Becoming Known the Key to Personal Branding Success

Known book cover

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be famous (assuming you are not already famous)? Celebrities and their lifestyles fascinate us. I once saw a “person on the street” interview in which a teenage girl said her career goal was “to be famous like Paris Hilton.” Fame has become a career path, apparently.

You may have no desire to become famous like Paris Hilton, but you can aspire to be something even more important: known. That idea is at the heart of the latest book by social media marketing expert Mark Schaefer. His sixth book is Known: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age. Schaefer knows a thing or two about being known. He is recognized, err known, as an authority on blogging, content marketing, and social media marketing. His {grow} blog has legions of followers, and his podcast “The Marketing Companion” (co-hosted with Tom Webster) is billed as “the most entertaining marketing podcast”—and delivers on that claim.

A Fix for Bad Personal Branding

You can find a lot written about personal branding… and a lot of it is crap. Oh, you can find plenty of blog posts sharing the five or seven steps to building your personal brand. The problem is the task of building a brand is such a monumental task it cannot be tackled in a 600 word blog post.

Another shortcoming of most works on the topic of personal branding is that they are heavy on what you should do but light on how to do it. In Known, Schaefer overcomes both of these limitations. The book has the needed depth to walk anyone through the process of positioning and communicating your brand. Moreover, application exercises throughout the book enable you to gain personal brand clarity.

Becoming Known

Known is the culmination of extensive research and interviews with people who are where those of us reading the book aim to reach: being known. Schaefer distills his research into becoming known by identifying four critical factors.

  1. Finding your place (what it is you want to do and can do consistently)
  2. Finding your space (an “uncontested niche” to be differentiated)
  3. Finding your fuel (creating content in an “open space that reflects your interests and personality)
  4. Creating an actionable audience (activating responses through engagement, networking, and influence).

Schaefer’s presentation is so effective, it is tempting to say “it’s that simple.” OK, becoming known is not as easy as 1,2, 3, 4. It is hard work and requires persistence, themes that appear regularly throughout the book. But, the blend of concepts, how to, and case studies of people who have succeeded in communicating their personal brand’s value indeed make Known a personal branding handbook.

Best of the Best

So what are my takeaways from Known? Here is the list:

  • Be wary of following your passion. It is advice espoused by many personal branding and career experts. Instead, Schaefer advocates focusing on a “sustainable interest” that can connect your brand to the well-being of others.
  • While you seek to stake out an uncontested niche (i.e., your space), you do not have to be the first person there. First-mover advantage can be just that, an advantage. However, history reminds that being first does not equal being the greatest (think Atari video games and Commodore PCs).
  • Content is the fuel to become known. People may come to know you, but it will happen because they know your content, first.
  • Never publish content that can be created by someone else. Lack of distinctive content puts one on a fast track to anonymity.
  • Audience is the fire created by fuel (content). It is not enough to create great content. An audience must be aware of it, relate to it, and accept it.

Now What?

A drawback to many business books is that it is difficult to maintain momentum from ideas taken from a book. If that happens after reading Known, it will be our own fault. Why? The key to being known is consistency. Managing the four areas of your brand (place, space, fuel, and audience) is an ongoing concern. Consistency is a must. It will not come from a book, blog, conference, or other person. It’s our turn to become known.

Listen for Complaints instead of Eliminating Them


Image credit: Ky-Flikr (Creative Commons license)

Constructive criticism can be a two-edged sword. On one hand, feedback received can make us aware of weaknesses or shortcomings we do not recognize. Taking corrective action enables us to improve, potentially benefiting both ourselves and the people we serve. On the other hand, criticism can sting. We are not always comfortable hearing about our failings or how we are not performing to expectations. We have to remind ourselves that when criticism is directed at us we can use it in a positive way.

Social media gives businesses the greatest listening tool since the shopkeeper’s own ears. Interacting with customers on social media enables a business to get a better read (literally) on what customers are thinking. In turn, social media enables immediate response to them. So, why would a business not want to take advantage of the platform afforded customers through social networking sites?

Stifle Yourself—No

An interesting case of how to deal with customer feedback for a business is reacting to customer reviews. Many people will go online to post a review in extreme cases. They either had a wonderful experience or a dreadful one. Who doesn’t love positive feedback from glowing reviews? It validates the company’s efforts to serve customers. More importantly, the positive word-of-mouth can impact others’ decisions to do business with you.

