Growth hacking is a popular concept these days. To me, it simply means leveraging technology in new and creative ways to jump start growth within your business. The use of social media is often associated with growth hacking.
There is no denying that social media is a powerful marketing tool that can be an efficient and low-cost alternative to traditional marketing. When used properly it can drive leads for your sales people and generate loads of traffic to your website. However, when done poorly, it can make people mad and cause damage to your brand. This damage usually comes in the form of lost revenue due to customers forming a bad impression of your organization. The opposite of growth hacking occurs. Your brand becomes imprisoned, and growth is slowed rather than accelerated.
Every day I see brands making blunders that could be easily avoided. Today, I will identify five of them that I have recently seen businesses make with their social marketing efforts.
The company is not producing any original content. Instead, they rely exclusively on sharing content from other brands, major publishers, or individuals. Don’t get me wrong, engaging with other people’s content is a critical step towards creating a healthy and well-balanced online community. However, if your company is not creating any original content, at the end of the day your efforts are creating thought leadership for others. Produce original to establish your company as the authority in your industry, tell your company’s brand story, and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. A good balance between shared and original content that is appealing to your target audience will keep a steady flow of traffic coming to your sites.
Lack of a defined strategy and goal setting. Many companies know they need to be active on social media. However, unlike in other areas of their business, they have not taken the time to develop a strategy with specific goals in mind. The result is they never get any traction from their social efforts. Why does this happen? They trust their social media with a member of their staff that has no formal training or expertise. Others make poor decisions with the consultants they hire. Do not use someone within the office that gets assigned social media simply because nobody else wants to do it or hire a consultant that talks big but does not have a proven track record.
There is no system in place to track results and calculate an ROI. Are your posts reaching the right audience and generating traffic? Which sites are producing the best results? Many companies cannot answer these questions. Without monitoring results, an ROI cannot possibly be calculated. Use tracking tools like Google Analytics, Sprout Social, or Viralheat to tabulate results. This way you will know where your traffic is coming from and adjust your strategies based on actual results, rather than just a best guess.
Leads from social are not getting followed up on. Leads from social media come in different forms than from other sales activities. So, many people do not know how to recognize them when they get them. Thus, they become squandered, lost, and wasted. It is no secret that there is a big disconnect between sales and marketing within many organizations. The disconnect is even bigger when it comes to social media. Many marketers seem to want to have social all to themselves. They almost shone the sales people away from it, so that they have total control. I advocate for the opposite approach. I believe sales people should be trained on how to best engage with the company’s social media strategy. The person managing the company’s social media should know how to spot a lead from social, and be tasked with distributing the lead to the sales team for timely follow up.
Blatant misuse of the LinkedIn publishing platform. I’m not talking about merely writing a poor blog post. I’m talking about putting out a post with nothing more than a sales pitch or product dump. There is NO actual blog. These people skip the blog altogether and go right to the sales pitch. Here are two examples of what I am talking about:
I have seen a trend of realtors that use Publisher to post their real estate listings. There is nothing more to the post than pictures of the property and a description of the listing. Realtors that have done this or are considering following the trend ask yourself this. How would you react if I put out a real estate listing on a major site for realtors and home buyers, then after you clicked on it you discovered it was a blog post?
Ever click on a blog on LinkedIn and then something like this pops out at you?
They don’t even bother creating a blog; it’s just a blatant product slam. Let’s face it, people use blogs to sell. However, if you skip the blog and go right into selling, you will turn people off, and they will become annoyed with you. Provide your readers with value based content that demonstrates your expertise, and the sales process will happen organically.
By committing these social media crimes, you are imprisoning your brand and preventing growth.
I could go on with this topic. However, I’m going to stop at five, and then turn it over to you. What blunders do you see businesses making on social media? Is there one particular activity that drives you nuts? Please speak your mind below!
John White is the Chief Marketing Officer. In June of 2015, John completed his MBA with a specialization in Marketing.
Everybody makes mistakes—that’s a given—but not everyone learns from them. Some people make the same mistakes over and over again, fail to make any real progress, and can’t figure out why.
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee
When we make mistakes, it can be hard to admit them because doing so feels like an attack on our self-worth. This tendency poses a huge problem because new research proves something that commonsense has told us for a very long time—fully acknowledging and embracing errors is the only way to avoid repeating them.
Yet, many of us still struggle with this.
