Why I Left Social Media Marketing

I used to be somebody. I was kind of a big deal. Well, almost a big deal. I would sometimes go to social media conferences and hear my name whispered as I walked by.

“Hey, that’s Erik Deckers.”

And unlike high school, it was never followed by “LET’S KICK HIS ASS!”

I did book signings. I spoke around the country. I even got paid for it. It was pretty cool.

I was one of the early digital and social media marketing pioneers. I started blogging in 1997. I started doing digital marketing in 1998. I joined Twitter in 2007. And I wrote some of the first books on personal branding and social media marketing.

I’ve been blessed that a lot of people have used my books to make big changes to their companies and to their lives. I’ve heard from people who followed just a few of the steps in Branding Yourself and landed an internship or even a new job. A woman who has since become a very good friend first got in touch with Kyle Lacy and me to say she had followed our LinkedIn chapter and gotten three job interviews in three weeks.

I’ve heard from others who used No Bullshit Social Media to convince their bosses to let them start doing social media marketing for their company, and now they’re heading up the company’s entire social media efforts.

But social media got crowded. It got filled up with newbies, fakes, and charlatans who thought they were social media marketers because they used Facebook, or bought thousands of Twitter followers.

The industry was overrun by rampaging hordes of ex-bartenders and college interns who didn’t have years of marketing experience. And I spent so much time trying to convince people of the importance of it that my client work was slipping.

So I stopped doing social media marketing, and focused on content marketing. It was a hard decision, but I could see social media was about to be completely ruined by marketers, who were taking it over like the killer ant scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

[Seriously. Launch any new social media tool, and the marketers swarm all over it like that Russian dude at the end. Don’t believe me? Google “Snapchat for marketers.”]

At the time, content marketing was still fairly new, because most of the practitioners were still professional writers, videographers, photographers, and podcasters. We hadn’t yet been taken over by scribblers who thought “literally” meant the opposite of literally.

I miss the good old days.
Google Results of Snapchat for Marketers
I worked to hone my skills as a writer. My partner, Paul, handled the social media marketing for our clients, and I read, studied, trained, and practiced to produce the best work we were capable of.

During this time, I co-authored a new book on content marketing, ghostwrote a book with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and even started ghostwriting the autobiography of a former U.S. Congressman.

For the last three years, I’ve kept my head down, and focused on my craft. I’ve studied several favorite authors. I’m revisiting my speechwriting roots, and learning how slam poetry can influence my work. I even spent three months as the Writer-In-Residence at the Jack Kerouac House here in Orlando, beating out nearly 300 people from around the world for the coveted spot.

It’s paying off. I’ve written several short stories, made it halfway through my novel, participated in several literary readings around Central Florida, spoken at a number of writing conferences, and contributed to different literary publications and events.

My efforts have also helped my clients. The content marketing work we do is bringing them more traffic and leads, and we do it by offering some of the best business writing available. We’re writing stuff people like to read, and getting people to share it online. Rather than churn out as much mediocre content as we can, we focus on high-quality writing.

I won’t lie though. I’ve missed being in front of an audience. I’ve missed meeting new people in new cities. So I’ve decided to shake the dust off my shoulders, rub the sand from my eyes, and re-enter the world of personal branding and public promotion.

Starting in August, I’ll write more frequently on this blog again, and booking more conference speaking slots, especially around my new home state, Florida. I hope to see you around.

Five Ways for Creative Writers to Make Money (And Two That Don’t Work)

I had a great discussion with a new friend, @SarahSuksiri, about creative writing, poetry — I learned a lot about poetry and poets from her — and how writers try to make money while pretending they don’t associate themselves with filthy lucre.

This attitude is especially prevalent with poets, who think they should only do poetry for their art. If this is your attitude, repeat after me:

Hello, welcome to Starbucks

For those writers who want to earn a living from your creative writing degree or MFA, here are five ways to actually make some money from writing that does not involve freelancing. Or you can at least show your parents that your 4 – 7 years of higher education were not a complete exercise in navel gazing.

1. Sell ebooks

Jim Kukral is the master of promoting self-published books. He’s made his name helping new authors and. . . let’s say, “niche” authors find an audience and sell their books. Even the unusual ones. (Books, not authors. Well, authors too.)

