The Social Media Revolution Was A Lie: Here’s What to do Next

Today’s article is the second in a series by Jeff Molander that highlights case studies and research focused on real businesses using social media to create leads and sales. The first article in the series is, “Want to Sell with Social Media? Get Back to Basics.”

Social media’s “game-changing” ability is so overstated and sensationalized that what you’re doing with it, right now, is probably working against your interests. How can this be? There is no money in your knowing the truth. The Social Media Revolution is a lie. Need proof? Look around. Where’s the revolution in your business? People actually acquiring customers and selling using Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and LinkedIn know the truth; they know something most of us don’t.

The difference between fooling around with social media and selling with it relies on the use of proven, time-tested (old) practices—not new tools and techniques. If your goal is to make social media marketing sell, you’ll need to start developing three habits. These are the fundamental ideas responsible for moving products and selling services using social platforms.

The Revolution will be Scrutinized

Every time there is a sizable shift in the way businesses communicate with consumers, there is always a cadre of expert people that advise that a new business paradigm has arrived, says Allan Dick, COO of Mountaintop, Pennsylvania-based Vintage Tub and Bath. “One in which traditional theories of running a business get thrown out the door. What these experts miss is that the theories (that drive ‘what works’) remain the same. It’s the ways you execute those theories that change.”

Throughout history, the breathless hype-and-spin surrounding the arrival of new technologies has been problematic. Unbridled exuberance about something new always produces a rush to adopt it. This behavior is mostly driven by fear (of being left behind, missing out on opportunity). At the same time, we experience inflated expectation about this new techno-thingy. This is always followed by regret and disillusionment,“Hooey… it’s not such a game-changer after all!” This process is pervasive and can stifle your business’s evolutionary process.

For instance, as part of my own research I met direct television infomercial sellers struggling with YouTube because they’re following the edicts of overzealous, misguided social gurus. Meanwhile, their competitors are trusting instincts and sticking with proven success principles to drive sales. Business-to-business sellers likewise struggle from lack of confidence in what they already know works. Yet some, like telecommunications giant, Avaya, stick to their finding and closing six-figure contracts using platforms like Twitter.

By throwing out the hyped-up, over-blown, supposedly game-changing, technical aspects of the social web for a moment, we can re-frame the entire context of the business opportunity staring us in the face: to evolve marketing, not re-invent it. Let’s discover how you can join the ranks of Avaya, Logan Services, and others like them by both shifting perspective at 50,000 feet and taking action, strategically.

The Three Habits

The fundamental concepts powering effective social marketing programs are rooted in a return to basic practices. Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on developing these three habits:

  1. Solving customers’ problems
  2. Designing to sell (planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel)
  3. Translating (discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response rate)

How to Sell by Solving Problems

The truth is compelling. Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing, and  earning a purchase are already known. Successful social sellers are designing interactions in ways that solve customers’ problems. This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services.

Solving customers problems has always been a successful way to produce awareness, interest, desire, and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media is inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish. The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter re-tweets (or other nonsensical yet popular recommendations we often hear).

Get Customers to Ask Questions That Connect to Products

Making social sell is simply a matter of facilitating and then connecting question-and-answer oriented, digital conversations to helpful products and services whenever they’re relevant. It’s an old idea that you can leverage to drive sales with “new,” social media.

Think about it in your own life. Have you ever found yourself suddenly more equipped to make a purchase based on knowledge you suddenly became aware of? Think about it in your business, outside the Internet. Do you publish white papers, magazine articles, or other self-diagnosis tools to help customers become more clear on problems, avoid risk, or exploit unseen opportunities? Are you doing it in ways that occasionally connect with your products or services?

Beware. Just like cranking out white papers or information-dense brochures, earning sales takes more. Success requires relevancy and earning response from customers. That means making a habit of inducing customer behavior with every tweet, post, or update you make on social platforms. And that takes a plan, a designed system of question-and-answer driven interactions.

Beware of Gurus in Consultants Clothing

Again, beware. Paradigm shifts and “total game-changers” are a goldmine for gurus and self-appointed experts pushing flash-in-the-pan software, books (full disclosure: I wrote a social media book) and consulting services. There’s nothing wrong with making a living, but beware of misguided advice designed to scare otherwise rational business people into making irrational, hasty investments and spending money on ideas that don’t work.

Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on developing three key habits. We’ll explore the other habits in more detail in days ahead.

About Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell and corporate trainer to small businesses and global corporations like IBM and Brazil’s energy company, Petrobras. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He’s adjunct digital marketing professor at Loyola University’s school of business and author of Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.


Blog: Off the Hook Blog


You can find Jeff on Twitter @jeffreymolander.

24 Responses to The Social Media Revolution Was A Lie: Here’s What to do Next

  1. Patrick Allmond says:

    I want to marry you. Where have you been for the past 5 years? :) 

  2. Patrick…
    Checking out your Disqus comments. Wow. We’re on the same page and share the same passionate feelings about all the bull being dished out by gurus. Cheers!