Researchers from the Clinical Psychophysiology Lab at Michigan State University found that people fall into one of two camps when it comes to mistakes: those who have a fixed mind-set (“Forget this; I’ll never be good at it”) and those who have a growth mind-set (“What a wake-up call! Let’s see what I did wrong so I won’t do it again”).
“By paying attention to mistakes, we invest more time and effort to correct them,” says study author Jason Moser. “The result is that you make the mistake work for you.”
Those with a growth mind-set land on their feet because they acknowledge their mistakes and use them to get better. Those with a fixed mind-set are bound to repeat their mistakes because they try their best to ignore them.
Smart, successful people are by no means immune to making mistakes; they simply have the tools in place to learn from their errors. In other words, they recognize the roots of their mix-ups quickly and never make the same mistake twice.
“When you repeat a mistake it is not a mistake anymore: it is a decision.” – Paulo Coelho
Some mistakes are so tempting that we all make them at one point or another. Here are 10 mistakes almost all of us make, but smart people only make once.
#1 – Believing in someone or something that’s too good to be true.
Some people are so charismatic and so confident that it can be tempting to follow anything they say. They speak endlessly of how successful their businesses are, how well liked they are, who they know, and how many opportunities they can offer you. While it’s, of course, true that some people really are successful and really want to help you, smart people only need to be tricked once before they start to think twice about a deal that sounds too good to be true. The results of naivety and a lack of due diligence can be catastrophic. Smart people ask serious questions before getting involved because they realize that no one, themselves included, are as good as they look.
#2 – Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Despite his popularity and cutting insight, there are a lot of people who seem determined that two plus two will eventually equal five. Smart people, on the other hand, need only experience this frustration once. The fact is simple: if you keep the same approach, you’ll keep getting the same results, no matter how much you hope for the opposite. Smart people know that if they want a different result, they need to change their approach, even when it’s painful to do so.
#3 – Failing to delay gratification.
We live in a world where books instantly appear on our e-readers, news travels far and wide, and just about anything can show up at our doorsteps in as little as a day. Smart people know that gratification doesn’t come quickly and hard work comes long before the reward. They also know how to use this as motivation through every step of the arduous process that amounts to success because they’ve felt the pain and disappointment that come with selling themselves short.
#4 – Operating without a budget.
You can’t experience financial freedom until you operate under the constraint of a budget. Sticking to a budget, personally and professionally, forces us to make thoughtful choices about what we want and need. Smart people only have to face that insurmountable pile of bills once before getting their act together, starting with a thorough reckoning as to where their money is going. They realize that once you understand how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on, the right choices become clear. A morning latte is a lot less tempting when you’re aware of the cost: $1,000 on average per year. Having a budget isn’t only about making sure that you have enough to pay the bills; smart people know that making and sticking to a strict budget means never having to pass up an opportunity because they’ve blown their precious capital on discretionary expenditures. Budgets establish discipline, and discipline is the foundation of quality work.
#5 – Losing sight of the big picture.
It’s so easy to become head-down busy, working so hard on what’s right in front of you that you lose sight of the big picture. But smart people learn how to keep this in check by weighing their daily priorities against a carefully calculated goal. It’s not that they don’t care about small-scale work, they just have the discipline and perspective to adjust their course as necessary. Life is all about the big picture, and when you lose sight of it, everything suffers.
#6 – Not doing your homework.
Everybody’s taken a shortcut at some point, whether it was copying a friend’s biology assignment or strolling into an important meeting unprepared. Smart people realize that while they may occasionally get lucky, that approach will hold them back from achieving their full potential. They don’t take chances, and they understand that there’s no substitute for hard work and due diligence. They know that if they don’t do their homework, they’ll never learn anything—and that’s a surefire way to bring your career to a screeching halt.
#7 – Trying to be someone or something you’re not.
It’s tempting to try to please people by being whom they want you to be, but no one likes a fake, and trying to be someone you’re not never ends well. Smart people figure that out the first time they get called out for being a phony, forget their lines, or drop out of character. Other people never seem to realize that everyone else can see right through their act. They don’t recognize the relationships they’ve damaged, the jobs they’ve lost, and the opportunities they’ve missed as a result of trying to be someone they’re not. Smart people, on the other hand, make that connection right away and realize that happiness and success demand authenticity.
#8 – Trying to please everyone.
Almost everyone makes this mistake at some point, but smart people realize quickly that it’s simply impossible to please everybody and trying to please everyone pleases no one. Smart people know that in order to be effective, you have to develop the courage to call the shots and to make the choices that you feel are right (not the choices that everyone will like).
