The 7 Harsh Realities of
Social Media Marketing

image of boxer taking a punch

Last Friday I was in Atlanta, where I gave a talk on social media marketing at Dan Kennedy’s InfoSUMMIT conference.

I’m something of a fish out of water at a Glazer-Kennedy event. For example, unlike at Blogworld, I’m the only person in a room of 800 who has pink hair.

I wasn’t sure they’d be too receptive to what I had to say, but they surprised me.

They were warm, welcoming, and extremely interested in my no-shortcuts, no-magic-beans answers to their questions about how to use social media for marketing and business.

So in honor of Dan Kennedy, who sometimes styles himself as the “Professor of Harsh Reality,” I thought I’d talk today about some of the not-so-kumbaya aspects of social media marketing.

Harsh Reality #1: No one is reading your blog

As far as anyone can figure, there are about 200 million blogs around the world. Technorati tells us there are about 900,000 blog posts made every 24 hours.

The world is not waiting breathlessly to hear what you have to say about losing weight with acai berries, making big money as an affiliate marketer, or how to join your Secrets of the Breakthrough Millionaire Insider Guru Mastermind Platinum Club.

Me-too content gets ignored. Scraped and remixed junk won’t cut it. There’s too much good content that you need to compete with. And there’s no magic system that can replace sitting in front of your keyboard and producing something that somebody wants to read. (Or partnering with someone who can.)

If you don’t have a great answer to the question “Why should anyone read your blog?” you’re going to be pretty unhappy with your results. That’s why we spend so much time teaching you how to produce better, smarter, more effective content.

Harsh Reality #2: You’ve got to give (some of) your best stuff away

It’s very natural to expect to get paid for what you do. And you should have a business model that leads to exactly that.

But first, you’ve got some dues to pay.

Commenter Corree Silvera mentioned her favorite Brian Clark quote from this year’s Blogworld Expo:

Don’t sacrifice a lot of money later for a little money now.

The answer to the question in Harsh Reality #1, “why should anyone read your blog?” is that you’re going to give away some of your best, most valuable, most life-improving material away for free, within a well-defined content marketing plan.

Just remember Sean d’Souza’s bikini concept. You can give 90% of it away, but there will always be people who will happily pay to see that last 10%.

Harsh Reality #3: It will eat your life (if you let it)

Social media marketing would be pretty easy if we never had to eat, sleep, shower, or hang out with our kids.

But if doing those things is important to you, you’re going to have to set some boundaries.

Know what you want to do with social media, keep yourself focused, and set a timer if you have to. The tools are amazing, but so is their power to distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish.

Harsh Reality #4: Social media hates selling

Is there anything more pitiful than that guy who gets on Twitter and won’t shut up about how he can put you in a condo today with no money down despite your lousy credit rating? Even the spammers are blocking this dude.

It’s really hard to sell products and services in social media, mostly because this audience hates salespeople worse than they hate Microsoft. You may be able to get some limited success out of it, but more likely you’ll be banned, blocked, shunned, and abused.

Instead of promoting a product or service, promote fantastic content. Promote a great special report or an amazingly valuable email course. Promote wonderful stuff that you’re giving away.

Use excellent free stuff to build authority and trust. Then you have the right to make an offer and possibly do some business. Not before.

Harsh Reality #5: What they say is a million times more important than what you say

Your marketing might be beautifully executed. You might have a special report that goes more viral than H1N1, a great-looking blog that hits Digg twice a day, and an email marketing sequence that copywriting genius Gene Schwartz would have been proud to write.

If your reputation sucks, none of it matters.

People with lousy products, crummy business practices, and shady backgrounds get found out. And word spreads with frightening speed.

Treat people right, because if you don’t, you will be exposed. And it will not be pretty.

Harsh Reality #6: A blog is not a marketing plan

Blogs are cool, but a single useful tool isn’t the same thing as a solid business and marketing plan.

Blogs are just one way to get your best content out there, and they work best when you pair them up with email autoresponders, special reports, Twitter, and any of a dozen other powerful tools.

Just hanging out and being cool isn’t enough. If you’re in social media to do business, you have to develop a strategy for taking mildly interested strangers and turning them into raving fans . . . and customers.

Harsh Reality #7: You don’t get to opt out

Businesses that think they can ignore all this “Twitter stupidity” tend to get painfully rude awakenings.

The conversation will happen with or without you. You definitely don’t need to respond to every chucklehead with a Facebook account (and you shouldn’t), but you need to keep your ear to the ground, and you need a clue.

OK, enough about harsh reality already! If you want our best advice about what to do to create a great online business, subscribe to Internet Marketing for Smart People, the Copyblogger email newsletter. It’s some of our best stuff, no junk, no fluff. And of course we will never, ever spam you or share your information with anyone.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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  1. There is a lot of truth to this, which is (I think) why many traditional marketers struggle when it comes to developing an effective presence in social media.

    I especially like Harsh Reality #3 – It will eat your life. This is true — as a small business person I have to be very careful and put myself on a social media diet – a bite here and bite there goes a very long way.

  2. Sonia,

    #1 You have pink hair? Since when?

