16 days. 6 countries. 2 continents. After a business trip around the world, I pondered what role businesses should play in social media. And then it dawned on me: Social media marketing has been going on for ten years, but brands on average still suck at it. Should businesses keep trying to do the same thing? Or is it time for a next generation, new approach to social media marketing that takes into account the fact that we are now entering our second decade of implementing organic social? Read on for the conclusion that I have and the advice for you to completely blow up and reconstruct your social media marketing efforts to be more effective in 2019 and beyond.
Hello and welcome to another exciting episode of Maximize Your Social. I’ve been thinking a lot about the social media marketing revolution of the last decade. I believe it is coming to an end and brands need to implement second-generation social media marketing strategies to remain relevant going forward.
6 Countries in 16 Days
I just came back from a 16-day, 6 country around the world business trip. Every year, I teach at the Irish Management Institute in Dublin, which is an excellent institution for anyone seeking certification in Digital Business, even if you’re not in marketing. Executives from all industries and disciplines take this one-day course that I teach. I also had the pleasure of seeing U2 live in Dublin! This was a dream of mine as I am a long-time fan.
I then went to Berlin where the developmental editor of my “The Business of Influence” book is located. I had a great meeting with him and closed off my book. Soon, you will hear some exciting announcements regarding the publisher I will end up working with.
I then went to Copenhagen to speak at the Falcon.io Spark conference. I spoke to Falcon CEO and founder Ulrik Bo Larsen in my last podcast “It’s Time to Bring Content, Organic Social and Performance Marketing Teams Together.”
I then headed off to London where I met with Gavin Hammer, the CEO and founder of Sendible, another great social media dashboard. Some of you will have seen this on my Instagram. I look forward to future collaborations with him.
My next destination was Singapore where I had a very important business meeting with a very large consumer brand who were looking for advice on influencer marketing. Next was Tokyo where I spoke at an event for the Japanese government who are investing in about 20 startups in inbound and outbound marketing. I did an hour-long presentation in Japanese and spent the day giving general marketing advice. This was a very rewarding trip where I was also able to spend time with my Japanese clients.
Influencer Marketing in Asia: Way Ahead of the Game
This trip helped me to reflect and think. I have found that influencer marketing is way ahead in Southeast Asia and China compared to anywhere else in the world. Traditional media was maybe not so strong in these countries similar to how smartphones leapfrogged over fixed wire technology. In these countries, people overwhelmingly use smartphones to get information. The democratization of media influence has filled a gap through bloggers, YouTubers, and Instagrammers.
I feel businesses really understand how much influence these influencers have in that part of the world. When I speak on the subject of influencer marketing, I talk about the Amazon of China, Taobao Online and the fact that five of the top 10 fashion brands there were launched by influencers.
This brand that I met at their APAC headquarters in Singapore – a large conglomerate that manages many consumer facing brands – is launching a new beauty brand. As they state in their own words, if they want to get the word out about their new brand, how else could they do this but to work with influencers?
I thought about this and it makes a lot of sense. To have a legacy brand is one thing but case studies of startups show how they have bypassed traditional marketing channels just as consumers bypass PCs, modems, and fixed line telephones, and traditional media. Today’s consumers don’t even read newspapers, magazines, or watch TV for news because it’s all on their smartphones. It doesn’t matter if this news comes from the BBC or from CNN, Yahoo, or someone else.
What Should the Role of Brands Be in Social Media?
We know that organic social reach is declining and will continue to decline. We know the companies are moving into paid social which is becoming more expensive. There are questions surrounding GDPR and how much third-party data will be accessible going forward. I feel that ads are going to be less effective. In addition, think about it: Do consumers want to talk to brands on social media? There were some case studies at the Spark conference about brands doing social media really interestingly on Twitter. There were many examples of brands just talking to each other!
We have been doing social media marketing for almost a decade. We need to come to the realization that social media was made for people, not for businesses. I know this may sound strange coming from someone who works in the social media industry, but perhaps businesses really shouldn’t be in social media. I don’t think people want to have conversations with brands on social media except for complaints, queries and receiving freebies.
I posted on Facebook and LinkedIn about a book called “Customer Success: How Innovative Companies are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue” by Nick Mehta. There is a relationship here with customer experience marketing and social customer support. I am bullish on social customer support, customer experience marketing, customer success marketing, and using social media not to spray and pray marketing messages but as a way to build relationships with people, because that’s what social media is about. I’m sorry, but brands suck at social media marketing. Despite all the conferences that marketers go to and blog posts that marketers read, the best content creators are influencers.
If you want to cut through the noise, why not work with the experts instead of spending a lot of money trying to figure out social media marketing? Let’s go back to my time in Japan where I started thinking, “What is the role that brands should have in social media?” It begins with customer experience/success and conversations in relationship building.
My Japan Experience Feeds My Holistic Perspective
For the first 15 years of my career, I lived and worked in Japan. Japanese business and the Japanese working environment have had a major influence on my business perspectives. I was often responsible for multicultural marketing in Asia selling to Japan, China, and Korea using English, Japanese, Chinese, and different business customs, different ways of doing business, and different ways of marketing. Therefore, I was required to have a holistic perspective on business, and I think that a lot of people who listen to me talk or read my books find these perspectives very refreshing, find them, for lack of a better word, “dumbed down,” absorbable, internalize-able, and most importantly, actionable.
