Social Media Marketing – A Tale of Two Potters

by Mark Dykeman |

A hypothetical (but not that foreign) situation:

Bill is the greatest potter in the world. He uses magic power to mold the clay into whatever shape he wants just by staring at it. So, not only does he make the best pottery in the world, but the way he makes it is absolutely freaking amazing.

The power of social media marketing to build a business

Bill enjoyed decent pottery sales before his methods were known. But his profits multiplied by a factor of at least 1000 when people learned how he made it. Who wouldn’t want to see real live magic?

Every week Bill makes pottery before a live audience. At first he just had a few spectators. But as they told other people, who told their friends, and so on, someone started making videos of Bill at work, posted them on YouTube, and started talking about it.  His audience grew and grew and grew because Bill’s work was so darned amazing.  Bill eventually had to start renting a football stadium because so many people wanted to see the experience.

The power of an authentic, human experience shared via marketing

Pottery from Santa Fe
Image via Wikipedia

It’s a simple, understated performance, by the way.  Bill gets up and does his amazing thing with the pottery.  Then he stands up, smiles and says “Thank you all for coming.  I really appreciate it.”  He signs autographs for a while and then goes back to his humble studio and keeps plugging away.

Not only is the pottery selling for vaults of money, but people are paying Bill to see him make it in person. He’s the rock star of pottery. Every Hollywood celebrity wants a custom bowl made by Bill. He is buried in profits.  AND, he still gets to do work that he loves to do.

What isn’t marketing?  Not much.

Now which parts of the above are marketing? All of them.

  • Marketing is making the best darn pottery in the world.
  • Marketing is making the best darn pottery in the world using magic power.
  • Marketing is broadcasting and sharing the experience of the most amazing pottery in the world being made by magic power.

Here’s the thing, though. Bill would probably still be making the greatest pottery in the world and he’d be much less affluent if no one had seen how he could do it. If the world at large didn’t know about Bill’s ability to use magic power to make the world’s greatest pottery, then it would just be the greatest pottery. And there aren’t that many pottery connoisseurs around in the 21st century.  But social media allowed some fraction of the experience to be captured and shared with the world.

Meet Richard – The Anti-Bill

Contrast this with Richard (most people call him Dick), another potter.  He copied Bill’s magic power secrets early on, mastered the  social media channels earlier and tried to do the very same things as Bill, but in quite a different style.  On the surface, he used many of the same tools.

How did Dick make out?  We’ll come back to him in a moment.

Social media are one set of many media channels

Prior to the Internet, the Web and social media, it would have been extremely hard for Bill’s (or Dick’s) story to spread unless the news media or the entertainment industry found it quirky enough to take an interest. Who knows, maybe the story would sell some ads? But unless you got the attention of the mass media powers that be, there was virtually no way that a story like Bill’s could spread and grow on its own in the pre-Internet era – it would have been shot down as a hoax. Amateur video, on the other hand, gave the whole thing authenticity.

Today it’s much easier for you to be a Bill than ever before, at least in the sense of spreading your message across a large swath of the world. Social media channels have been extremely helpful for entrepreneurs of all sizes to tell their stories to the world. Some companies have done a great job at it. Many haven’t done as well.

But it’s no longer a question of if you use social media to tell your story. Now it’s a question of when and how.

A very bad way to use social media

Some people are still skeptical about allowing businesses to use free Web services as a means of connecting with the world (read:  sell stuff and make money in the process). There’s still plenty of ways to screw it all up, though.  Remember Dick?  Well, Dick forgot that the wonderful part of the experience wasn’t him.  The experience was supposed to be about seeing him make incredible pottery with magic power.

Instead, viewers were bombarded with pro-Dick propaganda, advertising for unrelated products, and special guest appearances by celebrities that were intended to boost Dick’s profile – and ego.  Once people caught on to the fact that Dick was only in it for the fame and the money, his audience (and buyers) disappeared.

Now he can’t sell any pottery. Because, on top of everything else, Dick wasn’t even a good pottery maker.

You’ll probably be upset at the way Dick used social media.  But what about Bill?  He delivered on his promises and he was respectful.  He was also human.  Would you really berate him for using free services?  I don’t think I could.

Conclusion:  Use social media with care (or, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear)

So we have two ways of using social media channels to market yourself:   one good, one not so good.  But without the channels, the potential to grow just wasn’t there.

I think that Bill would agree that social media was good for him.  I think that Bill had a good approach to using the media with respect.  And staying human to boot.  Alas, poor Richard did not do so well.  He forgot about why it works.  And he failed miserably.

The moral of the story: In the world of social media, don’t be a Dick.

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About the Author

Mark Dykeman

Mark Dykeman is the founder and main brain of Thoughtwrestling, a blog devoted to helping you with creativity, creative thinking, idea generation techniques, problem solving and getting things done. He is also the award-winning blogger behind Broadcasting Brain. For more great ideas, follow Mark on Twitter at @markdykeman.