The Parable of the Social Media Marketer
There seems to be competing schools of thought regarding social media usage for online marketers. At one end of the spectrum, people are encouraged to join every social network, follow and friend everyone possible and tweet everything. In short, they are told to broadcast as much as they can. I refer to that as the “more is better” model.
At the other end is what I call the “less is more” model. Under this line of thinking, social network marketers are encouraged to manage their relationships carefully and limit their involvement to high-value contacts they have the time and expertise with which to interact. Others advocate a more “balanced” approach somewhere in the middle that involves an open “trial period” followed by frequent pruning to weed out under-performing or low-value contacts.
I probably fall more into the “balanced” approach knowing that I don’t have time to read and interact with everyone under a “more is better” mentality. Is that an ideal approach? I’m not sure. Frankly, the dilemma of properly managing social media for marketing purposes is frustrating since it’s difficult to truly converse with more than a few hundred contacts effectively.
In thinking of social media marketing, it seems to me that, in essence, it’s a lot like sowing seeds by scattering over a wide area (broadcasting). That visual picture reminds me of a parable (“a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson”) found in the Bible and called The Parable of the Sower. This parable is recorded in Mark 4:1-20 (also Matthew 13:1-23 and Luke 8:1-15) and told by Jesus.
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:3-8 NKJV)
Illustrations are very helpful to me and, while the focus of this parable is primarily spiritual, I feel it just might hold some clues for understanding social media marketing. So, with that thought in mind, I respectfully offer The Parable of the Social Media Marketer.
“Behold, a marketer went online to connect with others. And it happened, as he used Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, that some messages fell outside the realm of good taste; and the filters of the corporation came and devoured them. Some messages fell on overflowing accounts, where they did not get noticed; and immediately they were passed over because they had no connection or value. Later when searched via social tools they were rejected, and because they had no relevant content they were permanently deleted. And some messages fell among the self promotional hype and scams; and the spam filter automatically removed them, and they yielded no results. But other messages fell on receptive audiences and yielded a return on investment that enhanced branding, increased readership and produced: some new referrals, some new customers, and some new social capital.”
My question now is what type of social media marketer are you? It seems to me that “more is better” is not always best if the “soil” is wrong or the “seed” is not ready or is poorly scattered. Likewise, a lot of time and bandwidth (“seeds”) will be wasted following this model. The result can lead to a negative reputation and a shrinking pool of influence as large-scale deletions, “unfollowing” and de-friending occurs.
On the other hand, the “less is more” model has its share of problems. For starters, opportunities to find the “good ground” of receptive audiences may be lost forever when social seeds are sown sparingly. That damage is twofold since one misses not only the valuable input of others but also the opportunity to enrich the community by sharing his or her own wisdom. Likewise, small social circles can severely limit one’s marketing potential.
In a nutshell, the Parable of the Social Media Marketer helps me sort out what is important in social marketing. As a general question, is either the “more is better” or the “less is more” model the preferred solution? I don’t think one size fits all in this field. Instead, I feel the optimum marketing benefit is achieved under a strategy that searches for “good soil” before scattering a lot of “seeds.” Such an approach improves relevance and increases efficiency. In effect, it enhances one’s social reputation and thus improves his or her marketing efforts.
Yes, the planting and growing process is challenging but the rewards are a harvest worth pursuing. By carefully planning our social networking and marketing mix, I’m convinced we can match “good soil” with appropriate “seeds” that will produce a hundredfold instead of merely broadcasting content that withers and dies.
Founder & President
About Mike Allen
Founder of Shopping-Bargains.com, LLC, a coupon and deal source featuring nearly 2000 merchant partners in the US, UK and Canada. Recipient of the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards 2009 Affiliate of the Year. Learn more about my 10+ years in affiliate marketing and my other projects at MikeAllen.me.
You can find Mike on Twitter: @mta1.