  3. jdgershbein says:

    Outstanding post!  Never cared for the term “guru.”  Hate the connotation. 

    • I think the term guru is fine. People have to market themselves and self-promotion is the name of the game is most industries. But the hype that a particular technology has swooped down on us to overhaul tried and true marketing needs to be called out.

  4. I’ve never known someone to research me by Disqus comments. Very slick. Keep up the good work. Let’s connect online in the usual spots, and let me know if I can every help you with anything. I’m going to go do a short Google+ video about your post. 

    • Just click on Disqus. You can see your comments all on one page. You don’t have a profile there since you’ve not chose to set one up. But this aggregation feature is GREAT. The more you comment (strategically in particular) the more you might find value in having your comments archived in one place. This way you can re-purpose your gem comments (if you need to do that kind of thing). On the other side (mine in this case) people can get a quick look at your views scattered across various blogs powered by Disqus.

  5. Judy Caroll says:

    There are no overnight miracles.  Even success in social media takes time, takes more relationships and interactions. =D Thanks for all the knowledge Jeff.  

  6. Hey Jeff – I thought you’d like this (tongue in cheek). People are now getting their social media tips from Ricki Lake (yes THAT Ricki Lake)

    • She can be exactly who she is on Twitter. Elsewhere? She’s a big fake. Hmm.

      The qualifications for “social media expert” or CEO of a social media agency is this:

      Someone who uses it and is in their 20’s.

      I’d better stop my rant there 🙂

      • Don’t hate when you see me referred to as a SM expert 🙂 It is a label that has been slung on me that has helped get more business and visibility. I am the Social Media Expert for 2 TV stations here in OKC. 

  7. Pat Grady says:

    I can’t believe I used to think you were an idiot.  Tables turned on that one Jeff, Bravo Zulu.

    • Pat… THANKS for pointing at this. I had not seen it. Check this:

      “People need to understand what it can do for a brand and what it can’t
      do. Facebook doesn’t really differ from mass media. It’s great to get
      decent reach, but to change the way people interact with a brand
      overnight is just unrealistic.”

      Wholly crap. The dumbing down of online marketing is complete: Facebook cannot grow beyond mass media. This is a LIE.

      As I’ve blogged in the past people like Amanda Kinsella are selling HVAC units on Facebook. HELLO!

      Point being: If you treat it like mass media (and measure it with inherently limited metrics like “People are Talking About This” you won’t ever get to “People are Buying This.” My gosh, what grade are we in?

      Mass media serves a purpose, of course. For instance, Amanda uses local TV and radio ads to drive people to her Facebook page where she then captures leads… and follows up to convert them to service contract and product sales.

      Question: Why are we so hung up on “the brand” and not “the process that leads to a sale?”

      Answer: There is an entire industry set up to keep most of us believing that Facebook is a mass media opportunity (Likes, friends, buzz). And this industry puts a LOT of money in its pocket selling the FAILED promise of “branding” (a concept that is still not universally defined–decades later; why? because it’s snake oil heaven!).

      “So why are we so enthusiastically supportive of the myth of The Thing That Will Change Everything? Simple. It’s the Age of Hysteria. Keeping our clients in a state of anxiety is just plain good business.”

      — Bob Hoffman (The Ad Contrarian)

  8. Social media is only a game changer if you know how to use it properly for your business.  Not every social strategy should look the same for every company.  The bottom line is that in order for social media to work to your benefit, you need to be active in social and you need to communicate with target audience members.  Just having a page won’t get you anywhere.  

    • seogear says:

      I think social media, first of all, this is not a tool for sales, and the mechanism of building relationships with customers that will result in an increase in sales.

  9. Time is the major key in the process of social media marketing techniques pursued through white hat technique will always result in a better way

  10. At the heart of the social media revolution lies an apparently logical assumption: that somehow social media marketing which devolves into .

  11. Sometimes it makes me laugh. People seem to think if you open a twitter account,linked in and facebook, all you have to do is wait and watch the traffic grow. All Social media sites do is promote your website in the end but social media sites need promoting too which can sometimes take away resources that your main domain requires. Yes, use social media sites but they are NOT the beginning and the end of digital marketing.

  12. FeliciaCorrine says:

    Social media will help to improve your business only if we
    act in the right way. We have build traffic through various ways increase the
    visibility of our site. You can use the social media to build more contacts
    that will help to maximize your business. In addition to it, in any business,
    customer is the king and social media will help you to have a good interaction
    with your customer.

  13. I agree with the point that Allan Dick has mentioned. There is always a new way that is found to communicate with the consumers. The theory of business remains the same but the methods of implementing it varies. Since Social medias are widely in use, businesses have started using them in order to cover the maximum crowd.

  14. Time is the major key in the process of social media marketing techniques pursued through white hat technique will always result in a better way