In my day-to-day work, I am lucky enough to talk with big brands about their digital, content and social media marketing. In doing my work, which I absolutely love, I read and audit a lot of social updates from brands. And there is one thing on my holiday wish list: Stop trying to sell me stuff on social!

I get it, sometimes, we simple cannot stop ourselves, I guess. I wrote in a post earlier this year about the reasons we still stink at social and this one is just stuck in my craw! And there is nothing worse than something stuck in your craw during the holidays, because that right is reserved for family!

How are we still talking about this?

80-20It goes without saying again: There is this thing. It is called the 80/20 rule. And in that rule, (which appears to be widely dismissed with impunity) it says that 80% of your content should be adding value to your fan’s experience. The rest (the 20%) can be about you and how lovely you are. And even in that 20%, it should still be valuable to the fan. Now, I am going to encourage you all to click off this article and do a quick test. I dare you to do a 10 second audit of your content. Take a look at the last 10 posts and tell me in the comments section how you did. I would bet the best we get is 50/50. (And to sweeten the pot, anyone that posts their brand’s info in the comments, will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Starbucks gift card.) In fact, I just did a quick review of the last 10 posts of a major food brand and guess what…10/90. If you wonder why your engagement is low…that is why.

People use social media to keep in touch with friends and family. What was once done via the phone is now done on Facebook en mass. This is also a channel for marketers to use to widely distribute information as well. But, let’s think about the phone paradigm for a second. If people use social to replace one-to-one calls, would you support a marketing strategy that has your brand calling fans on the phone to pitch products and nothing else? Of course you wouldn’t. Well maybe some of you would and note: this is a bad idea. And if you did this, I am guessing you would be hung up on, if the person even answered the phone at all. Because, well, it is kinda rude. But for some reason, social media makes it ok. Well, it isn’t.

If Santa brought me one wish it would be for 2014 to be the year that brands woke up and realized that this newish medium is different and should be treated differently. Social holds a promise of dialog and open-ness with transparency and authenticity. It allows us an opportunity to make people aware of why our widget is different than the others on the market. It is a place people can rally around a businesses culture and values. It is a place where real differentiation can happen, but it isn’t. This promise is being squandered. We could be using social to inspire others in ways that are aligned with the brand. Instead, we are still hooked on the Buy Now drug.

Can we really change?

Yes, I think we can change. Brand marketers believe in their brands. They know why they are special and why people should love them. They have a passion for the brand and the product. We need to take this passion and translate it into themes that are valuable to the fan. They don’t want pictures of frozen entrees. They want to be inspired to live a healthier life. They don’t want a picture of a winter jacket, they want to be inspired to summit a mountain or achieve something physically remarkable.

Give them the content, videos, pictures, stories and tools to do those things. And I would venture a guess that fans would increase and engagement would go up and if you are doing life-cycle attribution like my friend Nichole Kelly so passionately advocates, you would see that social has a huge impact on downstream revenue. But, in order to do that, you need to stop talking about you and show people how you add value to their lives. So, I will be lighting candles and sending notes to Santa. Happy Holidays everyone!

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About Tracey Parsons

Tracey Parsons

Since 1995, Tracey has been developing digital solutions. Currently SME Digital’s lead strategist, she continues to be dedicated to bringing cutting edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions to marketers. With more than 15 years in digital, Tracey not only brings vision, but the tools and strategies to execute against complex next generation concepts. She has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop and devise cutting-edge social, mobile and digital marketing practices.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.developgoodhabits.com/ SJ Scott

    You are so right. I thought I would do pretty well, since I do make an attempt to not sell all the time, and still came in around 50/50. Certainly something top try to fix for the next year. Thanks for a great reminder!

    • Tracey Parsons

      You are my new hero. Thanks for looking at your work and sharing your results!

  • http://www.gmrwebteam.com/ Ajay Prasad

    Good article. thanks for sharing.

  • Commentrix

    Great article and so right. People or businesses who are selling themselves the whole time on social media make me angry now and then. Many times l read how good they are, but if they really are, they wouldn’t be shouting it out on social media the whole time. When you are good in doing what your profession is, then you let people know that with your skills, let other people say how good you are.

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  • Shalleen Mayes

    Well said, Tracey. As marketers, we have the opportunity to inspire people. Your article brought to mind those easy recipes that you find in newspaper inserts. (I’m a busy mom, and I appreciate time-savers.) It’s an old-school way of marketing, but because they gave me the means to wow my family with an awesome dessert, I’ll connect with the brand right in the store. I’ll remember how the brand made me feel (triumphant, because I didn’t have to pass off someone’s else’s dessert as my own!) It’s a simple thing, really, sharing a recipe. But that’s some serious power! Likewise, marketers can use social media to establish these connections with their customers and followers: what do they need? What can they really use?

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  • Jessica

    I am constantly trying to convince the higher ups/older generation that Social Media gives us a chance to do something different. That it’s not about having the perfectly composed photo to put on instagram or giving offers out every other day. It’s about creating engagement with your fans and making them like you enough to buy something without selling it to them. I was so paranoid this month with everything being so commercial…buy a gift card…this is on sale…what are you waiting for buy now… so much selling and not enough engagement.

    I have seen other rules for content and they suggest other percentages. Why do you use 80/20?

  • Jon P

    People don’t care about your products or services and all the features that come with them. They care about conquering their fears and fulfilling their desires. Any type of marketing or communication—traditional, Social, or other—that ignores this truth will fall flat.

    The 80/20 rule makes sense in all cases. If you go a long way toward recognizing and fulfilling your customers’ aspirations, they will look favorably upon you and feel a sense of obligation when they decide to open their wallets. And they may just tell their friends about it if you give them a good value.

    This simple observation is apparently beyond the understanding of many mass marketers for that reason: it’s too simple. Social Media is not only a great way to distribute content that helps your customers (or prospects), it’s an even better tool for discovering what they really want help with in the first place.

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