Negative reviews can have the opposite effect. Depending on the nature of the complaint and emotions of the reviewer, a negative review can be hurtful to the feelings of employees involved and to the business. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make negative reviews go away? You can’t, so don’t try.

My middle son received a first-hand lesson in how businesses should not approach user reviews. He ended a lease with an apartment complex because he was going to study abroad for a semester. As he neared the end of his stay, he posted reviews about his experience with the apartment complex. He posted candid reviews based on his experiences in 16 months as a resident.

To their credit, a representative from the apartment complex responded, inviting my son to contact the office. The public move to acknowledge the complaint and reach out to the complainer is good social media practice. Apartment complex management seem to practice it consistently based on a cursory look at reviews (positive and negative).

The line a business cannot cross is attempting to stifle customers’ free speech. The practice is not only unethical, but it is now illegal. The Consumer Review Fairness Act passed last December protects consumers making truthful reviews about businesses. “Truthful” is the key word. Businesses are vulnerable to unfounded statements and claims. They, too, need protections from people who act maliciously by posting false negative reviews.

Don’t Do This

Bottom line for businesses is you cannot shut down free speech in the form of unfavorable customer reviews. A statement like the following sent to my son in a lease termination agreement does not work.

“The Resident Parties agree that neither of them will directly or indirectly, in any capacity or manner, make, express, transmit, speak, write, verbalize or otherwise communicate in any way (or cause, further; assist solicit, encourage, support or participate in any of the foregoing), any remark, comment, message, information, declaration, communication or other statement of any kind, whether verbal, in writing, electronically transferred or otherwise, that might reasonably be construed to be derogatory or critical of, or negative toward, the Landlord. To the extent that any such comment has previously been published to any social media site or otherwise communicated, the Resident Parties agree to immediately remove such reference and take all reasonable actions to ensure that such comment has been permanently removed from such social media site or otherwise.”

Nice try to silence customers; unfortunately it is against federal law.

Listen and Learn

Consumers’ rights to make truthful comments and reviews about businesses have been affirmed by the Consumer Review Fairness Act. It is pointless to fight it. So, how should your business respond when negative reviews pop up (notice it is a matter of when, not if)?

An excellent resource to learn more about how to deal with customer feedback on social media is Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer. A major point Baer makes in the book is “answering complaints increases customer advocacy across all customer service channels” (emphasis added). That outcome is dependent on people having the freedom to make complaints, of course. In short, complaints may begin due to a perceived failure in the customer’s mind but can have a happy ending for both the customer and the business.

Listening Rules

The best communicators without exception excel at listening. Great brands ascend to that status because the people served believe the brand cares about them. Valuing customers and others by listening to their opinions, complaints, and yes, even their rants has a payoff. You cannot build a relationship without two-way communication. Listening is at the core of the brand-customer interaction. Commit to listening and even if the thought of silencing negative voices sounds appealing, forget it.

Why The Google-Twitter Partnership Matters to You


Earlier this year, Google announced a partnership with Twitter in which tweets will be indexed in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). The deal rekindled a previous relationship the two companies had in which Google’s search engine crawled through Twitter but only posted a fraction of total content on Twitter. Google/Twitter 2.0 will feature the search engine capturing the entire “firehose” of tweets, estimated to be pumped out at a rate of 9,000 per second. When the deal was revealed in February, indexing was said to begin during the first half of this year. An announcement by Twitter on May 19 shared that relevant tweets were now appearing in Google search results on Android and iOS devices for U.S. users with the desktop version to follow soon.

What’s the Big Deal?

The return of tweets to Google’s search results is a win for Twitter in that it boosts the relevance of the social network. According to Search Engine Land, the percentage of Twitter users visiting the site daily dropped from 46% in 2013 to 36% in 2013. Brands seeking greater exposure might be enticed to intensify their Twitter efforts for the potential payoff of appearing in Google search results. An implication of this motive for brands to be more active on Twitter is that they should be more intentional about the content of their tweets. An SEO mindset will be beneficial to Twitter content strategy , with tweets being optimized to consider consumer search and intent. In effect, the organic reach of tweets is enhanced when relevant content posted on Twitter shows up on SERPs.