The numbers in self-publishing make sense. Without going too much into the entire “traditional publishing versus self-publishing debate,” let me tell you what Kukral and others say about the economics: If you sell a traditionally-published book for $20, you’ll make $1 – $1.40 per book in royalties, after you pay back your advance. If you sell a self-published e-book for $2.99, you’ll make $2. Sell it for $9.99, and you’ll make $7.

Now, you may sell more books in bookstores with a traditional publisher (plus it’s awesome to have your book on a bookstore shelf), but you have to sell 5 – 7 trad-pub books to make $7, versus selling one $10 ebook. Sell 1,000 books, and you get either $1,400 or $7,000. If all you sold is 1,000 books, you won’t get that $1,400 from your publisher; that’s all payback for your advance. But that $7,000 is yours off the bat. (Warning: this takes a lot of social media marketing and promotion.)

2. Become a speaker

Erik Deckers speaking in public

Doing this taught me to be a better writer.

Professional speakers command a fee. If you’re a nonfiction B2B writer like me, you have a system or knowledge that you can parlay into a one to six hour teaching session, and people will pay for that (see #5 below). If you write about important social issues, whether fiction or nonfiction, you may be able to get a gig as a keynote speaker. Keynotes make anywhere from $500 to $3,000, and even more. (Of course, you need to almost be a professional keynote speaker and that takes a few years. You’ll know when you’re ready for that.)

Build up your stage legs by giving readings, teaching small classes, and doing small talks around town for free. Join Toastmasters if you’re not comfortable with speaking. Promote yourself with a blog and become active on social media.

3. Give readings or host organized events

Slam poets earn money through their readings (Slammings? Happenings?), because they treat their work like a musician or a theatre troupe. They sell tickets or have a cover charge, and they sell books in the back of the room. Depending on the size of your audience and your rates, you could make a couple hundred dollars in a single night. Not enough to pay the rent, but you’re certainly earning more in one night than working three shifts at High-Priced Boots And Pants in the mall.

Promote the bejeezus out of these events, and get a big crowd. If you don’t like marketing, you’d better learn to real quick. You want a big crowd that’s interested in what you have to say. Even if you want to be a purist who never accepts money for their work (do your events for free then), you still want a big crowd of people who clap for you (or snap. Do they still snap at poetry slams?), and run up to you afterward, gushing and stumbling over their words. Promote these events with social media and old school marketing techniques to draw that crowd.

4. Combine your work with another passion and travel

Writer Chris Guillebeau, who wrote The Art of Nonconformity, has the kind of job that lets him work anywhere. So he does it while he travels to different parts of the globe in an attempt to visit every single country around the world.

As a writer, you have the flexibility to work anywhere you want, and on any kind of project you want. In some cases, you can even work in strange new locales, like the African Bush, the Canadian wilderness, or Iowa. If you can leverage your writing skills into a real money-earner, like a freelance copywriter, go where the work is, or just work from your favorite coffee shop. If you can get a nonprofit to hire you for six months, rent a short-term apartment in that city, and go to work.

5. Teach classes and seminars

Writing coach Jeff Goins is making his name not only as a writer, but as a writing coach. He’s built his reputation and living by offering several online webinars and ongoing classes per year, as well as selling educational materials to budding writers. One of his multi-week classes can cost a few hundred dollars per student. Similarly, I’ve begun teaching classes for the Indiana Writers Center, and I was happily surprised when I was handed a check at the end of the first class. I had forgotten all about it.

So what if you charged $200 for a 4 week online class and got 15 students to sign up? That’s $3,000 a month. It’s not downtown-penthouse money, but for a young writer who has a roommate or spouse-with-a-job, it’s a significant contribution to the household income. And what if you could repeat that model every month, or even run it twice a month on different days, but only did it a few times a year?

Further, if you have an MFA, you’re qualified to teach writing and English at a local college or university. (Actually, if you have a master’s degree in anything, you’re qualified to teach undergraduates in that field.) It’s not great pay — I get anywhere from $700 – $1,000 a month for a single public speaking class. And you certainly don’t want to build a career on being an adjunct. But if you’re looking for beer money, or a little something to boost your income, this is a great way to use your degree and your passion.

And now for the two don’ts: I’ve seen other people try this, and it’s rough. A lot of people have started down one of these two paths only to realize the numbers don’t work, and they’re out all that time and expense.