    #2 This has got to be one of my favorite posts in Copyblogger. Awesome points, every single one. It sums up what you and Brian discussed in Freelance X Factor about content marketing.

    #3 Perhaps another harsh reality is: you won’t make money right away. What do you think?

    Lexi

  3. Good write Sonia.

    I’d like to add a cool social aspect of business I read about today.

    Lots of bloggers and business folks go to places like Starbucks, open their laptops and do their own solitary thing. They miss an opportunity to be salesy in a social type of way.

    They could put a sticker on the back side of their laptop that lets everyone know about their business.

    You can put your URL, your twitter handle, your business name, etc and it’s like a social/marketing billboard invitation for people to come up and ask more about you and your business.

    People WILL check you out with their laptop, find out more information about you, and will come up and chat because they feel they know you already…and they actually will.

  4. Great summary of Social Media realities. In our experience, there are about 30% of small business owners thinking…”if I blog it, they will come”, another 30% saying…”what if someone says something bad about my company (especially a competitor)”, and the remaining 40% who are oblivious to the entire movement.

    You’ve really grasped the meat here. I would just add Harsh Reality #8 – there’s no quick fix, no one size fits all solution. Each small business has to develop its own social media identity just like its own brand.

    Nice work!

  5. “More Viral than H1N1″ love it!

  6. Hey Sonia,

    Being remarkable is the most crucial aspect of your blog and marketing. It is the core from which everything else builds off of.

    If your foundation is solid, then you can build your house, tweak stuff, re-build certain aspects, add another level, and so forth. But if you slapdash the most essential aspect, then no matter how sweet that house is, it will collapse under a weak foundation.

    Like you mentioned, no one cares about you, your blog, your message. There are a billion-trillion blogs forming – every MINUTE. You have to answer the “why” question:

    Why should I care?
    Why should I read/follow you?
    Why should I add you to my daily routine?
    Why should I be interested in your value?

    If you can’t answer that to each potential reader that stumbles onto your site and social media profiles, then nothing else matters.

    You have to make that foundation as solid as possible.

    Great list, the other 6 harsh realities are essential as well. In fact, a few were a nice reminder for me, so thank you for that.

    Best,
    Oleg

    Oleg

  7. Shane, that’s a fantastic idea and makes me wonder if there is already a business built around that. If not, who wants to partner to make it happen? :)

  8. @Nathan: Send me my bird-dog commission when you do! ;)

  9. Brilliant post. It’s so easy to (wrongly) assume that social media is a quick fix, or that magic bullet.

    It’s also easy to assume that because so much of it is free, and easy to engage with, that little work is involved. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    Social media marketing is perhaps the most difficult marketing of all. You can’t just throw money at it. It takes time and it takes thought.

    “The conversation will happen with or without you.” This could well be the motto of social media. Especially for selling it to the unconverted.

  10. @Nathan P.S.

    If Starbucks is smart, they should offer this Laptop Sticker service as part of their product line.

  11. Amen Sonia! Bloggers and marketers need to realize and do so soon that social media/social networking is not the magic pill to a successful anything.

  12. Great points all around that the “uber harsh reality” is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Unfortunately, there are a few faux gurus selling the equivalent of social media sea monkeys. Just add water, makes its own success!

  13. As with all forms of social marketing, persistence and consistency are key.

  14. “Social media sea monkeys” :-)

    Could be a great product range…

  15. @Mark, you know, I was thinking the same thing even as I typed that. :)

    @Lexi, yes, pink! Very pink. :)

  16. Great post and definitely true. Social media overkill can get in the way of living. Nothing or should I say no level of Blogsville success or real life success is more important than time with family. I say find a happy medium. That way…you get to shower, eat, feed your kids (and pets) and spend time starring in the reality show known as your life :)

  17. RReally, SMM should be a component to a marketing plan. Add in an honest and genuine brand, a couple healthy tablespoons of hitting the SEO bricks, 2 cups of good ol’ fashioned hard work on the front end, one gallon of a business plan, and bake in a pre-heated perserverance of no less than six months.

    Sea monkeys! Love that analogy.

  18. Social Media was never about “you” anyway.

    Thanks.

  19. Sonia,

    saw you speak in Atlanta last week – you and Mari Smith have made the impossible happen for me: after months of reluctance, I opened a Facebook and Twitter account.

    Great speech, rich content as always – thanks!

  20. LOL @ the social equivalent of sea monkeys. You’ve got that right. When you think about it, there’s nothing “amazing” about an honest brand, real value and great service trumping a million followers/friends/fans. But when you tell people to base their marketing on those core principles, they think you’re the social marketing messiah. *rolleyes*

  21. Heh, Gabor, we’ve recruited another one with our evil wiles! Welcome to the craziness–it’s actually a lot of fun and a really neat way to do marketing.

    @David, I’m of two minds about that, it sort of is and it isn’t. If you don’t bring anything of your own, you’re just a scraper. There has to be something you bring to the conversation or why are you even there? (Unless you’re using social media purely for research and to listen to your market, which frankly is a very reasonable approach for some.)

