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Strategic analysis
Your 2012 Social Strategy, What To Focus On

Social is a feeling that comes from within. That feeling creates a connection. That connection can be targeted and optimized to a sale. But it starts with a feeling that "this is worth it!"

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Written by on January 26, 2012

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Emily Tippins

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You have probably already read some of the many articles that have been posted in the past month predicting what 2012 would be about. Some were interesting, some not so much, and most were just written to get more page views.

One of the big problems that we see today is that people don't dig into the real trends. They are just reacting instead of asking why. It sounds a bit like:

Oh, people are talking about red things. 2012 will be all red.

Then the next day.

Oh, people also like blue. You should definitely make something in blue too.

It's just not that useful. So instead of predicting what 2012 will be about, let us focus on some of the things that will give you the edge.

Everyone wants discounts and giveaways

If you have been reading the many social media studies made in 2011 about why people follow brands, you would notice they all came to the same conclusion:

  • 65% follow brands to get discounts or special offers
  • 45% follow brands for contest of free giveaways
  • 25% follow brands because they like it.
  • 10% follow brands because some other thing.

There are minor variations but this is the overall gist of things. So, my question to you is:

"What should your social strategy focus be in 2012?"

If you're a social media "expert", you would say to focus on giving people discounts and free giveaways because that is what the numbers are telling you. But if you do that you are just reacting without knowing why you are doing what you are doing.

You need to ask why people are saying this? What is causing them to decide to follow you for such a shallow thing as a free giveaway? Is that really what's going on here, or is there a larger trend behind it?

Obviously, since people decide to follow you, and thus have your posts fill their news streams, they must have some kind of positive feeling towards your brand. It might be that only 25% say they like your brand as a whole, but the remaining 75% have to like "something" in order to have made that decision.

Also, why would people want to get a discount in the first place unless they really want to own your product? There is a desire here. People who don't care about your products, don't want to get a discount.

So, people are obviously happy about something. They are just not telling us what it is. And they do like your products because otherwise they wouldn't want to get it. What people say they want is clearly not aligned with the real reason they are following you.

Consider instead a person saying this:

I really like your products but they is slightly too expensive and I don't have that much money anymore. So I'm hoping that you would help me out here, because I really like what you do. That said, I also have to tell you that I don't care about your marketing posts. I don't want to see those photoshopped models telling me how awesome you are. Just give me the real deal!

This is actually what is happening here. When 65% say they follow you to get a discount. What they are really saying is, "I like you products so much that I decided to follow you, but I just can't afford to buy every one of them."

And the reason why only 25% say they follow you because of your brand is that they are saying, "I don't like 'your brand', I like your product! I don't care about the marketing stuff."

There are two trends here:

  1. The main reason people follow you is because of your product, not your brand.
  2. Your "marketing" is actually causing people to react negatively, and say "I just want to get a discount."

Now let me ask you again, what should your social media strategy be for 2012? Giving them a discount is not necessarily a bad idea but as we also know, when you do that your sales margin goes out the window.

An occasional discount is a good thing, but it shouldn't be your main strategy. Your strategy should be to focus on your product and try to find a way to get people to choose to pay for it.

There are four ways you can solve that:

1. You can increase the perceived value of your product by linking to a strong purpose.

If people feel that what you do is more than just you being a salesperson. If they feel that you have a purpose, then people are more willing to pay what you ask.

Ask yourself this: Why do you make the product you make? If you can't answer that question (or worse, if your answer is "to make money") you can forget about it. The purpose of what you do has to be real, it has to be authentic, it has to come from your soul - something you really believe in. Otherwise it is just marketing and people don't care about that.

One example I have used quite often is SF Bags/Waterfield Design. They make bags for laptops, Androids, iPads and iPhones. The products themselves are not the best designs out there. I don't mean they are ugly - they are very well designed - but it is a functional design. But unlike most brands, Waterfield design is all about making the best product for you. Not the best design, but the best for you! That is their purpose.

You see this in their many videos. Here is one where the founder, Gary, presents their new MacBook Air bag. On the surface he is just talking about the features, but you quickly realize that every single element is designed to make the bag better for you. Not for the sake of design, but the sake of you as the person who has to use it!

Here is another video, notice how the inside of the bag is "gold" so that you see what's in it. Most designers would decide on the inner color based on some shallow design thinking. Also notice how the D-rings and the shape of it is designed to fit the natural curvature of your body and not some fancy shape made up in a design department.

I own three bags from SF Bags/Waterfield Design and they are remarkable. The quality is top notch, the material is great, and the attention to detail in creating something that is both well made and quite useful is wonderful.

Like others, I'm also following WaterField Design on Facebook - and no it's not to get a discount. I'm more than happy to pay full price for their products because they are worth it. But I don't follow them because of their brand. I don't really care about "Waterfield Design". What I care about is their products and more importantly their purpose of making the best products for me.

This is an important lesson. People like you because of your product. What you need to do to get people to stop thinking about discounts, is to have a purpose to link it to. The purpose mixed with your product changes how people look at you.

2. You could reduce the cost, so that you sell your products cheaper while maintaining the same sales margin.

That way, people would feel they got a discount. Of course, the problem is that this is a short-term strategy. After a few months people would once again ask for a discount (and you are back where you started).

