But when it works, it is magic.
Senior Engineering Director, Google.
From: "Will Your Next Phone Have No Screen?"
by Jemima Kiss, The Guardian
Stop looking for a Great Idea. Start surrounding yourself with the information you need to discover some Great Insights.
You think professionals are expensive? Try hiring an amateur.
When it comes to getting Likes and Followers on various social media, this blog is fairly passive. But when you’re in charge of PR for a brand or a product, you have to actively promote and I have been there too. Most people struggle when it comes the question “What can I do to make people like us?”
I propose: that’s the wrong question to be asking yourself.
There are two big factors that will effect your impact in social media, which most marketers don’t understand, so they don’t talk about: the way you think, and the structure of the social network itself.
The latter is a complex topic, so we’ll leave it for another day. But the former will get you started on a whole bunch of new ideas.
First let’s look at an example of the worst way to think:
"Like us for a chance to win an iPad!"
This basically sums up 90% of all internet marketing. Whether you’re using this exact wording — which isn’t uncommon — or something like it, you’re entirely missing the point.
The only company that is allowed to use this is Apple. Because they make iPads.
1) You’re telling everyone that an iPad is more valuable than anything you can offer them, so it makes you look cheap and common. Why aren’t you offering something that your business provides? Why are you offering a “prize” in the first place… is that how you normally make friends? As a general rule, if you run a contest, and you sell a product or service, USE YOURSELF AS A PRIZE.
2) You’re assuming that an iPad is SO motivating, that people will rabidly do anything you ask just for the mere chance to have one. Trust me, it isn’t. Would you be motivated by (the chance of) an iPad? It also accidentally aims your marketing at a demographic that can’t buy themselves an iPad, because anybody that already has one, doesn’t give a shit about a chance to win another one.
3) It’s all about you. Not them. You’re buying love, basically. There’s no genuine engagement, no genuine interest, and the incentive to UNlike you afterward is at a maximum.
You can do better, by thinking better.
Remember in school when you learned about writing in first, second, and third person? The difference between saying “I did…” and “She did…”
Well, this is similar.
When you think in first person, normal psychology makes you think “I want…” That comes naturally to all of us, and you probably spend 99% of your day thinking like that. It is the opposite of how you should think in social media. If you think like this when you’re trying to engage other people, you fail, and you seem detached and selfish. Like most brands.
When you think in second person, you’re being sympathetic, or empathetic. You’re putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. You think: “If I were them, what would I want…” This is better than first-person thinking, but still bad, because it’s still about you. You’re filtering your users through your own experience, preferences, and ideas, which eliminates all of the diversity and interest and value of the crowd. Nope. Not gonna work. The result is like buying someone the present you want for Christmas.
When you think in third person, you think: “What do they want, regardless of me?” Now we’re talking, but this get pretty counter-intuitive, so it takes some effort. This is like trying to find the perfect Christmas gift for someone special. That thing they will love, even if you hate it. You have to look at yourself and your business as if you are someone else. Not you being someone else. Just someone else. Alone. Without you.
What do they need? What is their problem? What do they believe? What do they want? What excites them? What sends them into a murderous rage?
Here’s a real life example from Pinterest, a social network where I am very active and have almost 7000 followers (organically, with no iPads!). I discussed this example with a friend recently, and got him good results.
Imagine you have a poster design and you want to write a description that will get people to re-pin it. Seems simple enough, right?
First-Person thinking: “This is my poster about saving giraffes that I made for fun. Please re-pin it!”
Why it’s wrong: It only appeals to you. If anyone else in the world re-pins it, the description becomes irrelevant, and claims that they have made this poster. That means they have to change it. Which means more work. Which means less chance of re-pinning. Also… it doesn’t contain any information for someone who doesn’t know you, which is about 7 Billion people. So…yeah.
Second-Person thinking: “I made this poster to help spread the word about giraffes, because they are endangered!”
Why it’s wrong: Well first of all, I don’t think giraffes are endangered, but that is beside the point. This is an example of taking what you want people to think, and just telling them why they should think that. It fails because you can’t tell people to feel something. You have to allow them to feel it for themselves, through genuine experience. The same way you felt it for the first time. Also, see first-person thinking, because it’s still all about you.
Third-person thinking: “Poster by YourNameHere for the stunning Save the Giraffes fundraising and awareness project. www.yourNameHere.com/giraffes. Amazing work, amazing cause.”
Why it’s right: This is a description that anyone in the world could use without changing it. It also takes you out of the equation, personally, and makes it about the work and the cause, professionally. Everyone who re-pins it gives the impression of support, rather than self-promotion. It allows them to look generous, because it happens to be a charity in my example. And it allows them to follow the information to the website, but that’s just good internet thinking in general.
This doesn’t fail for all the reasons you think it will: it’s not about you, and it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. It does the opposite: it gives everyone else a reason to care, without you. Because it’s your content they are discussing, sharing, and re-pinning. It’s like someone saying “Oh Joel told me this hilarious story…” you go along with it, even if it’s not about you.
And THAT, my friends, is how you get people engaged in social media. Find a reason that they will feel something, regardless of you, and you will reap the rewards.
For an amazing example of this, check out I Fucking Love Science on Facebook. She cares about science a lot, but focuses on making it simple and funny for the readers. All 9 million of them.
p.s. — this also works if you are a politician trying to get elected, but that is also a discussion for another day. ;)
Simplicity is not just the absence of clutter; that would be an aesthetic.