Tag Archives: Seth Godin

Hucksters, Hype and Honesty

“The Large Print Giveth” by Tom Fishburne

Everyone wants (or needs) to be a marketer in today’s world and they all seek different roads to success. Not all of those roads are effective, and many of them can be downright counter-productive. Being a member of a social network, or using the term social media doesn’t mean you’re using social media effectively,and you can as easily be a social media abuser as you can be a social media user.

Hucksters are, by definition abusers of the social space.  They are all over you waving their products and disrupting the online conversations of every community they participate in. Whether they didn’t read Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing , or they didn’t get the memo that marketing is conversation from the Clue Train Manifesto, these broadcasters are the online equivalent of the loud speaking movie goer or the person who spends the entire evening at a party talking to you about why you need to buy their product.  This annoying tribe is huge, comprised of people who see social spaces as a blank billboard for there personal use, and not a place where communities grow and prosper. The real estate agent who pimps their listings or open houses, the tech company that promotes their product or sales pitches thinly disguised as webinars , are seem by the overall communities online as old fashioned pitchmen or snake-oil peddlers, and have to interrupt huge segments of online communities in order to get a small number of people to respond.  Its been 119 years since  E. St. Elmo Lewis defined this process by his AIDA model, and yet for some people, this is how marketing works.

Hype is almost as annoying – people that make amazing claims and proclaim everything with excessive excitement based on nothing but their desire to be the center of online attention. Its not an uncommon type of promotion, and in fact Gartner even developed a graphic showing how it impacts the introduction of new tech products with their famous Hype Cycle that showed products moving from a “peak of inflated expectations” to a “trough of disillusionment” before reaching enlightenment and then productivity.  I’m a fan of genuine excitement, but you just can’t be excited about everything. Its the social media equivalent of typing with the Caps Lock on. when you spend all of your time SHOUTING, and everything you shout about is AMAZING, you lose the ability to emphasize anything. And after a while people just stop listening or paying attention to you. Add to that the disillusionment and disappointment that follows most hype, and it becomes an even worse choice for your online marketing.

The sweet place in social media – the place you want and need to be is where you earn the right to speak to people about your business because you have earned the ability to do so through an open honest dialogue that has created a relationship with them. To quote a line from Godin’s blog  “Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” People want to like you. They want to be connected with you – not your product, not your service, not even your company, but because they like you. The social objects that connect you to others are the places where you can build connections in a community online that wants to hear what you want to share, and in that place, you become the advocate for your service or product that the hypsters and huckster think they are. You become the real deal, not just the appearance of the real deal. It takes a little longer, but the positive impact lasts as long as you maintain your open dialogue.

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Are You Putting Lipstick on a Pig?

There’s an old saying “You can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig”.

In business the term “putting lipstick on a pig”  is a way of saying that you’re making superficial or cosmetic changes that don’t change the underlying structure of an undesirable or unattractive object. In terms of social media, its a phrase we can apply to trying to  make traditional marketing more palatable using social media channels to deliver the marketing message. Unfortunately using social media for traditional marketing doesn’t result in effective social media marketing. In fact it may even create negative consumer reaction to your efforts as they feel you have “invaded” their safe social space.

Its easy to understand why people flock to social media marketing for their businesses.  Its the latest and greatest thing. Its  free or low cost compared to older traditional methods of marketing. And everyone is speaking about it. The simplicity of the tools and their ease of use begs individuals and companies to dive in without thinking that any additional thought or training is needed. And that mean that most people will use the marketing knowledge that they have to craft their social media engagement, talking bout what is important to them at the times they think are best , to the people they choose.  But that doesn’t mean you’re engaging in social media marketing. It may mean you’re just putting lipstick on a pig.

Seth Godin’s 1999 book Permission Marketing bore the subtitle “turning strangers into friends and friends in to customers” which sums up the strength of social marketing in one sentence. Through the various channels of the Web 2.o world small  businesses and professionals are able to find online communities to interact with , and through their interaction become  trusted members of the community. Because they are trusted members of the community, members are pre-disposed to use their services or buy their goods when a need for those goods or services arises.   Sounds simple doesn’t it? It is simple, but like so many great ideas, the difficulty is in the execution.

Place a keyboard in front of us and we forget the basics of social interaction. Everyone knows that a guy who comes up to you at a party and starts talking to you about his children is a bore. And we all know that someone who comes up to you at that same party and talks to you about your kids is a fascinating conversationalist.  everyone is the star of their own movie, and to reach them in an engaging manner, you need to find out what they care about, and talk to them about that on their terms, when they are ready for a conversation. When we do that, we aren’t  putting lipstick on a pig anymore, we’re actually improving our game and increasing our value to the community and its members.

We are all experts at ignoring commercial messages and presentations. We use Tivo to skip TV commercials, we throw out our direct mail and we tune out banner ads on websites. We are sophisticated consumers that are not easily fooled, and we do not respect those individuals or companies that don’t appreciate  our sophistication. But we will vote with our feet. When social spaces become littered with too many commercial messages, we will abandon them in favor of other channels where there is less clutter.

So if we want to reach consumers in a meaningful manner – or as Seth Godin says, “turn strangers into friends and friends into customers” we need to respect their needs, speak to their issues, and provide them with value – to change our interaction at their very core – and not just put  lipstick on a pig.


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