#9 – Playing the victim.
News reports and our social media feeds are filled with stories of people who seem to get ahead by playing the victim. Smart people may try it once, but they realize quickly that it’s a form of manipulation and that any benefits will come to a screeching halt as soon as people see that it’s a game. But there’s a more subtle aspect of this strategy that only truly smart people grasp: to play the victim, you have to give up your power, and you can’t put a price on that.
#10 – Trying to change someone.
The only way that people change is through the desire and wherewithal to change themselves. Still, it’s tempting to try to change someone who doesn’t want to change, as if your sheer will and desire for them to improve will change them (as it has you). Some even actively choose people with problems, thinking that they can “fix” them. Smart people may make that mistake once, but then they realize that they’ll never be able to change anyone but themselves. Instead, they build their lives around genuine, positive people and work to avoid problematic people that bring them down.
Creating effective content driven social media isn’t easy. But the following four companies are all doing something right. Each one has something unique to offer that others can and should learn from. Not one of these companies social media strategies are alike but all are creating effective content in their own way. I chose companies that have creative ideas that set themselves apart from their competitors. The key to winning customers through social media is to be consistent and creative. Doing the research for this article has forced me to start brainstorming more creative social media ideas; I hope that others are encouraged to do the same.
When it comes to providing content that is both relevant to their business and intriguing to the masses; you would be hard pressed to find a company that does it better than Esurance. Did you know that, “If your engine overheats,” you should, “turn off the AC & turn on the heater to pull heat away from the engine?” I learned that on Esurance’s Twitter page. Their social media content is full of golden nuggets of information like this one. Posts like these are more likely to get re-tweeted and shared, boosting Esurance’s visibility.
They took things over the top with their #esurancesave30 campaign which ran after the Superbowl and not only advertised their company, but created a wave of social media buzz that gave them 10 times the bang for their buck. Now I know most of us don’t have millions to blow on a prime time ad placement; but the takeaway here is to be creative and find things that your customers will be interested in and engage with. In the social media world, keeping things creative, relevant, and easy to share is handsomely rewarded and can do wonders for your brand’s online presence. Esurance does all three very well!
Creating a social media narrative around the world’s best tequila may not be too difficult and I must say that Tequila Avion gets the job done. It’s their creative ideas however, that warrant their place on this list. One of the most effective ways to grow your social media following is to compliment your fans. This is something that Tequila Avion does very well. They are quick to make note of someone who mentions their tequila and are prone to complement their fans. In fact, a large amount of their content comes from quotes from their fans. When it comes to social media, compliments and sharing others content are golden! People like being complimented and love it when their content gets shared. Even if your compliment as simple as, “Your amazing!” A response with a compliment is more apt to get shared (especially on twitter) and when it does, their followers will see your companies name right next to it. Your customers like to get new followers just as much as you do so when you get a great compliment—Share It!
When it comes to YouTube, Avion really shines. Elevate your next friendly gathering by checking out their youtube channel to learn how to create unique concoctions with their tequila. And most recently, Avion collaborated with the Art Center of College and Design. Film Students were challenged to create a commercial or viral video for a chance to earn a $10,000 prize. The finalists have been featured on Avion’s YouTube account. Avion encourages viewers to like their favorite.
#howwevegas Anyone who has stayed will tell you that Aria is the finest that Vegas has to offer. A night at the Aria Resort and Casino is an experience elevated above all others. Aria’s social media has one very clear goal: to give its followers a taste of that experience with no shortage of enticing photos. A quick glance at their Facebook page and I’m about ready to go plan a vacation. By staying true to their goal and helping people to imagine themselves at Aria, they are undoubtedly able to grow and retain their customer base. Having a goal in mind will help you to create better, more focused content.
In contrast to Aria Resorts, Dos Equis has a very different goal in mind. With the most interesting man in the world, Dos Equis has one of the most memorable marketing campaigns around. Taking hold of the internet frenzy surrounding Chuck Norris and Mr. T; they’ve created their own idyllic character and instead of the usual humdrum content, their social media helps them broadcast their creative character’s unique personality traits. Looking to discover what the most interesting man is up to? Follow Dos Equis on Facebook and Twitter. Looking to frequent hot spots that he visits? Before Foursquare changed their site, user could follow the most interesting man to see where he had been checking in.