    @Sherice, laughing, yeah, I’m so radical. :)

  22. Awesome points, right on the money.

  23. Ouch! No one is reading my blog. How are they going to know I just dyed my hair pink? (not sure this is a good look for a dude in his mid-forties or not.)

    I actually love that first point Sonia. I was thinking this week that regardless of my numbers I should really focus on celebrating those who make the choice to sign up for my blog.

    That’s really like winning the blog lottery when you think about it because with all the competition out there, their decision to sign up for your blog you is letting you know you have something worth saying that inspires them in some way or another.

    The same goes for comments. We should truly rejoice in that feat as well, because, while I don’t have any numbers to back this up, a very small % actually take the time to leave comments and add to the conversation.

  24. No magic beans indeed….Terrific post. Businesses are slow to enter the new social media marketing-place, but are often seeking quick fixes or simple strategies they can execute easily. When success doesn’t rush in, these harsh realities start to sink in.

    I wonder if there was ever a time when people were under the illusion that marketing itself was easy at all. Or that connecting with audiences was a snap. Why should social media be any different? Social media marketing is just evolved marketing in a new context.

  25. These are definitely some things to keep in mind. There’s so much information out there, and sometimes it’s tough to keep focused on the right things.

  26. Your harsh realities I see as really valuable opportunities for businesses, especially small businesses and self-employed professionals who (I believe) have an infinitely strong advantage on being very close (as in exactly what) to what they are promoting. This becomes especially apparent in giving free content and having a damn good reason someone should look at yours (and again why a blog is not a marketing plan but a platform tool). Okay I promise no more parentheses!

    The social media savvy small business will see the value in giving away free content that contains the essence of their competitive advantage. As I encourage the self-employed business owners I work with not to sell the ebooks that they pay me hundreds or thousands of dollars to write, I often have to explain that there is much more potential revenue in not selling that content. If you don’t sell that content, it can be accessed by anyone willing to give you a chance–something people are much more willing to do if it won’t cost them anything. Combine that with content that matters and you nuke the competition, you rocket-launch your platform: free content leads to business.

    Pink hair huh? That’s really hard to pull off. Congrats to you. I really enjoyed your points and I’ll be tweeting this post.

  27. This image at the top fits great with the post. After reading it, I feel like someone punched me in the yam bag.
    I agree with a lot of stuff said but I believe that if you provide quality posts, you will float to the top. If you want to write about something, and you see that people are writing about the same thing on dozens of blogs – you ask yourself “Can I do this better? Can my posts be more understandable? Can I make it easier for people?”.

    Then if the answer is yes, you got for it!

  28. Ouch! Great post, Sonia. Best read of the week for me.

    Middle-aged CEOs who don’t get social media marketing should be required to read this before telling their PR people to start “engaging in social media”.

    It takes commitment, effort, a large slice of skill and plenty of luck to build an audience, whip them into a tribe and then monetize them.

    The blogosphere and social mediaverse are getting harder places to compete and it’s going to get harder.

  29. There’s definitely an over-abundance of me-too blogs. There are even more me-too tweets. Unfortunately, I think these are social media’s collateral damage.

  30. @Jessie, the funny thing about the pink hair is that it’s so natural to me that it doesn’t seem to bug anyone. At the GKIC event, I was quite conservatively dressed in black, white and gray. If I’d gone in with torn jeans & a Sex Pistols t-shirt, the pink hair probably would have seemed disrespectful, like I was thumbing my nose at more traditional business. But as it was, it just made people curious as hell. :)

    @Gordon, yeah, I knew I had the right photo when I found the one that made me feel like I do when a post bombs. ;)

    @John, I think there’s some dark part of my soul that’s still trying to convince CEOs of big dumb companies to get a clue. You’d think I’d be over it by now! (Been there, done a lot of that.)

  31. There is a lot of truth to your post and I enjoy reading anything you write but . . .

    there’s just a smack we know the “right way, wrong way” to do Social Media about this post the worries me.

    First off, #1 – I tell people no one wants to read your blog, but do it anyway because the search engines want to read that you have something to say that a local surfer in your target group might stumble upon – even a crappy blog is worth doing if you write what people search. – I don’t advocate that, but it’s there.

  32. @ Sonia very true. I was probably a little vague. Agreed, unless you bring something of value that gives to the community could be wasting time or space.

    I look at it as sowing and reaping. What you give will come back (the good, the bad, or nothing at all)

  33. @John, that’s a fair point, but if you write for search engines rather than potential customers, you severely limit the success you’ll get on the other side of that clickthrough.

    The danger I think you may be pointing to is that the perfect can become the enemy of the good. A bad blog is better than no blog (if nothing else, it builds some authority on your domain). But an imperfect blog worth reading is a goal worth pursuing, IMO.

  34. John, all I see Sonia trying to do is let people know that any kind of effective marketing takes work. We don’t want the “Get Rich Quick With Social Media” people controlling perceptions, now do we? ;)

  35. @Brian – Amen, of course not, but I guess what I also encounter (remember I’m talking to small biz folks) is that it’s not really that much work, it’s just common sense marketing and social media is just a platform it’s not a strategy on it’s own.

    @Sonia – wish I could have been there as I’m certain you were brilliant and you are so right, people want to be told, by someone they can trust, what’s the right way to do something that feels new and confusing.