Making Your Twitter Presence Google-Friendly

If your Twitter activity has been stuck in a rut or lacking in focus, the indexing of tweets on Google’s search engine should prompt you to rethink Twitter’s role in your marketing communications strategy. Here are three tips for taking advantage of the Google-Twitter partnership and making your Twitter activity work for you in Google’s search engine:

  1. Be Relevant– As mentioned earlier, the Google-Twitter partnership should cause a shift in how content creation is viewed. Tweets act more like a landing page than short, pithy statements or merely linking to other content. What you post on Twitter will need to be optimized to make it appealing to audiences. That approach should have always been used; greater incentive now exists to make content more relevant to users rather than focusing a brand’s talking points.
  2. Be Active– The benefit of Google indexing Twitter content is also proportional to the activity level to which a brand commits. The first step to take is post consistently to your account. A study conducted by VentureBeat of 1,600 brands over a nine-day period found 47 percent of the brands had no activity during that period. Conversely, a study by Simply Measured of brands with 100,000 or more Twitter followers found that a vast majority of them (92%) posted 12 times or more daily. Your tweets won’t be seen if there are none to be seen! But, don’t forget point #1- content must be relevant to be indexed as well as to be valued by searchers.
  3. Be Engaging– The stakes for engaging with followers rise under the Google-Twitter partnership. The more interactive the communication is with your community, it could in turn be shared and favorited, extending its reach on Twitter. These actions could be interpreted by Google as signals that the content is useful or interesting , increasing chances that a brand’s tweets will be seen by more searchers on Google.

Do You Have a Twitter Strategy?

The Google-Twitter partnership means that it is more important than ever to have a strategy for using Twitter. Vanity metrics like number of followers take a back seat to relevance metrics such as retweets, favorites, and user engagement. Despite the promise of impact from tweets appearing in Google search results, some aspects of using Twitter are unchanged.

The main consideration still is whether Twitter is a useful channel for reaching your target market. If your customers and other stakeholders are not Twitter users, then the changes brought about by the Google-Twitter partnership will do little to help your brand. But, if Twitter is already a part of your social media strategy it would be worthwhile to revisit how it is being used and how can the Google-Twitter deal can become a good deal for your business.

Who Should Be Social In Your Organization?

Social Media

A recent article by David Giannetto on the Convince and Convert blog shared four reasons why Marketing should not control a brand’s social media communications. The thrust of Giannetto’s viewpoint was that marketing personnel are not the only employees in an organization capable of interacting with customers and building rapport. In fact, in many instances non-marketing employees might be better suited to be a source of utility to customers given their expertise and ability to help, not just to sell. He cited weaknesses in selling and data analysis as additional reasons marketers may not need to be given the keys to the social media castle.

Marketing is Too Important…

As I read Giannetto’s article, it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes about marketing:

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” – David Packard

This quote is incorporated into my introductory classes when I teach Principles of Marketing- what I call the “what is…” presentation, the logical starting point of explaining the nature of subject matter (in this case- what is marketing?). The point I aim to make by using Packard’s quote is regardless of your job title or position in an organization, consider yourself a marketer. Yes, certain employees are hired to manage and execute the marketing function, but the burden of implementing the marketing concept of meeting needs and wants of customers cannot fall solely on their shoulders. This decades old quote from David Packard was not uttered with social media in mind, but it certainly fits today’s model of enterprise social networking.

If Not Marketing, Then Who?

The democratization of communication made possible through social media makes David Packard’s quote more relevant than ever. Access to customers and a firm’s target audience is no longer limited to the salesforce and mass media communication. Employees throughout an organization from top executives to front-line customer service staff can be part of the brand’s voice by initiating communication (e.g., a blog or LinkedIn post) or responding to audience initiated queries (e.g., a complaint posted to Twitter or question asked on Facebook). More importantly, the employee social media marketers do not have to be marketers at all. Designers, engineers, and other employees who traditionally have not been customer contact personnel now are empowered to do so.

Before You Turn Them Loose

 If your business is not tapping the expertise and personalities of employees across functional areas, perhaps it is time to put Mr. Packard’s idea into action. Drawing in personnel from different departments outside of marketing to execute social media presence is good practice because of the breadth of knowledge employees in other departments possess. But, before you send them online to represent your brand, ensure that they are equipped to confidently and consistently represent your brand. Among the issues that should be covered in a company’s social media training are:

  • Standards for time frame to respond to audience initiated messages
  • Information that is considered proprietary and thus should not be divulged (Transparency is good… to a point)
  • Establishing topical or content areas an employee is authorized to speak about (e.g., a public relations staffer is a less effective spokesperson than an engineer when discussing product performance issues)
  • Protocol for dealing with complaints or other communication that could put a brand in a negative light.