1. Start a website or journal that relies on banner advertising

Ad sales are a hard, scary way to make money. Even big city newspapers aren’t making a ton of money from them. Advertisers only want to pay per thousand displayed ads (some even only want to pay per click). These advertisers will only pay between $10 – $20 per thousand visitors, which works out to $.01 – $.02 per view).

So if you want to earn $50 for a single article, you have to generate between 2,500 – 5,000 visitors to that one page page. But if the advertiser is paying by the click, you may get $.20 per click, but if you want $50, you need 250 clicks. And if the click-through rate on an ad is 1% (which is actually kind of high), you need 25,000 visitors to see that ad. If you could bring in 25,000 visitors a month to your website, you need to sell ebooks, not display ads.

2. Traditional publishing

(Otherwise known as “my editor is going to hate me now!”)

While everyone wants to have that big blockbuster that makes them more money than J.K. Rowling and John Grisham combined, seriously, what are the odds of that happening? I’ve written three books and ghostwritten half of another. If I tried to live on the royalties of those books, I’d have a very fancy cardboard box under a bridge.

No Bullshit Social Media in New Release Shelf

When I saw this photo, it was one of the proudest days of my life. My mom, not so much.

Even if you’re lucky enough to get a publishing deal, you need to sell hundreds of thousands of books in order to get rich; several tens of thousand per year to earn a salary. Let’s say you get $1.20 in royalties for every published book you sell. If you want to earn $48,000 a year in royalties, you need to sell 40,000 books every single year.

Don’t get me wrong. Traditional publishing is great. I owe Que Biz-Tech and Pearson Publishing a lot. So much of what I’ve been able to do has happened because they took a chance on me. I love knowing that my books have been printed, occupy a physical space in the world, and I got a thrill knowing that No Bullshit Social Media was seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of impressionable children walking into a Barnes & Noble. I encourage many writers to try to get their books published by a real publishing house before they take up the self-publishing baton.

But — and this is the point I want to stress — traditional publishing is not how you’re going to make a long-term living. The numbers just aren’t there anymore. Not at $1.40 royalties per book. You’re going to push, promote, and shout about your book to as many people as you can, whether you self-publish, or you go the traditional route. Either method involves the same amount of work. The only difference is there’s a bigger payoff in the self-pub route than in trad-pub. (On the other hand, you’ll never see a self-published book in a Barnes & Noble.)

Having said that, having a traditionally published book is an excellent way to build your reputation, which makes numbers 2 – 5 that much easier to accomplish.

Now that I’ve crapped on your dreams or given you a great idea, what are some other ideas you have for writers who want to make money? If you’re making money from your writing, what are you doing that earns a steady (or at least significant) income? Leave a note in the comments.

What We Can Learn About Social Media Marketing from The Onion

It was a rather shocking tweet. Someone who was in charge of The Onion’s Twitter account basically called 9-year-old actress and Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis the C-word.

It was so reprehensibly awful and terrible that Twitter just beat the holy bejeezus out of The Onion for it. Within an hour, they deleted the tweet. (This was remarkable in itself, given the fact that these guys never back down or apologize for anything.)

A LOT of angry discussions on whether The Onion should have apologized or not. The angrier ones seem to be on the

A LOT of angry discussions on whether The Onion should have apologized or not.

This morning, even as the Internet was storming Castle Onion with pitchforks and torches, their CEO, Steve Hannah, even went so far as to post an apology to their Facebook page.

Dear Readers,

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.

Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.

Sincerely,
Steve Hannah
CEO
The Onion

From a social media marketing standpoint, this gives rise to a bigger question: when do you blame an entire company for the acts of a single person? When does one person’s views reflect the entire company? And should they ever?

Let’s face it, what this unnamed person did was reprehensible. You just don’t call little girls that word. (Actually, you don’t call any women that word, but there’s a very wide line between being a sexist a-hole and the worst person in the world, and the unnamed person managed to keep one foot planted on either side of it.)

Now The Onion is bearing the brunt of that one person’s poor judgment.

In a lot of cases, people will forgive a company for the missteps of a single person. If you have a bad waitstaff experience at your favorite restaurant, you don’t boycott the entire restaurant. If you received a damaged package from your favorite online bookstore, you don’t stop ordering books. Yet, there are thousands of people who have un-liked and un-followed The Onion on all their social properties, because of a single tweet by a single person.