    Here’s my harsh reality though – we’re all making it harder than it is!

  36. Is it too fangirl if I say all of them are my favorite?

    Seriously. People get all cranky about the “nobody reads your blog” one, but it’s true. Of all the people with internet access, how many of them give a shit about what you write or who you are?

    That can be depressing, but if you look at it like, “How can I MAKE them give a shit?”, you get your power back. It’s not depressing, it’s empowering.

  37. It’s great that you mention that “social media will eat your life.” We need this message spoken about more. It’s a truth that many people don’t want to admit because we all fall victim to the rat race of social media. And many times the relationships that we should be working on the most are sacrificed. I try to set boundaries because I know if I don’t then my social media pursuits are contradictory and worthless in the end.

    other than that..nice post Sonia! ;)

  38. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

    A new blog.

    Harsh Reality #8: Everyone wants to believe the “problem” with their blog lies in something other than their content. No matter what you think, it’s probably the content.

    Harsh Reality #9: You have to work your ass off before you can throttle back even a little bit.

    Harsh Reality #10: It ALL comes back to copywriting. Stuff doesn’t pass itself around on social media, it’s powered by must-click headlines.

    Now, you have a 10-point list. :)

  39. Ha, I love it Michael, thanks!

  40. This post is dead on, Sonia, and I’ll have to jump on the chorus about “no reads your blog.” The blogosphere is absurdly small and insular when you think about.

    Sure, we all know who Seth is, but, just the other day, I was talking to someone and I mentioned Seth Godin and then had to explain who Seth Godin was and why she should care. People aren’t reading his blog, so what does that say about your blog?

    But I’m wondering how many of us will miss what I think the harshest reality is: “what they say is a million times more important than what you say.” Though you talk about it in terms of not treating people right, there’s also room to think about the good things people are saying about us – instead of spending so much time trying to get people to listen to us, maybe we should be spending more time getting people to talk about us.

    We’ve got to make that easier for people to do, and giving them our best stuff goes a long way. Better to have 5 people spread how awesome you are than to have 10 that found that out on their own.

  41. It is all about trust.

    The most successful ideas and strategies were based on trusting someone at the other end I don’t mention this that much, but when my grandfather ran for U.S Senate in Florida in ’70, he limited campaign contributions. People thought he was nuts. They thought he couldn’t win without gobs of money.

    But, he trusted that if the people wanted him elected, and he put his best content out there, they would make the right decision for themselves. They would see the value in what he was getting them to “opt in” to.

    This idea is echoed now. How do we get people to create a community in OUR site? How do we get people to hand over personal info like emails, phone numbers and the like?

    It’s simple. Having a solution to a problem you KNOW is there-no one that you think would be great to solve.

    That grand notion is not worth much if no one is looking for you to scratch their back.

    Great ideas Sonia.

  42. @michael, must click headlines indeed :)

  43. Three cheers for the pink-haired social media sea monkeys that also have relatives in Uncle Milton’s Ant (Networked) Farms, Magic Capsule Sponge Animals (just add water & the Internet for growth) and the Invisible Ink Magic Pens (we have the secret social media sauce invisible to your customers but guaranteed to draw them in).

    Great post with lots of truth and social media sea monkey snarkiness. I like snarky!

  44. I like this post and agree with most of the points, but the last one I don’t. We just don’t know which social media spheres are the future. Is it facebook? Is it twitter? Is it a blog? I think businesses should use them, but integrated into a larger plan.

  45. Hey Sonia –

    I didn’t realize who’s blog this was until you mentioned the “pink hair”. The only pink-haired person that I remember having a conversation with was at SES-NY. Not sure if that was in 2006 or 2007. Were you there?

  46. Damn Michael Martine stealing my idea for adding more numbers. Now I have to skip to #11:

    #11: Not everyone can do it.

    Think about it. If there was a magic formula and a turn-the-crank solution that everyone could follow, everyone would be really popular and have zillions of readers. The problem I have with any online advice that doesn’t include a smidgen of #11 is that it obscures the most harsh reality of all, which is that it is entirely possible that you can bust your ass and nobody will ever care. Like, ever.

    That truth sucks, but it should inspire people who feel they have a spark to work extra hard because they know that despite the fact that Web 2.0 gives everyone a voice, it leaves hope that it’s still possible to be heard above the noise.

    @Charlie Gilkey – That truth really sucks too. I tell people about the blogs I’ve been able to post on and they say, “Who the hell is Brian Clark, and why do people keep mocking his iPhone?”

  47. @Eric, I’d agree with that, but I still don’t think “I’m not going to do any social media because it’s a fad” is going to be viable for most businesses. Even if it’s just listening (and I think that’s a perfectly legit way to go). So Twitter may well be a fad, but using communication technology to talk about and do business isn’t. IMO.

    The flip side of that is that you can’t do every “hot” tool and you shouldn’t kill yourself trying, again, IMO. So for example, Copyblogger isn’t on Facebook even though it’s a tool that seems to be gaining good results for many businesses.