The Social Imperative 

Marketing should not own social media- everyone should be a part owner in it. Yes, an employee or department will have to take the lead in managing social media, and that lead could be the marketing department. However, if social media is marketing driven it should be inclusive of other functional areas. Why? Simply put, marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.

Rethinking the Marketing Communications Model


I am teaching an undergraduate marketing communications class right now. One of the foundation pieces in the course is study of the traditional communications model and how it works in a marketing context. The model as it has been taught for years mirrors how communication occurs in other contexts- at home, school, work, church, organization meetings- any environment in which you are communicating with other people. But, as I shared the concept with my students I could not help but think the model is outdated for marketing. A different way of looking at communication flow and how marketers should approach the communication process with their audiences is needed.

The Status Quo

In case you are unfamiliar with the traditional communications model to which I am referring, a visual appears below. The most striking characteristic to me (and the one that prompts a call for change) is that the message sender (the marketer) is in command. The model kicks into action when a company or brand wishes to communicate a message to one of its target audiences. The sender controls message encoding (what is said) and channel placement (where it is said). Then, we cross our fingers and hope that the intended recipient is willing to receive it, process it, and give desired feedback (become aware, change beliefs, take action, etc.).

Traditional Communications Model

The problem with the status quo is that it is brand centric; more emphasis is put on message sending than being receptive to incoming messages. Case in point, a recent study found that 38 percent of all Facebook posts sent to US brands go unanswered- so much for feedback. In today’s digital world, communication is no longer solely seller driven.

An Alternative Model

Another source of inspiration for questioning the status quo of the traditional communications model came from an article written by Jan Vels Jensen, CMO of Trustpilot, titled “How to Give the Loudest Voice to Your Best Advertisers: Your Customers.” In the article, he advocates that brands seek to replicate old-fashioned conversation by creating digital communities. Stories that customers have about their experiences with your brand, good and bad, should be encouraged rather than something that we get around to if budget and resources allow. The title of the article sums it up- loyal customers can advocate for you, help others by answering questions online, and make you better by giving frank feedback. So, rather than a communications model based on the belief that the marketer is in charge, should we not be approaching interactions in this manner:

New Communications Model

It begins by shedding impersonal labels like “receiver,” “consumer,” and “customer.” You want to have conversations with people. Sure, it is great if they do business with us but we want to widen the scope of conversation beyond the typical buyer-seller interaction. The alternative model also proposes that as a business, we are not the only recipient that a person might target. And, the same message might be shared across all channels. For example, have you ever had a bad experience with a business, tweeted or posted to the business’s social media pages, got no response, and proceeded to tell friends, your online social network connections, and even a community of brand users? Thus, the days of ignoring four out of 10 Facebook posts must end. Brands no longer dictate terms of communication. We are a participant and as such should encourage participation through active listening and be ready to communicate when called upon.

Get Over It

The days of brands controlling communication flow are history. Yes, advertising still gives us a channel to use in which we can plan communications (message, timing, and distribution) to a target audience. We can no longer rely on that model alone because customers are talking. Make sure they are heard and give them platforms to not only communicate with you but become your best advertiser.

Do Brands Really Want to Play ‘Ask Me Anything?’


One of the most admirable traits of a brand is transparency- what you see is what you get. And, a transparent brand is one that acknowledges its flaws. Rather than pursuing an impossible quest to project perfection (e.g., the dramatic collapse of the personal brands of Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods), transparent brands own up to mistakes, accept responsibility for them, and commit to doing better. These behaviors build trust and confidence in the brands that exhibit them.

Given the benefits of transparency, the concept of brands engaging the public in social channels for Q&A sessions would seem to be a valuable engagement tactic. Give people a forum for sharing what is on their mind, and deliver candid responses- nothing can go wrong, right? Of course it can, and it has. Twitter’s Q&A format gives a brand access to people who care about the brand… as well as those who have had bad experiences or hold negative views. However, recent Q&A sessions held by the NFL, NCAA, and NYPD did not go exactly as planned as participants called out questionable practices of these brands. But at least their Q&A sessions got off the ground before crashing; JP Morgan cancelled a Q&A session last fall when an invitation to submit questions and comments ahead of the session led to a deluge of responses that pointed to disaster if JP Morgan went through with the Q&A.