But this isn’t entirely unexpected. During the presidential election, when someone from a candidate’s past 30 years earlier does something mildly offensive, the other side will scream that this proves that candidate is the anti-Christ or a fascist. When the CEO of a corporation says or does something awful, consumers scream that this kind of attitude pervades the halls of that company.

There’s an awful lot of screaming going on, and people are understandably and justifiably outraged. What this unnamed person did was awful, but the entire organization didn’t sit down at a table and vote on what to tweet.

Are people overreacting or are we justified in screaming at The Onion? Did one bad apple spoil the entire bunch, or should we look at their entire body of work, and forgive them in the end?

This Shouldn’t Stop Companies From Using Social Media

The problem is that whenever anything like this happens — at least the problem for social media professionals like me, Jay Baer, and Doug Karr — is that potential clients look at this and say, “See, we can’t trust our employees not to do something stupid and boneheaded like this.”

It makes our job harder, because they’re worried that their punk intern just out of college is going to start tweeting about his drunken antics at his cousin’s wedding. Or she’s going to launch into some profanity-laced tirade about how her basketball team couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat.

So we have to remind these clients of a few things:

  1. If you have employees like this, you have a hiring problem, and that’s your fault, not social media’s. Those people would act like this even if Twitter had never been invented.
  2. You need to hire people with several years of experience and common sense to run your social media campaigns (these two traits are sometimes mutually exclusive in some people).
  3. You already trust employees to count and handle your money, take trips to faraway places, and even answer the phone without you hovering over them. You need to trust employees on social media this same way.
  4. You need to have a clear-cut social media policy about things you cannot say, words you cannot use, and ideas you cannot convey. At least then people will know why you fired them for violating numbers 1, 2, and 3.

For companies thinking about social media marketing, you need to think about these things:

Will people do stupid things? Yes. It’s in our nature.

Did you hire those people? Yes, because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Did you hire them to do those stupid things? No. Otherwise, that would make you as stupid as them.

Will people blame you for it anyway? Yes. Because we all want someone to be outraged at.

Does this mean you shouldn’t do something, like use social media? No. Because people do stupid stuff with all kinds of technology, but that doesn’t mean we don’t 1) use computers, 2) use fax machines, 3) use phones, 4) use cars, and 5) hire people.

We still do all those other things, we just make sure they’re used properly.

That’s how it needs to go with social media. More than half the country is using it. More than half the country is expecting you to be on it. And despite the bone-headedness of some people, it’s still a good and decent place to reach an audience.

People make mistakes. Big, goofy, bone-headed, dumbass mistakes. That’s all just part of the rich tapestry of the business world, and everyone does it. Some are just worse and more crass than others.

The question is, will you stick your head in the sand because of what someone else did, or will you embrace the latest technology and learn from other peoples’ mistakes?

No Bullshit Social Media Interview with Peter Clayton of Total Picture Radio

I had the chance to be interviewed by Peter Clayton, producer/host of TotalPicture Radio, for his Online Strategy Channel podcast about No Bullshit Social Media. I met Peter, and spoke with him for several minutes at BlogWorld New York in June. It was at a party Pearson threw for its authors. So I was there, my No Bullshit Social Media co-author Jason Falls was there, as was our favorite editor, Katherine Bull, as were several other authors and potential authors.

I tell you, I felt like a real writer that night, boy. When people walk around handing you drinks and little deep-fried tacos while you talk about books in a New York bar, that’s when you truly feel like a writer.

(We also got to hear a young lady, one of the waitresses, sing opera that night. She was awesome.)

During our interview, Peter and I chatted about why businesses are afraid of using social media, why they need to consider social media marketing as one of their best options for it, and how companies need to rethink their attitudes toward not only social media, but how they need to change their entire mindset to be ready for the 21st century.

Peter was kind enough to share the mp3 of our interview, which you can listen to here. (Sorry, no opera.)

The No Bullshit Social Media conversation with Erik Deckers

One important issue Peter and I discussed is that if you trust your employees to answer your phones, give sales and marketing presentations, receive and count your money (and not steal it), and to pay the people who work for you, but you don’t trust your employees to use social media without being struck stupid and unproductive, then you don’t have an employee problem. You have a management problem.

