June 24, 2020 by John Herrington in Strategy

Quit Trying to Go Viral

Yep. A week later and we’re still taking notes from Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s latest book Social Media Success for Every Brand. Not too far into the first chapter, Diaz references the recurring client request for a celebrity’s plug on their socials. To her clients, going viral is synonymous with success. “If we could just get Mark Cuban to retweet one of our tweets.” Sure, if Cuban gave me a shout out in the twittersphere, I’d probably lose my mind. Within the hour, I’d make sure everyone I’ve ever known was aware that Cuban and I were tight. But we’re talking sustainable, social media strategy here- and the one hit wonder of a Mark Cuban retweet isn’t it.

Going viral isn’t the answer- unless there is a careful plan for maximizing attention from a focused burst of intense social media and a purpose for doing so.

Right there. Without a plan and a purpose, viral won’t do anything for you. Ortiz defines proper Social Media Marketing as having three main components. Brand Marketing, Direct Marketing and the Engagement Ladder. Let’s break it down again.

Brand Marketing
Digital media, social media and PR. The primary goal of Brand Marketing is awareness and engagement. Through your socials and your online presence, you are working to build a reputation around your brand. The tweets, the insta stories and the Facebook polls. All of these work to establish the culture and the voice behind your product. Let’s revisit the Cocktail Party analogy. Brand Marketing is standing out and making a great impression. Think less hair gel, more quality conversation.

Direct Marketing
The goal here is to make a sale. You need a direct call to action. If you’re thinking the Home Shopping Network at 2AM, you’re spot on. You want that vegetable peeler that can also peel through a titanium vault? Call now. Buy now. Click here. The actual, tangible step for the customer to purchase your product or service. Sadly, the old school nature of Direct Marketing often gets a bad rap. Straight up asking for something isn’t always so nicely considered direct- some would call it bad manners. But if the goal of marketing is sales, then asking directly is a necessary evil. You can only beat around the bush for so long before you lose your audience. It is okay to initiate a transaction. It is okay– dare I say it- to ask for their money. The key is to go about it with tact and strategy. Think less of a command and more of an invitation.

Engagement Ladder
And now, the magic carpet that gets you from Brand Marketing to Direct Marketing. You’ve made the proper introductions and you’ve set the tone. You’re several punch lines in and you have their attention. And then… silence. Imagine that. Back at the Cocktail Party. You have the room, the crowd is mesmerized by your story- the one about the stolen golf cart from Freshman Year- and then suddenly, you stop talking. Totally mute. Yeah, it’s weird. Are you uncomfortable? Me too. The Engagement Ladder is how you keep the conversation going. The goal is to “pique existing and potential followers’ interest enough to get them to further engage by moving (forward).” The ‘rungs’ of your ladder might look different from someone else’s, but each step is intended to move the customer closer to the point of purchase. 

Quick recap for the kids in the back. Effective Social Media Marketing is using the platform you’ve created by Brand Marketing to move up the rungs of your Engagement Ladder, eventually arriving to Direct Marketing. Big takeaway- the jackpot of ‘going viral’ is not all it’s cracked up to. I remember going to Rangers’ games as a kid (I miss you, baseball), and desperately hoping to get on the jumbotron. Face painted, glove in the air, I would chicken dance my heart out in hopes of spotting myself on the big screen. Sadly, little John never had his break. But say I had- and for what? Three seconds of fame earned for nine straight innings of me acting a fool? Not worth it. Maintaining a socials presence in hopes of the ‘big break’ is no different. For all that hard work, you very well might get your 15 minutes, but it’s not likely, and it’s sure not sustainable.

So, please. Stop trying to go viral. Start trying to build a brand.

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