Don’t Play Unless You Have Thick Skin

Holding a Twitter Q&A, a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA), or some other interactive exchange with customers and other stakeholders represents a huge gamble for many big brands. Why? In these settings, a brand must cede control of the conversation to the audience it wishes to engage. This fact is difficult for many brands to embrace because they obsess over maintaining control over the tone and content of communication (I can’t even call it conversation as most brand-initiated communication is one-way broadcasting to a target audience). The prospect of looking bad or out of touch with the very audience targeted for engagement is a risk that many brands are unwilling to take.

The takeaway from the missteps of brands that have failed with live engagement on social media is perhaps best summed up by digital strategist and blogger B.L. Ochman when she said “If you don’t want to get trashed in social media, don’t treat people like trash in the real world.” Brands need to be transparent and authentic, not just for an hour during an online Q&A, but in their everyday dealings with customers and communication with stakeholders. If not, no need to waste time pretending you care about what is the mind of others by hosting a Q&A. Being transparent does not mean you will be immune from criticism or negative feedback, but you will be better prepared to deal with negative communication, appropriately respond to it, and build trust with your audience.

Customer Testimonials Stihl Powerful


A long-standing practice in media advertising is the use of customer testimonials as a creative tactic to influence the target audience. Testimonials are perceived as highly credible because unlike ads featuring celebrity endorsers the spokesperson is usually unpaid. Also, customer testimonials tend to resonate with consumers because the people featured in the ads come across as being similar to us- they are everyday people with many of the same hopes and challenges as us.

If there is a downside to using customer testimonials in advertising, it is that the audience can be skeptical of the authenticity of the message. The advertiser is paying to place the message, so of course feedback from satisfied customers will be featured- why would an advertiser pay to run stories of unhappy customers, after all? The advertiser controls the message, and as long as that is the case the audience will process information from testimonials with this fact in the back of their minds.

Social Testimonials

A new world of testimonials opened up with the advent of social networking sites. Customers now can provide unsolicited evaluations of their experiences with a company or product, good or bad. And because the consumer controls the message channel the audience has access to unfiltered thoughts from customers. Thus, the credibility factor of testimonials delivered via social media can be even higher than those appearing in paid media advertising.

One company that is harnessing the power of social testimonials is Stihl, maker of outdoor equipment such as chain saws, trimmers, and blowers. Stihl is conducting a campaign called “Real People, Stihl People.” Product users are invited to share their experiences by submitting photos on a Facebook page. The campaign is integrated across Stihl’s Facebook and Twitter pages, using the hashtag #RealSTIHL, as well as through newspaper and online advertising

The Content Component

Incorporating social testimonials into brand messaging can be an effective content marketing strategy. Information about product performance told through the stories of customers connects with meeting consumers’ needs at Interest and Consideration stages of the sales funnel. Social testimonials offer a refreshing departure from typical product-driven marketing communications. Three of the most salient differences between product marketing and content marketing are shown below:

A Comparison of Traditional Product Marketing versus Content Marketing


Product Marketing

Content Marketing

Focal Point

Your products

Your customers


Product capabilities

Customer experiences


Communicate how product adds value for customers through features/benefits

Communicate how customers are changed by their relationship with you

Buyers are not interested in your advertising message as much as they need information to help make decisions. Experiences shared by Stihl users can sell product value more forcefully than the most cleverly designed advertisement.

Tap Customers’ Experiences

A valuable marketing resource exists in the form of customers who are already sharing their experiences on social media. Perhaps only a small percentage of happy customers are taking the step to share their feelings on social media, but high message credibility makes social testimonials a tool in the social media/content marketing toolkits that should be utilized. Customers are talking; give them a forum in which they can share their stories about how they benefit from your products.

Source: Aaron Barr, Stihl Solicits Customer Stories, March 7, 2014, accessed March 11, 2014 at 


No Free Lunch… or Free Advertising


The adage “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” certainly holds in business. In fact, another adage suggests quite the opposite- “you’ve got to spend money to make money.” The rise of social media as a communication channel held promise to turn these notions upside down. Yes, you could enjoy a free lunch, or should I say free advertising, by joining Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other relevant social networking sites. I confess that I bought into it; in the earlier days of social media marketing I touted “free” as a strength of social media to my students. And, perhaps I was technically correct. However, today’s landscape in which brand building occurs on social networking sites reflects that free lunch is no longer being served, if it was ever being served at all.

