big for me.” To all of that I sincerely say “bullshit!” I’m not sure if people have realized this or not yet but social media is word-of-mouth. I mean you are literally taking your word-of-mouth and exploding it’s reach. Therefore making time for social media is not something people should be scared of. I say scared quite deliberately because honestly I know what that feels like. “I won’t have anything to share”, “who will follow me?”, “what social media tools should I use?”, “couldn’t I spend a whole day on those sites not really being productive with my time?” These are all questions that flood people’s minds and I know this because they have all been a part of my thoughts as well at one point or another. All of this to say I am not touting social media as the ultimate solution to any business or even that social media should be king of all. What I mean to say is that social media is what it is. It is a way to build relationships and get to know others who you may never otherwise have the chance to meet (hi Gary Vaynerchuk and Sir Richard Branson). Social media is simply a tool. It is not something to be feared and it is not something to be overwhelmed by.

Of course not being feared and not being overwhelmed by it is easier said than done. My advice has always been for people to learn, to watch how others are using various platforms, to play with various platforms, to really take the time to understand how each of them operates and then and only then decide which one (or few) suits them. There is a social media platform to help just about anyone get more engaged with current clients, colleagues, future clients, and just people in general so you need to learn which one is best suited to your needs and capabilities. And yes it is going to take time. If you put the time in learning how to use Twitter properly and not just dismissing (without ever really seeing how people are using it productively) it as a 140 character narration of people’s useless lives with minute details then the benefits will be there. Social media is like anything else in your business it takes time to learn it but it can add great value.

One other thought on all of this, don’t ever let social media be all about you and what you are doing. While you are great and your services are amazing I don’t know how many times I visit a facebook page or a twitterfeed or anything for that matter only to see a sale notice or a discount notice or a new product being featured. Social media is an opportunity. It is an opportunity for others to get to know you. Interact with others, give opinions, take a stand, say what you are thinking and for goodness sakes be honest! Also just like real world interactions with business partners and clients social media is about relationships and conversations. Who do you trust? who do you listen to? who do you talk with? why? All of this translates directly into the world of social media.

Finally I must revisit the statement I am hearing over and over “I don’t have the time to do social media.” Fuck! if I hear that one more time from an entrepreneur who is struggling with customer engagement I’m going to pack up my bags and move into the woods (might do that anyway, still dreaming and scheming). Hello, Einstein can you say your famous line one more time? “by definition insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I mean holy crap people if you have been doing newspaper ads for hundreds of years and all of sudden they aren’t working like they used to (a very overused statement that I hear often, “oh but for years and years this has always worked”) isn’t it time to invest in learning a new form of communication and to try something a little different.

All of this to say I would never advocate ditching all the old methods because some of them are about who you are as a person and what the company’s character (do you think your company has character? what does it look like?) is all about. I still send old fashioned hand written letters to clients, prospects, and partners and I LOVE receiving them in the mail.

I guess the end result of this really long rant has been don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t forget all marketing or any selling is about RELATIONSHIPS. It is about having an open and honest conversation. So please go out and play, listen, learn, watch, and have a good time figuring out how best to connect with whomever it is you are trying to connect with (answering who you are trying to connect with is a great question and a much longer post at another time. Because believe me your business, even though you think it is, is NOT for everyone.)