Let’s get one thing clear up front: Your friends who assault your social news feeds aren’t stupid. They hate bad marketing as much as you do. But they’re enthusiastic. They’re putting themselves out there.
The problem is the way they do it is so irritating you want to de-friend them and petition they be banned from the internet. You aren’t stupid either. You also hate bad marketing.
You’d think that, as citizens of the internet, they too have experienced the annoying head buzz of blatant, chincy self-promotion and would swear it off, as you no doubt have done already—repeatedly.
But they’re enthusiastic, and here is the scary thing: you could become enthusiastic too.
One day you wake up, and you have a business opportunity. It’s great, but you have zero marketing. Pushed by the need to make a living and pulled by the desire to succeed, you turn to the place where you have the loudest voice: your social network.
And the cycle perpetuates.
Effort is noble, but there is no nobility in assaulting people with conversion demands. People must be won over thoughtfully. In social media, marketing to friends is not about getting them to engage you, but for you to engage them.
You Can Do Social Right
There is good news: you can leverage your social network to drum up business or spread the word. But it requires more than a goldfish level of aforethought. It requires a strategy that puts your audience ahead of your own needs. That’s the whole secret, right there. That, and keeping in mind that your glorious product or service is not the answer to their needs. Not in the context of Facebook.
So how do you put your audience first so you can make some money?
First consider your approach. Rather than assaulting your friends with a full frontal attack, seek to position yourself. That means that, in a way, they find you. But, that doesn’t mean being passive. You still have a lot of work to do.
What do people already like doing? Think about Facebook specifically? What actions make you smile, or interested? I’ll save us the classroom banter and hand you the one I’m looking for: celebration.
“Yay, I survived my first semester of college!” … you click “like”.
“Yay, we had a baby!” … you click “like”.
“Yay, I transferred to a better part of the company.” … you click “like”.
Now here we go:
“Yay, I officially launched my new business today! So excited!” … you click “like”.
See what I did there? It is easy to celebrate with people. It is one of the several activities we like to do. When they posted about their new company, they met your need to celebrate and you liked it. And they didn’t spoil it with a crappy commercial in the message.
Without overdoing it you could do what we sometimes call a diary entry:
“Drove by a house with a dried out lawn. Could have used the ole Cumberbatch Landscaping touch. Maybe I’ll drop them a card.”
You can also position yourself in your friends mind as an expert.
“Just a friendly reminder that this years tax laws allow for a marshmallow exemption. Carry on!”
Also, you can prove expertise by answering questions.
Notice a distinct lack of a call to action. There is a time and a place to straight up ask for someones business. Social media is not the place.
One of the best ways to get social attention is to be clever. Post a meme or interesting image and relate it to your business:
That passes what is called the “cleverness test”. The cleverness test says: will this post make someone feel smart or clever by sharing it? Here is a real life example of a post that was so clever I had to reshare it:
Cleverness test, passed.
But remember one really important thing: Don’t demean customers! This also seems obvious, but people do it, and it’s bad. Don’t do it. And consider not doing it to a potential customer either.
Also important: Don’t be a dick. (You knew that was coming at some point.) The smartphone image above was posted in the spring when everyone was thinking about warmth and travel. If you posted it in a conversation about popular smartphone apps, you’d look like a smart-ass downer. Don’t do that either.
Incentives are probably the most aggressive thing you could do without becoming an irritant, and even then you have to be careful. If you offer real value toward a good product or service, they actually pass the cleverness test.
“Refer a friend and get your next photo shoot half price.”
Milquetoast offers don’t pass the cleverness test. Especially early in your business, go extreme. Why not? If you can cover expenses, work for free some of the time! That’s not to say have crappy low prices. Have high prices that authentically reflect your true value, but also consider huge booster promotions to break the undertow of your obscurity.
“Get a coupon code for 15% off…” STOP
Make it a real offer, and consider limiting the available quantity. That will add urgency and make the sharers feel even more clever.
Also, don’t make an offer your first move. If people feel the need to research what you’re doing first the offer will lose momentum. When you have done good positioning as I described earlier, your friends won’t hesitate to take the two seconds needed to share your offer.
Last on my list of approaches, consider soliciting input. Asking a question is a common technique of social engagement but you can put a finer point on it when it is among friends:
“Going to the trade show today: Red tie, or blue?”
Leverage Social Proof
Social proof is evidence that other people actually like your service. If you are small, avoid things like displaying total number of likes. That is actually anti-social proof. In fact, I’ve seen 12,000 likes serve as anti-social proof when competitors are boasting millions.
But, leveraging modules like the ones that let you see which friends like your page, it only takes one to speak volumes. Have you seen an ad on Facebook, accompanies with: “So-and-so and four other friends like this.” You sometimes pay attention.
This article isn’t about social proof, but it is a marketable by-product of good social marketing. One that particularly applies to your circle of friends, because they are more likely to recognize each other.
Asking for likes is another no-no. Think about it: do you like it when people ask you for likes? You don’t. Draw your friends to your page and they will decide to like it. They know how.
Here Are the Real Secrets in List Form
So think of this as your little black book of secret ideas:
Remember that enthusiasm is good, but it must be properly channeled or you will do stupid things, make no money, and lose all your friends. There is no limit to what and how you post, but never forget the underlying mandate that the post itself (rather than the subject of the post) must serve the audience.
As a starting point, try posting one of each of the six types of posts described above.
Oh, and did I mention: SHARE THIS TO 15 FRIENDS RIGHT NOW