What Has Changed

So, what happened to the free advertising lunch on social networking sites? The main development has been the evolution of social nets’ advertising models. Facebook is a prime example. Remember those annyoing display ads that would appear beside your feed? Recipients were asked to indicate if the ads were relevant or  even if they were offensive. Today, ads you see in your news feed are native to the environment, serving you contextually relevant messages based on your characteristics and interests. This push toward relevant messaging comes at a price for message senders (advertisers). If you want your message to cut through the clutter on Facebook or other social nets, your best option may be to pay for prominent placement.

Another reason has emerged for giving up on the notion of social media being the equivalent of free advertising. On Facebook, non-paid messages from businesses are more likely to not have a reach equivalent to a brand’s total audience. Facebook’s latest tweak of its algorithm favors messages that offer compelling content, quality over quantity, if you will.  And of course, Facebook will favor placement of sponsored posts (i.e., ads). Blogger Derek Muller shared observations he made in how impressions of posts to his Veritasium Facebook page dropped dramatically following Facebook’s algorithm change late last year. Some posts reached as few as 8% of Vertiasium’s Facebook audience. Likes are no longer enough to get into news feeds; engagement with posts are now more important in achieving relevant placement in an audience’s news feeds.

Exposure versus Impact

The decline in reach some brands have experienced since the latest changes to the Facebook algorithm should serve as notice that “free advertising” via social media has become a distant memory as the business models of social nets have evolved. There are two considerations on this issue:

  1. Exposure is free – The claimed free advertising advantage of social media holds in that establishing a presence can be done without paying for space or time as required in traditional media. Embarking on social media marketing can be pulled off with as little as a keyboard and Internet connection. Given that there are very low barriers to entry, businesses should be suing social media to build exposure for their brands.
  2. Impact is not free – Stories of deeply diminished reach on Facebook brand pages bring out the new reality that if you want to maximize impact on social nets like Facebook and Twitter you should expect to pay to do so. There are compelling reasons to commit to invest in native advertising on social nets- audiences can be narrowly targeted and promoted messages can help you rise above the clutter and receive prominent placement.

Value Comes at a Price

So there is no free lunch when it comes to social media marketing- why should we be surprised or upset? Facebook and Twitter possess something of great value to brands: Access to coveted audiences. It does not make business sense to give away something of commercial value. With that said, it must be priced fairly, and buyers must get good value for their investments. And, if social nets do not deliver value through their advertising platforms, brands will speak by finding other channels to communicate.

The One Word You Need to Know to be Awesome on Social Media


Tips and advice on using social media are abundant. The quantity of information is plentiful because the number of people describing themselves as social media experts is also plentiful. In case you need a social media expert, you can find more than 7,700 of them (OK- us) on LinkedIn alone. A sampling of articles and posts related to social media reflects the depth of knowledge being offered up:

“How to become a social media guru in 20 steps” via @arnoldtijernia

“14 tools to create engaging infographics & images for your social media posts” via @bellebcooper

“21 steps to create an awesome LinkedIn profile” via @JeffBullas

So much wisdom is available that the challenge becomes how to filter it so that we process the most relevant advice and not be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content. To be awesome on social media, you need not master 14 tools, 21 steps, or any other lengthy list. No, you only need to do one thing effectively: Listen.

 Give in Order to Get

One obstacle many people have to using social media effectively is that they have a sort of writer’s block- they don’t know what to say. A friend of mine once remarked “social media is easy when you have something to say.” But, it’s that something to say that keeps many people and brands from building an audience. We lose perspective sometimes that social media is at its core a communication channel, a connector of people. Fundamental communication principles can be applied to social media interactions. One of the most useful concepts is a principle espoused by Dale Carnegie. His classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936, places a premium on listening, understanding, and valuing the other person in a communication interaction. When it comes to social media communication, follow Carnegie’s advice and strive to make others the focus of your conversations.