    @Johnny, I’d agree with that but with an addendum: just because you may not have the ability to create strong content (and a lot of my clients & readers feel they’re in that boat) doesn’t mean you can’t partner with someone who can. That’s the direction I think a lot of the smaller more mainstream businesses, like John J’s customers, are going to go. (Here’s the part where I go into my 20-minute pitch for my product. Buy now! Free prize inside!)

    @Eric, nope, that was another pink-haired person, I was still blonde in 2007 and also didn’t go to SES, thus dramatically reducing the odds that it was me. :)

  48. Great post. And a sobering reminder that all content and contributions online do add up to your net perceived value. Thanks for keeping us focused and aware that social media investments are not a one time event but an ongoing requirement for creating value.

  49. Oddly enough, a post about nobody reading blog posts is garnering quite a lot of buzz.

  50. Harsh Reality #4: Social media hates selling

    Let’s amend this: social media hates irrelevant, desperate smarmy and bad selling. Social media is GRATEFUL for good selling.

    You know?

    I have a half assed web presence, but on search.twitter.com I make a small fortune because when people need crap that I do, I find a numba and call ‘em up.

  51. The more you can eliminate the perceived schism between offering value and making an offer… the closer you are to the holy grail of social media-driven commerce.

    Johnny brought up a great point. There’s only so many pro basketball players, but that doesn’t stop people from playing the game because they freakin’ love it. Loving it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically become great, but it’s a good start.

  52. Sonia, you are so right in all of your points. One of the things that I like most about the trends in Social Media is how small businesses are beginning to use the internet to boost their bricks-n-mortar marketing plans.

    There are so many small business who have invested time and precious money to create a web presence only to see their web site become static and motionless. Using Social Media as part of an overall marketing plan is giving these websites a way to come to life and for these business owners find a place for their virtual presence in their real world business.

  53. Hi Sonia, definitely a splash of cold water there, but everything you say is true. We all have to dig deep and learn what we really have to offer, because we all have something unique to give. Social media is not the answer to all our problems as some so call experts would have led us to believe. But knowing that, I’ll still continue finding the best way to reach my audience., thanks again..Jimmy

  54. @Gabe, interesting, isn’t it? :)

    @Genuine Chris, yeah, they hate clumsy selling, the ham-fisted stuff people are still being taught by some sales trainers or MLM seminars. The thing I find fascinating is that “traditional” salespeople who are really good get this stuff instantly. The underpinnings don’t change, because human nature doesn’t change.

  55. Great post Sonia.
    I particularly relate to Point #2 – You’ve got to give (some of) your best stuff away
    I spent ten years of my life developing an online tool which very few people were using. Now we give it away free and our website and blog is increasing in traffic every day.
    I personally found it hard to get across the hurdle of giving away valuable things for FREE for two reasons.
    1. My parents had told me that if something was free it wasn’t very valuable
    2. If I kept giving my good stuff away, people would take advantage of me and never buy anything
    Both these reasons are of course completely incorrect and I now have proved that to be the case.

  56. I’m thinking about “No one is reading your blog” and Charlie’s comment about having to explain who Seth Godin is.

    I’m trying to keep “no one” and “everyone” in perspective, particularly since Web 2.0 has changed the big everyone into much smaller groups of everyone. Trying to reach a village is way less daunting.

  57. Your posts are always entertaining. LOL

  58. The most harsh of social media marketing to me is time consuming. Yeah, social media marketing surely will consume all of my available time if i do not find how to make it effective.

  59. My blog post = go viral = my dream. Great post Sonia!

  60. I conducted a SMM workshop today and the biggest takeaway for the audience was that SMM isn’t ‘free’ (time = money). Seems that’s a pretty big misconception.

  61. Great post! I think #8 should be: “Just when you think you’ve everything figured out, technology will change and you’ll need to change with it!”

  62. Another great post Sonia.

    These are all great points. No one is reading your blog unless you give them something “extra”. What about you or your content is different from everyone else?

    I especially like number 3 – I have many family responsibilities and putting a timer on social networking is a must! I can’t let it eat up the time needed for other things. I don’t need the wife saying, “Are you tweeting again?” After all, when the wife is unhappy, you better look out!

  63. Once small nit: “It’s really hard to sell products and services in social media, mostly because this audience hates salespeople worse than they hate Microsoft.”

    This may be true today, but the more mainstream “social media” becomes the less it will be true. Today it’s still early adopters — hard to believe, but there it is — and many of them are adopting social media specifically because they’re trying to avoid the pervasive commercialism in other media.

    Do you have more followers than Ashton Kutcher? Doubt it. Do you think “social media” as defined by *your* audience is the same “social media” that is defined by *his* audience?

    I’m convinced that if social media really is different from other media, that’s probably only true *for now*. Eventually the “old rules” will come into play … unless someone has changed human nature recently while I wasn’t looking.

  64. Welcome to the real world …

  65. Beautiful points here. Obviously from someone who does it for real…not just talks about it. Very cool post.

    One thing I take issue with is that you say “social media hates selling”, and then you go on to say you need to create value and trust first, before selling…thing is, there’s a word for that. It’s SELLING. Social media doesn’t hate selling. It hates spam.