3. You could give a discount to only people who follow you - and raise your prices in stores.

The problem with this of course, is that in the short run you would probably see a drop in sales (and your retail channels won't be happy about it either). But in the long-term, this creates an incredibly loyal audience because you are rewarding those you connect with, and you create exclusivity for those who are closest to you.

In time, this would likely lead to a much stronger sale, with higher prices in physical stores and lower price for your loyally fans (hopefully balancing each other out). The question is: Do you dare take that risk?

The chances of success depends completely on the type of product you make, your reputation, and how important this product is to people. If you are selling toilet paper you can forget about it. But it might work with mountain bikes and accessories.

4. You could make it personal.

I don't mean personalization, although that is also interesting. For instance, you can get your own custom headphones (with your own logo) over at V-moda, which is pretty nifty. But personalization is often too expensive to do.

What I mean is to make it less about your product, and more about you and why you are doing the things you do.

We see this with artists and musicians. They are often not in control of the price, but many people still follow them because of what they do. So the only way they have to influence people is to make it personal. Show people your passion, why do you do it. What your purpose is as the creator of this product.

Sometimes it is just lofty goals of doing something better that inspires people to say "I want to be like that". One example is fashion designer Tom Ford, as illustrated in this video. The reason he creates the product he makes, is not because of you ...it's because of him. It's what he wants to do.

The reason why you want to connect with that, is because you admire his purpose as a person.

It is the same reason why many people admired Steve Jobs (myself included for many years). The products where amazing, but the "kicker" was this single-mindedness that Steve Jobs had to challenge the status quo and cut into the core of things.

Steve Jobs didn't create the best products, he created the most focused products - and that intense focus made them much better than anything else.

Note: And then Apple started to make billions, which caused them to lose sight of that purpose and just focus on earning more...and more ...and more. But that is another story.

Sometimes, it's not about the purpose behind what you want to do. Instead it's a remarkable purpose of wanting to do something for others. Probably the most popular example is when you follow Dalai Lama. He has this strong purpose that oozes through everything he does, but at no point do you feel he is doing it because of him.

A simpler example is when you look this video from Sarah Blackwood, a Canadian singer (who recently became famous because of this video). You love what she doess, but you just get the feeling that she loves it because she is doing it for you!

That is an amazing cocktail. And when you connect with a person like her, you would never ask her for a discount.

The point is that your 2012 Social Media Strategy should not be to give people a discount, nor focus more on fancy marketing campaigns. What people are really saying is that they like your products so much that they are willing to follow you, but not enough (yet) to pay full price. That's what you need to change.

But you cannot change that through marketing because most people are saying that they don't really care about that. Only 25% of say they follow you because of your brand, the rest is because of your product. Give them a real reason and a real meaningful connection.

Don't let the tactics kill you!

The social media experts will also point you to a bazillion different social media tactics. Things you can do to optimize your like buttons, how to post a message that gets more likes, how to post images that people would share, how you should construct questions, where in the message to post links and how long they should be, or what channels to be on to optimize your message. Those thing might work well and help boost your traffic and exposure. But they are not a strategy - and you need be careful about using them.

In a world of abundance, where we have more than enough of everything and where anyone can follow a brand merely by clicking a button, the only way to grow is to be more than just a brand and a product.

There is a growing problem of social media fatigue. Social is not going to go away, it hasn't even started yet. But with this massive amount of information that flows out, the demands on our attention are simply too high.

There are several reason why we are suffering from social media fatigue, and I will write another article about it later, but one of them is that we are optimizing too much - and with this we are increasing the levels of output without increasing the level of relevance.

One example is that studies have found that the best place to put a link is within the first 25 characters of a post. That, apparently, is 15% more effective than putting the link at the end. So many brands are now putting every link in the same place.

But in doing so, you are taking away the natural feel of a personal message. Every posts now looks like they have been made by a machine, because they are all using the same identical template.

The problem with this, of course, is that people don't want to follow a machine pushing out highly optimized messages designed to facilitate engagement in the most cost-effective way possible. They follow you because they want a real connection - a human connection, with all your flaws, awkwardness, occasional misspellings, and silly moods.

Derek Siver created this great video, "I miss the mob" that nails the problem.

Learning from all these studies and looking at these social media tactics is always a good thing to do. But don't just optimize for the sake of optimizing. Being real, human and making mistakes is just as important. You need to be you, not a machine. And you need to show that you are real through your communication with your followers. You need to be there for them as a person, not as a highly optimized corporation run by MBAs.

One simple example. When the artist Gianni Luminati posted a video to YouTube, he added:

If you enjoy Walk off the Earth video's please help support us by: Hitting the LIKE button, adding this video to your Favorites, Sharing This Video on Facebook and Twitter, and Subscribing to our YouTube Channel.
We really appreciate everyone's help...If you don't think we need more recognition for our Videos please don't do the things above! haha!
ps. We receive all our YouTube comments in our emails on our cell Phones, so we get to read every comment that is posted. Feel free to tell us what you think of WOTE and what you think we should try next..

That is both optimized (call-for-sharing), full of mistakes (that makes it personal), and it shows that he cares about you!

This should be your 2012 social media strategy! We are faced with a world of abundance, crippled by social media fatigue. You can't solve that by creating a fancy social media plan. You need to focus on you, your product, and your purpose. It is really that simple!

Social is a feeling that comes from within. That feeling creates a connection. That connection can be targeted (and optimized) to a sale. But it starts with a feeling that "this is worth it!"

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Emily Tippins

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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