Recently my 23-year-old daughter asked me for branding advice for her online startup. Immediately my thoughts went to the classic brand lessons I learned from Jack Trout and Al Ries. Three lessons in particular are etched into my marketing consciousness: (1) focus, focus, focus, (2) positioning is the art of sacrifice and (3) differentiate or die.
But wait, these branding strategies were developed during an era of big brands, mass marketing and mass media. Are these strategies still pertinent in an age of “brand me,” personalized marketing and social media? I believe they are; we just need a different set of metaphors.
In earlier days of branding, we focused on the elevator pitch. The pitch you perfected, memorized and could deliver at a moment’s notice in less than 2 minutes – the span of an elevator ride. The pitch could be for a product, an organization, a person, a brand or an event, and it always carried a unique value proposition. Today we can reach more people more efficiently online with a tweet, a post, a comment, or a hashtag than we can in a chance encounter in the physical world. And the digital shelf life is often longer. The average lifespan of a blog post is 2-3 years, of a Facebook post 3 hours, of a tweet 2 hours. Little wonder the elevator pitch has been replaced by the tweet, just as today’s logos serve double-duty as avatars.
The hashtag in particular has gained prominence and wide acceptance since it was organically created by Twitter users as a way to organize messages into meaningful groups. As the humble hashtag has become more ubiquitous, businesses have found more creative ways to use them, says Steve Cooper, a contributor to Forbes. That’s what the Vatican did when it used the hashtag #PauseForPeace to call for a truce in the wars happening around the world during the World Cup final match. That’s what the White House social media team did for the President’s last State of the Union address when it narrowed 26 original hashtags down to the vital few that best resonated on Twitter. And that’s what today’s brand leaders need to do to focus, position, and differentiate their brands – the same three branding strategies I learned decades earlier from Trout and Ries. Hashtags are the new brand metaphors for today’s millennial.
Here are three ways hashtags can help in our personal and business branding.
The principle of focus is the single most important success factor in business and in branding. It is also the hardest thing for a person or organization to do. When Apple’s Tim Cook was asked what he had learned from Steve Jobs, he replied: “I learned that focus is key, not just in running a company but in your personal life.”
Al Ries taught us how to focus, focus, focus. He popularized the aspirational goal of owning “a word” in the consumer’s mind. There are many examples of companies who have done this well: Disney (happiness), FedEx (overnight), Mercedes (prestige), Volvo (safety), Owens Corning (pink), Apple (innovation). Hashtags help us focus and communicate our attributes, our emotions and our brands in “a word” or unspaced phrase. For example, I generally write (and tweet) about getting the most from your marketing investment. While I may also be interested in the gender gap, future of education, National Parks and sustainability, my readers and followers would be confused and alienated if I strayed too far from #MarketingEffectiveness.
Next to focus, positioning is the 2nd hardest thing for individuals and organizations to do. Jack Trout talked about positioning as the art of sacrifice – it is as true, and difficult, today as it was then. In our quest to not leave anything on the table, we often say we can provide all things to all people. But that just waters down our positioning.
Adam Kleinberg, co-founder and CEO of a San Francisco based interactive agency reminds us that in the mind of the customer you get to be one thing – not five things, not three things, but one thing. “Your one thing is the unique value that your brand delivers.” Hashtags can help us clarify and position both our personal and business brands. Here are examples of how some of my Twitter connections position themselves: #CareerCoach, #AmateurPhilosopher, #Inventor, #ProudDad, #SocialMediaMaven, #IrishWomaninNYC #SocialDeviant, #YankeesFanatic.
While positioning defines what you are, differentiation describes how and why you uniquely satisfy a customer need. Differentiation is not about being different, it is about being better. Why is one brand of shampoo better than another? Typically because it fulfills an unmet need, and does so better than anyone else in that category. There are a number of ways – tangible and intangible – to differentiate your brand: price, quality, delivery, product features, customer service, process, user experience, exclusivity, personality, culture, leadership… and that’s where hashtags can play an important role.
For example, I may position myself as a marketing executive but that doesn’t differentiate me from the 344,370 others with the title “Marketing Executive” on LinkedIn. Add a level of differentiation and you end up in a significantly smaller group of specialists.
Perhaps you are a “global marketing executive” (864 of them), a “hands-on marketing executive” (47), a “results-focused marketing executive” (34), or a “customer-centric marketing executive” (10). Or maybe you are an “accountable marketing executive” (3), or a “company’s first marketing executive” (2) or an “adaptive marketing executive” (1). The point is, the greater your differentiation the smaller your competitive field, and the better able you are to help someone make a brand choice.