    I think it’s an important distinction, because so many people in business these days talk as if they hate selling, but to stay in business you have to make sales! We have to study the craft of sales and learn to not fear it, because learning to sell makes the net results of your marketing far more powerful. It also makes you better able to serve your customers on a far more personal level.

    We need to stop talking about sales as if it’s the work of the devil and learn to actually do it tactfully, compassionately and professionally. By not learning how to sell, we’re not doing ourselves or our customers any favors. We’re only perpetuating a mentality that all sales people are high pressure, tactless sleazoids.

    If you have a goal to sell a product or a service…ever, you owe it to yourself, your business and your customers to actively study the art and science of sales. It will make you better at what you do.

  66. Drew – I dig your points, and I really like the way you put it. The way I explain it is the WAY people buy things is changing, but the REASON people buy things will NEVER change. People will always respond to good sales technique and marketing tactics. It’s just the way it is.

  67. Ah, I just love a cross between Dan Kennedy and Sonia!!
    I think the ultimate harsh reality is that it is work like any business.

  68. @Susan, in some ways I agree with you, although it’s so much easier than a traditional bricks & mortar. If for no other reason than you can do it with truly tiny overhead. But it’s still business and some work & brain power are called for.

    @Christian and Drew, agreed, it’s not actually selling that sets off the radar, it’s clumsy selling. But I don’t think many newcomers to social media understand how efficient the systems are at weeding out clumsy selling. They try things that might sort of work at a chamber of commerce meeting, and find themselves in the same blocked can with all the spammers. Good salespeople, I’ve found, get it immediately.

  69. You rock Sonia. Great way of putting it :) Yes I have to admit unfortunately, selling is done poorly way more often than it is done skillfully. That’s why there needs to be more people like you in the world…out there telling it like it is!

  70. Excellent post, something I’ve been wanting to read for a while. Carrying on from your final point, I think there are so many people that feel they will be sucked in to the whole Twitter thing, without realising the major impact and networking it creates for businesses of all sizes.
    Thanks for this Sonia!

  71. Yes, the new technology *allows* people to filter sales better than ever before. But will anyone except the early adopters ever do that?

    With Tivo, advertisers had a collective heart attack over people skipping commercials. But are people really doing that? “According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year.” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/business/media/02ratings.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all )

    So only half the audience is skipping commercials, and the rate is dropping. Which means a couple of things:

    1) The first people to get Tivo were doing it specifically to skip commercials. They weren’t watching them anyway. As more people get DVRs, they dilute the impact of the commercial skippers.

    2) A large portion of the audience doesn’t watch commercials *now*. DVRs just provide a way to measure that for the first time.

    In short, “These factors combined mean DVR ratings now add significantly to live ratings and thus to ad revenue.” Or put another way, “‘The DVR was going to kill television,’ said Andy Donchin, director of media investment for the ad agency Carat. ‘It hasn’t.’”

    Just like VCRs were going to kill the movie industry, and Napster was going to kill the music industry. They always want to control what and how people consume. But every time there’s another way for people to consume, they consume more of everything.

    Early adopters consume in different patterns from the general population. The industry freaks out and tries to kill the new technology. They fail, and the general public adopts it. And it turns out that they consume pretty much the same stuff they always have.

    All the major players have to do is recognize that *eventually* the “new media” is going to be just “the media”, and consumption patters will probably be about what they are now. Court the early adopters, so you’re the one left standing when that happens, and you’ll make (another) fortune.

  72. These are harsh realities are so true! The one that I don’t seem to see enough about is #3. It will indeed eat you alive if you LET it! Its imperative to make sure to set limits and stick to them. As Jim said time=money, Social Media isn’t free!

  73. excellent post with great advice! I’m continuously getting advice on social media from sales people who are aggressively trying to sell their wares in person, on the phone on online. What they don’t realize is that myself and others have tuned them out. All they want to do is sell, sell, sell. Even the spammers are blocking them- great line!

  74. I think part and parcel with harsh realities 3 and 4 is that you have to be willing to let something of yourself out on the web. The people that I’ve seen be most successful with social media treat their internet friends a lot like real friends. You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, tell your deepest, darkest secrets on your facebook page, but you need to think about the persona that you’re projecting across various social media. You sort of need people to want to be your friends, to be curious about what’s happening with you, not just what’s happening with whatever service/skill you’re trying to sell.

  75. Sonia

    Dead on and straight and to the point. People are not reading your blog Your reputation is what will get people to read your blog, comment, trust and buy from you. Blogs that get read are those that consistently produce great content by giving something away – that may be an opinion of the blogger, a top secret free item or news or something. A blog has to give something away for people to find value to take time out of their day to read and return.

    Free is an opportunity to share and build trust with people, it is not a burden.

    I am on the fence with the selling. Yes, social media hates it but having a presence and engaging people is selling, right? Yes we have profiles and build relationships -relationships to enhance our lives. That part is not selling however the fine line is when they find out what we do as a natural course of building relationships and when we tell them isn’t that selling?