It is a Japanese custom to say kind things to people from overseas. But I feel from some of the comments I got from my Tokyo audience that they finally “got it” with regards to influencer marketing. What resonated with these people when they came to listen to my talks was the concept of “community, not campaign,” I have a podcast on this subject that I highly recommend you listen to if you haven’t.
Getting Back to the Roots of Word of Mouth Marketing
Many businesses started out with word of mouth marketing without them knowing it. Happy and successful customers told their friends and so on and so on. One of the key topics in the Spark conference was how to incite conversations that connect going forward. It’s about leveraging customers who 10 years ago were not on social media but are now. It’s about word-of-mouth marketing that somehow goes viral. In the early days of Facebook, organic content would hit 10 to 15% of our fans. I still get a solid 2 to 3% on most of my Instagram posts. But with declining reach it gets harder and harder to incite word-of-mouth marketing purely through organic social. If business is about inciting word-of-mouth from customers, then our customers are the influencers. We see a referral component in customer lifetime value.
The only way to incite word of mouth marketing is not from the declining reach of your organic posts, nor your advertisements. It’s about leveraging people. I’ve had this term “leverage the other” for quite some time. I said for the first time while in Copenhagen, “You know what? It doesn’t matter if it is employee advocacy, brand advocacy, or influencer marketing. They are all social media and users and are thus all potential influencers. So let’s get rid of the term employee advocacy.” Marketers have been miseducated on the term “influencer marketing.” Many influencers have simply priced themselves out of the market as that is all they do for a living and have simply become the new media. They are not influencers, they are a media entity.
Redefining Employee Advocacy – and Influencer Marketing
In influencer marketing, we are shifting from micro to nano influencers. Micro influencers generally have 5,000 to 50,000 followers. Nano influencers may have 500 to 5,000 followers but the community, who might be more niche, is also more locked into what they say. We need to redefine influencer marketing, and redefining employee advocacy to be a subset of influencer marketing is a great way to start this thought process.
When you consider your employees as influencers, it’s not about buying a tool and saying, “Hey, please share our message.” The first rule about influencer marketing (something I will discuss in “The Business of Influence’) is WIIFM (raise your hands if you know what this acronym means!) or “what’s in it for me.’” If they are just in it for the money, I’m not sure if that’s the influencer you want to work with.
When you redefine your employees as influencers, instead of saying “we want you to do this,” you begin a conversation. You say, “We want to get the word out about our product and we know you are active on social. If you’re in sales and you’ve taken social selling training (something I teach a lot of), you understand that content can help your personal brand. Is there a way in which we can work together? Maybe you can help us create some cool content, or we can create some cool content for you, or we can train you in personal branding, or bring Neal Schaffer in and train you in social media marketing.”
Treat your employees as influencers. Treat your fans and customers as influencers. I don’t care if they only have 500 followers, they know who you are! They are your fan, they might even be a customer of your product. Instead of going after people that have no brand affinity with you, build from your fans. I talk about this from a social media perspective. Begin from your followers, your customers who are already active on social media and yield some influence with a minimum of 500 followers.
Will You Invest Your Social Budget in Social? Or People and Relationships?
Think about it: What if you invest all that money you put into paid ads and paid social in customers that have some influence on social media? What if you invest your organic social budget in relationships with people? This gets back to the connection between customer success marketing and social customer service. People rule social media and always will. When we redefine social media marketing and we see people out there for the influence that they have, even if that influence is small, that’s OK, start small!
I was really encouraged by a brand that I cannot name. This brand is not only investing in influencer marketing in southeast Asia. They are investing in training their fans in social media, how to better use social media, and how to become an influencer. That, my friends, is the future. If you want to create a community of influencers that you can tap into, what are you going to invest in that community? How are you going to reward your customers? And what’s in it for them?
I think of content as a manufacturing process and my ideas always begin with these podcasts. If you want to keep getting my freshest and newest ideas, you have to subscribe and listen to every podcast!
I’m still absorbing this and digesting this and figuring it out as I hopefully sign a contract with a major American book publisher. I’ll be able to spend a few weeks during the first edits with my editor to further work these ideas into the content of my upcoming book. I will be presenting this as my main topic for the first time at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego. Virtual tickets are available to purchase right now even if you can’t physically attend! (Click here for more info).
What Do YOU Think?
I’m curious to see if you think I am on target. Like yourselves, I read up on all the social media marketing trends for 2019 and I believe brands need a fundamental change. I think those companies that do really well on social media have already accepted this and invest most of their marketing budget in influencer marketing.
I believe this is the future. I believe this is the next generation of social media marketing. It’s about user generated content, it’s about community, it’s about relationships, it’s about WIIFM, it’s about redefining influencer marketing for this new generation, for this new evolution of social media marketing. I’m really curious to hear your opinions. If you are listening to this on my blog, I hope you’ll write a comment. If you are listening on iTunes, I’d really love you to write a review. Even one sentence really helps expose this podcast to more people.
I think a lot of people need to listen to this because guess what? Whether you agree with me or not, I’m hoping this is food for thought. I am already helping my clients with what I see as the road to greatness going forward. I would love to help you as well. I hope this podcast adds value to your business and life. I hope you enjoyed this. Let’s have a conversation: I don’t want my podcasts to be a one-way dialogue, so what are you waiting for?