We also talked about how we can monitor social media marketing efforts, and determine their ROI, even while marketers are still struggling with how to accurately measure the results from billboards, TV commercials, and newspaper ads.

The Tortoise and The Hare on Writing a Book

There are two ways to write a book — at least, two effective ways. I’ve written nearly five books with one method; I’ve wanted to write a book with the other. Which kind of writer, books or otherwise, are you?

The Tortoise

This is the ideal writer. He or she writes every single day. You don’t have to churn out a lot of material, you have to churn out material consistently. Write 600 words every day — that’s about 1 word processing page — and at the end of six months, 180 days, you’ll have a book.*

(* Nerdy tech specs: This is based on the ratio of 1 word processing page equalling 1.5 trade paperback pages, like Branding Yourself or No Bullshit Social Media. This will be slightly different/more for regular paperbacks, and I couldn’t even tell you what it equals for the big computer Dummies-style books.)

Of course, most biz-tech book publishers are slave driversinsistent about their schedule, and they give you four months to get your book done. So you’d actually need to jump up your output to 2 pages per day, giving yourself weekends off.

Still, if you can write 1 page per 60 – 90 minutes — again, slow and steady — you’ll be doing okay. You just can’t slack off or skip a day, because you’ll need to double-up on the next day.

The Hare

This is how I write books. It’s how I studied in college. It’s how I face a lot of projects that I have to do. (Unless you’re a client. Then I work on your stuff all the time, and think about it, and you, constantly.)

The Hare waits until a day or two before the deadline, and races through all the pages needed to meet the deadline.

When Kyle Lacy and I wrote Branding Yourself, I could generally do 1 chapter, about 10 – 12 pages, in 4 hours. Of course, that meant a lot of late nights, fast typing, and serious editing before it was finished. I got smarter when I wrote No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls: I took 4 days to write a single chapter, not because it was harder, but because I didn’t want to give myself such short deadlines and long hours.

You Need to be a Tortoise

I cannot stridently stress enough how important it is that you write like a tortoise, not a hare. I like to call the hare’s approach cram writing.

Cram writing is not for the novice writer, or even the person who has been writing for a couple years. Cram writing should only be done by someone who has been writing for a long, long time, and even then, you’d better be prepared for extensive editing and rewriting. There’s no one-and-done in cram writing. Anytime I’ve done it, I’ve had to edit everything twice before turning it in, and even then, my editors still had comments and questions.

Compare that to famed humor novelist, Christopher Moore, who is lucky if he finishes 2 pages in a single day’s writing. That’s 1200 words in about 5 – 6 hours, and it’s his job. He’s a trained professional with more than a few best-selling books to his name, and he can barely finish 2 pages in one day.

On the other hand, he rarely, if ever, has to edit his work.

Think of it. No rewrites, no edits, no typos, no mistakes, no snarky comments from editors. Nothing. Write it once, wait for the galley proofs, and you’re golden.

I try to avoid cram writing whenever possible, and I do recognize the difference in my writing when I give myself a few days to meet a deadline, rather than racing to beat it. I’ve managed to give myself extra time for the last couple of efforts, and have appreciated the difference.

If you’re thinking about writing a book, or an extra-long piece for publication, unless you are a seriously-trained professional who knows his or her limits and capabilities, I do not recommend you try cram writing.

Plan out your schedule, work at a comfortable rate, and pace yourself to be productive over the long haul. If you have to rush to get everything done, look at your time management and see if you can figure out where you’re falling down.

Employers Should NEVER Be Allowed to Ask for Facebook Passwords

This whole “employers asking for job candidate Facebook passwords” thing is complete bullshit.

Not only is it an infringement of personal privacy, it’s unconscionable that they would make a person’s private life part of that hiring decision.

In some cases, employers are even asking current employees for their Facebook passwords as a condition of their continued employment. It was bad enough when they required employees to friend someone from the company, now they’re demanding total access to the things you wanted to keep hidden from everyone but close family.Doorway to the International Spy Museum, Washington DC

That’s not to say that a person who is wildly inappropriate or shows poor decision making skills should still be hired — if you’re stupid enough to post your half-nude keg stand photos for the entire world to see, maybe you don’t deserve that job as a kindergarten teacher — but if you’re smart enough to keep it private, or better yet, not to put yourself in that situation in the first place, then employers shouldn’t be snooping around.