One way to follow through on putting others first is to be mindful of your “giving to getting” ratio. Experts differ in the exact proportions of messages that talk about others versus talking about yourself, but what if you set a goal that four out of every five messages you post or share on a social networking site was about something or someone else? How close is that ratio to your current practices? When talking about “giving” messages, content could consist of  giving attention, praise, or assistance to customers, communities, or friends.In contrast, “getting” messages would be focused inward on ourselves (brand, company, products, or individual employees). Just as Dale Carnegie suggests we become more interesting when we treat others as interesting, social media communication can be more engaging when perceived as conveying interest about the world around us rather than just interest about ourselves.

Live in the Moment

Poor listening skills inhibit effective communication. Why? We must first listen before being able to contribute meaningfully to conversations. One way to become a better listener is to allow yourself to live in the moment. Experience the world around you- What is happening? What are others talking about? What do people find interesting? A recent example that garnered much publicity in the business press was a tweet from Arby’s during the Grammy awards show on January 26. A distinctive hat worn by Pharrell Williams had remarkable similarity to the silhouette of the hat appearing in the Arby’s logo, prompting the following tweet from Arby’s:


This lone tweet has been retweeted more than 83,000 times and favorited over 49,000 times. What is most striking about this tweet is that it was completely spontaneous. Arby’s did not have a social media war room set up during the Grammys waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Instead, this tweet came about because Arby’s social media manager, Josh Martin, was living in the moment. He was not the only person tweeting about the Grammys or Pharrell’s hat. He merely joined in the conversation surrounding an event that attracted the interest of millions that evening. The other noteworthy point about Arby’s hat tweet was that the unscripted nature of the tweet meant it did not run through a legal team for approval. Employees must be trusted to balance living in the moment with protecting brand interests.

Listen Up

I am with the majority- my listening skills need work. Becoming a better listener will make you (and me) a more effective communicator regardless of the channel or context. And, I need to more consistently embrace the joys of living in the moment. Thank you, Dale Carnegie- perhaps the world’s only social media expert who never had the opportunity to participate.

Dealing with the 3 “No” Objections to Social Media Marketing

sm window logos One of my favorite authors of business and motivational books is the late Zig Ziglar. Frankly, I would not be where I am today in my professional life without the influence of Ziglar’s books and tapes. He was a master motivator, encouraging us to realize “you can have everything in life you want if you will help enough other people get what they want.” Before he was a world renowned motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar excelled as a salesperson. Ziglar’s work in the area of motivation is so valuable that his teachings on selling can be overlooked.

Overcoming Objections

One sales topic that Zig Ziglar addressed in his teaching can be applied to social media marketing: Overcoming objections. The difference is that Ziglar’s teaching on overcoming objections pertained to external buyers while objections that businesses grapple with in social media marketing are internal. The three objections to social media marketing can be described as:

  1. No time – Social media is not a replacement marketing tactic in most cases. It is an additive task that can be particularly challenging when the social media manager is also marketing manager, sales manager, operations manager, HR manager… you get the picture. However, saying “I have no time to do social media” is in effect saying “I have no time to market my brand or business.” Doing social media well takes a time commitment for sure; to suggest otherwise would be disingenuous. However, social media represents an interactive communication channel that can connect your business with customers and others interested in what you sell. Do you still have no time?
  2. No money – This objection may be the easiest to overcome. Social media offers an attractive low-cost alternative to media advertising buys. Social media is not a free alternative as some suggest. Related to the no time objection, it may be necessary to hire a part-time employee to manage your business’s social media presence. And, you may incur modest expense to produce content to share on your sites. But again, we can turn the no money objection around- Are you saying you cannot afford to market your business? If no, there are bigger issues that need to be addressed to fight for survival.
  3. No understanding – This objection is the one that is most acceptable… provided you are willing to deal with it. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are usually good at what they do- the product or service they create- but may not be adept at implementing marketing practices. It is not an indictment against them; it is just that knowing how to use social media for business purposes falls outside their expertise area. This limitation can be overcome by hiring talent that possesses the desired skills, either as a company employee or outsourcing to a marketing firm.

Don’t Let Objections become Excuses

Is developing a social media strategy challenging for many businesses? Absolutely. The social media landscape continues to evolve rapidly in terms of new social networking sites and new features on existing networks. The three objections to implementing a social media strategy identified here- no time, no money, and no understanding- are threats to your business. Why? Accepting these objections as excuses for not being engaged in social media channels can keep your brand from being more prominent and relevant among the very audience you want to influence.