  76. “Don’t sacrifice a lot of money later for a little money now”

    This is what most of bloggers hasn’t realized yet, they must give out their best first before something comes in return

  77. Suzanne – I agree with your perception of sales. That’s how I feel about it. It seems the word “sales” is touchy because of how often it’s been abused in the past by so many people. The fact remains though that selling is mandatory…if you want to stay in business that is :)

    There is no “selling without selling”. You’re either selling or you’re not.

  78. #3 is a killer FERSHIZZLE. Especially when you have a full time day job in addition to young kids and your own ittybiz, ack!

    Also, big thanks for the link to Scott Stratten’s “wake-up moment” at Denny’s, Sonia. That’s some seriously powerful stuff.

  79. I agree 100% that you need to have a strong marketing plan. Also would like to add that it is a continuous effort. I find that many people expect instant success, get discouraged, and drop their marketing. It takes time, patience , and persistence to be successful. Don’t forget to set limits and keep focused.

    All the best!

    Monique

  80. Christian

    It does go back to the abusers who have for lack of better terms abused the sales process and have sold people before they knew them. There is no changing that and I agree there is no selling without selling as merely telling someone what you do is selling. Not a hard sell of buy from me but still a sell.

  81. @Suzanne, I agree with that. It’s selling that “feels like selling” (particularly to people who aren’t in the business of selling) that tends to get weeded out.

    The other side is waffling on for six or seven years because you’re afraid to ever make a call to action. That doesn’t do you any good either. One of the neat things for me about Copyblogger as a resource is the way we blend social media trust & community with more traditional persuasive technique that copywriting (which is, of course, “salesmanship in print”) has been doing for a very, very long time.

  82. We are all selling, ourselves or service or product, we sell all the time. We sell our friends by suggesting them to others or recommend a service. That is what word of mouth is, selling.

    Hard selling is the evil, “BUY NOW” is the issue or tricks like bait and switch topics.

    Somethings else to note is business react they do not think it through. Normally it is not better to be first but to be just better. Think through your blog, twitter feeds and other social networking tools.

  83. Suzanne – looks like we’re on the same page for sure :) It’s cool running into someone who’s not afraid to call a spade a spade :)

    Sonia – terrific point, exactly…copyblogger has been rocking this stuff for years. Michel Fortin and others…copywriting is definitely “salesmanship in print”. Great way of putting it.

  84. Right on about not sacrificing a lot of money later for a little money now. It’s so obvious, but such an easy one to miss.

    And I love the picture you painted of your pink hair at the Kennedy event!

    Thanks for another great post, Sonia. And for the link to IMFSP. I think that list is going to get very big very fast :)

  85. Sonia, this post hits it hard, and is a great level set on what marketers are up against when they begin their quest for a successful social media marketing program. I love see how their eyes start to get wider, and the panic sets in, when we start to go over what the social marketing program will entail. That is when they realize how much help they really need in doing this b/c most businesses are not publishers. And that is what you need to be in this “new normal” marketing world.

  86. Harsh Reality #2: You’ve got to give (some of) your best stuff away is the hardest to get past, but its exactly what needs to happen. So many people out there want to know about a concept, but are incapable of pulling it off.

  87. @Tom, it seems to divide into two camps, those who don’t want to give anything away, and those who want to give all of it away and aren’t comfortable selling any of it. Copyblogger is the place to come if you’re not crazy about either of those. :)

  88. Great advice, I def. wrote down a few notes that really can help our blog where I work. We’ve been pretty successful, but need consistent success. I love love love the bikini success model, hilariously true!

  89. Social media, blogging, etc. – I’ve seen some people give up because they weren’t seeing a quick ROI, so they moved on to the next sales approach. I think a better view is to look at it as ROR (Return on Reputation); it’s part of the equation and not a stand alone tactic. Your brand revolves around how it’s positioned. The message. Social media, blogging, etc. are continuations of this. If you’re a thought leader, or aspire to be one- share those thoughts. Share as in free. Don’t look at the quick sell, build something people want to come to. Be interesting and be relevant. You can still thump your chest in a way that doesn’t sound self serving or egotistical, share, and give away advice that others will seek more of.

  90. Good point about ‘a blog is not a marketing plan’. A blog should not be commercialize and sound just like anyone else. You blog should be unique, entertaining and offer content that relevant to your audience.

  91. Thanks for this post.

    I have to admit, I really havent figured out why should people read my damn blog.

    How can I find that reason?

  92. @AFM, try taking a look at this post, it may help: http://www.copyblogger.com/why-read-your-blog/ Also, calling yourself “affiliate marketing forum” doesn’t invite anyone to come take a second look. There are a million people trying to create authority in that space. You’re either going to have to come up with a unique angle, or come out with more of you, or (what I’d recommend) both.

  93. Thanks for the wonderful insights. Social Bookmarking is indeed a great means to promote network business in the internet. Making it available and accessible to everyone. Social bookmarking is not just an isolated marketing strategy. There should be a complement for it in order to attain the full success.

  94. Very nice post with very useful information.

    What makes a post go viral versus what just is good content but does not even produce a comment?

  95. Thanks Simone, great to have caught this just as I am pulling together all my prior explorations into the web. It helps enormously to know the playing field in practical ‘harsh reality’ terms because, as I tell my clients, that’s what you’ll be making your decisions on – reality – rather than the sunshine hype that often abounds.