Employers are free to Google a potential candidate to see what they can find, for the same reason. If you put your stuff online online, you should be willing to stand behind it. And if you wish you had never put it out there, there are ways to hide it. Or at least make sure it’s not seen by people who think a YouTube video montage of you yelling at children and puppies makes you a horrible person.

But as far as I’m concerned, Facebook is like your house with a giant picture window. You would never parade naked in front of the open window, but you have some things that you do that you would prefer to keep private and personal. Those are the things you keep in your desk, in a closet, or under the bed.

Yet, employers asking for Facebook passwords are basically asking for the key to your house so they can root through your drawers, read your diary, flip through family photo albums, look at your bank and credit card statements. They want to see what they can find, to determine whether they should hire you in the first place, or let you keep your job. They don’t have any reason for this search. They don’t think there’s anything incriminating to find, or have any evidence that you’ve done anything wrong. They just want to see if there is.

You would never let the police put a speed tracking device on your car to tell them when you speed. You wouldn’t let them come into your house uninvited for a quick peek. Why would you give employers the open opportunity to waltz in whenever they’d like, to see if there’s anything they maybe ought to be concerned about?

Don’t give me this “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you should have nothing to fear” bullshit either. I haven’t done anything wrong, and yet I’m not going to let anyone into my life, house, or Facebook account to snoop around in the hopes they can find something incriminating.

I’ll admit that there may be some sensitive jobs that require a background check. But the thoroughness of this type of probing make Facebook snooping look like a quick drive-by glance through your front window at 30 miles an hour.

I have not met a single individual who supports this. At least no one who is facing the fear and desperation of unemployment, or the desire to keep their job. Nor anyone whose job it is to professionally argue that Facebook snooping should be allowed. If anyone thinks it’s okay to give your employer unfettered access into your personal life in order to get/keep your job, let me know.

But if you, as an employer, are going to snoop around my personal Facebook account, then by all means, let me snoop around yours. Give me your password, and I’ll poke and prod at my leisure. Maybe I won’t find anything salacious, but do you really want someone poking around to see all your private messages and the photos that you marked “friends only?”

We still have a relatively fragile economy, and people have been unemployed for months, or face a devastating financial loss because of new unemployment. For employers to dangle the golden carrot of survival in front of a candidate in exchange for the ability to snoop into a person’s private life are slimy, underhanded, and extremely unethical. There is no earthly reason, short of working for a federal agency where you’re allowed to carry a gun or know state secrets, that employers should be allowed to become electronic voyeurs into someone’s non-work life.

Companies that do so face the threat of lawsuits from disqualified job candidates, loss of corporate Facebook accounts, and possible legal action as Congress and several states seek to make this against the law.

Photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography (Flickr)

Calling ‘Bullshit’ On Four Social Media Myths

There are days I just want to shout at somebody for all the misinformation I hear about social media. I hear all these myths and bad information being passed around the business community, because some know-nothing shyster tried to sell a business owner on social media, and cocked it up so badly, the poor guy is going to just stick with the Yellow Pages and door hangers for the next 10 years.

Here are four social media myths that, if I hear someone mention them with a straight face, I’m going to throw something heavy.

1. You can’t measure the ROI of social media.

This has got to be the biggest pile of BS I come across. And to make matters worse, I hear it from so-called professionals in this industry, who apparently have no clue that this is even possible. Olivier Blanchard just recently ranted about a recent South by Southwest panel where the audience was treated to these little nuggets of stupidity:Photo of a very large bull

  • There’s no ROI for measuring ROI – it’s just too difficult.
  • You can’t put love and trust into a chart. Why? Because love and trust defies logical reasoning.
  • Social doesn’t always need to be quantified. Its not a spreadsheet metric only – trust, relationships, advocacy.

If you’re doing social media for your anarcho-syndicalist commune, then sure, you can’t measure trust, love, or that warm squishy feeling you get when you hand someone a fistful of daisies. But if you’re doing social media for a business that gives you money, then you’d damn well better measure it. Your boss is not going to want to hear about trust and love when she asks you to justify why she just spent $30,000 on your social media campaign. How are you going to demonstrate that the $120,000 your company made was a direct result of your efforts? If your job is on the line, you’ll figure it out.