This is not a game of semantics or adjective-loading; it’s the discipline of brand differentiation. Jack Trout said it best: differentiate or die. With today’s proliferation of products and overload of choices, differentiation is more important than ever in helping consumers choose. As a common connector across the social web, hashtags help consumers zero in to find appealing brands that best match their needs.
So when my daughter asked me for branding advice, how do you think I responded? I didn’t ask for a list of her brand attributes, her elevator pitch, or unique value proposition. Instead, I started the conversation with “let’s take a look at your hashtags.”
Image credit: Ivelin Radkov – Fotolia.com
Another question I frequently hear is, “Which entrepreneurs have provided ideas that you have applied to your business?” In my last article, I mentioned Richard Branson as one such entrepreneur. In this article I discuss two ideas Steve Jobs epitomized. I try to apply these ideas to my business whenever possible and you should consider applying them to yours as well.
1. Keep it simple.
Think about the name “Apple” and the iconic apple symbol with the bite taken out of it. Not only are they simple, but I love that Jobs and Wozniak picked a name that was wonderfully anti-establishment. No one at that time could have imagined a computer company named Apple. I’m sure the competition thought they were nuts and I’m pretty sure they liked it that way. Compare Apple to International Business Machines, Microsoft or Digital Equipment Corporation. These brand names are dull and corporate. They are purely descriptive and therefore also very generic. When you see the Apple symbol you immediately know what it stands for. These other companies all have logos, but none of them have a symbol that represents them all on its own. A picture is worth a thousand words and these companies have not provided such a priceless picture to help us conjure up their brands in an instant.
When creating my brand, REV’D® I kept it simple. REV’D® is short and easy to remember. The name REV’D® is vaguely descriptive but unique. Everyone can have their own definition of what it means to feel REV’D®, but generally this is a strong, positive feeling. I also worked with my design agency to develop a simple, stylized “R” symbol to accompany the REV’D® logo. A simple but unique symbol is quickly remembered and easily recognized. Over a short period of time a good symbol begins to stand for the brand itself. You should develop a unique, but simple symbol for your brand. Just make sure it’s not something familiar and, in time, this symbol will become powerful shorthand for all the wonderful and unique things your brand represents.
2. Aesthetics matter.
Steve Jobs always valued aesthetics and continued to refine and evolve his vision of the Apple aesthetic throughout his career. Jobs’ idea of good aesthetics was tied to his belief in the power of simplicity. Jobs recognized that we are constantly barraged by images, marketing messages and advertising. Jobs realized that this meant there was a lot of clutter out there and that our brains get filled up with clutter to the point where they begin rejecting it. He also realized that clean, simple and harmonious designs stimulate positive feelings and emotions. As humans, we simply enjoy looking at and touching beautiful things. For Jobs, this emphasis on aesthetics began with the product but extended to Apple’s marketing, advertising and packaging. Again, Jobs was brilliantly anti-establishment with this approach. Conventional wisdom said tech products have a gazillion features and all of these need to be listed on the packaging with bullets, snipes and violators. With the constant success of Apple products, Jobs proved the establishment wrong.
The takeaway for business owners should be that often, less, is indeed, more. Traditional food companies, like tech companies, love pointing out all the features and benefits of their products. Like Apple, I think our products speak for themselves so we don’t need to point out every single feature and characteristic. For REV’D®, the proof is in the pudding. Just try one of our nutrition bars and chances are you’ll be hooked. By focusing on a clean, simple brand aesthetic and just the key points, our products get noticed. We stand out from the barrage of information that is so common on traditional food packaging. But, a few conventional marketers have told me how “wrong” our packaging is. How we are “missing opportunities to say more about our product”. All I know is that our packaging gets noticed and consumers are constantly telling us that they love our package design and our products. Frankly, if we at REV’D® have an opportunity to do something different from the big, established companies that we compete with, we take it every time. We don’t want to be like them. We just want our own distinct personality to shine through and that means we’re not afraid to do things a bit differently. You shouldn’t be either. Take a page from Steve Jobs and try to ‘think different’.
For your amusement (and our own), we created a graphic comparing our REV’D® branding and packaging to what it might be like if it had been developed by a large, mega food corporation. Take a look, talk amongst yourselves, and let me know your thoughts!