There are plenty of tools for accurately measuring this kind of thing, the least of which is Google Analytics. It’s free, fairly easy to use, and there are big books you can use to learn how to use it. There are also books about measuring social media ROI, with real formulas and techniques and everything. And I can guarantee that not one jot of ink is spent discussing how to measure trust, love, or warm squishy feelings.

Granted, asking about the ROI of social media before you ever start on a campaign is a bad question to ask, but once the campaign is up and rolling, you’d better be measuring how well you’re doing, or you’re going to be out of a job three months after you launched this thing.

Read these blog posts about how, why, and how easy it is to social media ROI:

2. Social media can replace everything

Social media is just another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. It’s not a tool that can replace everything marketers have been using for the last 100 years. As much as the hipsters like to say newspapers are dead, TV is dead, radio is dead, and any other medium that’s more than five years old is dead, those things are still viable strategies.

As long as there are people who don’t have computers or smartphones, we’ll need TV and radio advertising. As long as there are people who don’t use computers and tablets, we’ll need newspapers and magazines. There are two very large groups of people who don’t use computers, smartphones, and tablets: the poor and the elderly.

In fact, because of these two very large populations, we will still need books and libraries, print publications, the Yellow Pages, broadcast television, and FM and AM radio. Not everyone has a satellite dish, a smartphone, satellite radio, and a laptop with broadband. We need to quit making the assumption that everyone in this country does.

As long as these media channels exist, there will be a need for that type of marketing. Until then, social media is completely ineffective for those two very large populations.

3. More impressions = good, fewer impressions = bad

Marketers who still believe their TV commercials are being seen by hundreds of thousands of people hate social media. They look at the social media stats and freak out when they see that only a few thousand people came to their sites and bought anything.

What they don’t realize is that they’re really seeing the actual size of their audience. They’re getting a real glimpse of what their true customer base looks like, and not the hyperinflated numbers from advertising salespeople.

Want to do a test? Launch a TV commercial, and set up a special URL specifically for that commercial. If you sell hammers for ABC Hammers, get the domain ABCHammersonTV.com, run it only on your commercial, and see how many people actually come to it. Use your commercials to drive web traffic, and then count the results. Those are the people who were inspired enough by your commercial to gather more information. Did it cause them to buy a hammer? We don’t know. But we can measure (there’s that word again) how many people that commercial drove to the website.

Want to quantify it some more? Let them download a 10% off coupon, redeemable within the next 21 days. Then count how many people redeemed the coupon. It’s not a completely accurate measurement, but you do know how effective your commercial was in driving traffic, how effective your website was in driving coupon downloads, and how effective the coupon was in driving sales.

No, it’s not the couple million viewers you were told would see your commercial on Monday Night Football, but it’s a better picture of who liked the commercial enough to take action. There’s still no mechanism to show you how many of those commercial viewers were in the bathroom. And there’s no way of knowing whether people went to the store and bought your hammer because of that commercial.

So if you keep thinking more impressions means success and few impressions means failure, you’re going to be in for a big shock.

4. The ‘I’ in ROI stands for influence, integration, intent/should be Return On Engagement

This is the hippie tree-hugging bullshit that Jason Falls and I wrote No Bullshit Social Media against. Social media is notYes, you want people to like you. Yes, you want people to trust you. Yes, you want people to be your raving fans.

But do you know what you really want from them?

Money! Being liked and being trusted are all fine and good, but it doesn’t mean a thing if they’re not buying from you. I’ve had plenty of potential customers who trusted me, but until I had a check in my hand, they did not contribute to my bottom line.

 
Social media marketing is all about marketing. It’s a business tool. And to be a business tool, it has to make money. And to show your boss that it’s making money, you have to measure it. You may even have to show that it’s as good as, or better than, the traditional marketing tools you’re competing with. (Of course, you should be measuring the performance of all your traditional marketing tools too. You’re doing that, aren’t you?)

Until people quit spouting all this nonsensical crap about what social media can and can’t do, it’s going to be slow going for businesses to adopt it. Hopefully the “professionals” who keep spreading misinformation like these four myths will eventually stop doing what they’re doing and go back to bartending, and let the real professionals clean up the mess they’ve left.

Photo credit: Oli R (Flickr)