    All the best,
    David

  96. Harsh truths but very real. My favorite is # 7. But, it’s hard to convince clients about it. I am including a link to this post in my next eNewsletter.

  97. It is amazing to me that many companies treat social media as just another advertising venue. People do not expect billboards or TV ads to solve problems or answer questions, but they do expect social media to help them do those things.

    Unless companies allow and encourage their technical communicators, support personnel, and engineers to participate in social media in ways that give customers useful information, they might as well not bother.

    Your post makes this point strongly and is a refreshing change from the way many (maybe most) marketers approach social media. Thanks for a great post.

  98. Hi Sonia,

    I really agree with you when you say you have to be prepared to give some of your best stuff away, in fact, to take things a step further I would like to add that you could give most of it away and then still sell it to those who took your free offerings.

    To prove this point, over the years I have been giving more and more of my material away as enticements and it doesn’t reduce the volume of my sales one bit. In fact, by contrast, I have found that the MORE I give away the MORE I sell, and the more profits I in turn generate. If people like what you’re selling they will naturally come back for more, so when they except a free gift from you it is an opportunity, your opportunity to WOW them!

    Giving little gems of your material away for nothing also has a HUGE amount to do with building trust and reciprocity. If you give someone something of REAL VALUE they may feel in your debt, and because you have given if nothing your started to build a trusting relationship and they may return the favour by becoming a customer or recommending your services to others. This is what I have found anyway. So try giving a little more way and monitor the results, I think you’ll find you’ll be glad you experimented.

  99. So much great advice in here, thank you for the insight. Our company is actually in the process of starting a blog and this information will be very useful. One thing I can relate to is point number 3, blogging and social networking certainly has the power to take over but we need to set limits.

  100. Thanks for the mention, Sonia. Somehow the trackback got buried under lots of spam, so sorry for the late reply!

    I started my blog with the same intentions as most newbies…to place lots of ads and get rich off of it. PPC brought me a couple dollars a month. Literally…$2.00.

    All I did was draw attention away from my content and promote everyone else but myself. I’m still giving the house away but am now seeing some collaborative offers come in that look promising, and I have learned a great deal about who I am as a blogger. Now, I am proud of my writing and love that it helps other along their path.

    The money will come. So will the authority. Two years isn’t that long to wait if you’re enjoying yourself, and of course, it helps if you’re making money elsewhere! It will be worth the wait…I’m confident of that.

  101. Sonia, I think this post is a true wak-up call to those that think they can jump on the bandwagon and quit their job within 5 minutes after typing their first post. You have to be so disciplined make sure that all of the tweeting, hooting, friend-ing and honking isn’t taking up your whole life for zero ROI in the end. In fact, I just wrote a post about this today.

    There’s no rest for the wicked out there in the online world of selling and if you think you are going to laugh all the way to the bank just by creating a blog, well, for the average Joe… you’re dead wrong. However, it’s a critical piece of the pie. If anything blogs add credbility and lower the prospect’s skepticism meter even if they don’t read your posts.

  102. So true.
    Every point makes perfect sense.

  103. Nice work and couldn’t agree more. I’d also like to humbly submit below for honorable mentions:
    8.) your customer is still always right.
    9.) social media marketing doesn’t necessarily make crap products/services less crap.
    10.) social media marketing is one facet within your content/PR/marketing strategy, but it shouldn’t be THE content/PR/marketing strategy.

  104. I couldn’t agree more. There is a major shift taking place. Not only about connection between each other and in commerce, but connection with GOD- whatever your concept of him/her may be.

    As the economic meltdown continues into 2010, you can expect that more people will evaluate just what is “real” to them and what is not. The first step is to look inside, that’s where you will find “it”.

    peace out,

    don
    editior
    spiritnewsdaily

  105. Great advice Sonia!

    Too many people are still beholden to the one-way advertising model. It was irritating when it was the primary way of doing things and it’s irritating now.

    I don’t want someone trying to sell me something. I want to hear about great products and services from people that I know and trust. Then I’ll turn to those businesses.

    It’s really 100% about trust and, as so many are out just to separate people from their cash, it’s very important.

  106. I really appreciate #7. Times have changed, and its time to adapt or suffer.

  107. No one will listen to you unless you give them something in return. It’s extremely tough to sell products and services where everybody is a salesman. Post informative and entertaining write ups like copy blogger and pro blogger rather than blabbering about your products in the social media scene. Maintain a cool. Money will come automatically.

    Thanks

  108. #5 and #7 are two points that the average SMB owner still doesn’t ‘get’. I can’t stress enough how an investment in social media marketing is not a passive strategy, but one of the most critical points of difference for businesses in 2010 and beyond.

  109. I think you will finally get people to listen to you if you have created yourself an authority on the subject matter. You give back to the community value in return for their loyalty and friendship. After all, we are all ‘social’ beings. :)

  110. “The conversation will happen with or without you.” Great quote. The key word there is conversation, if you are not willing to put the time and effort into your social media campaign, truly engage in your online efforts, you’ll never see the ROI you are looking for.

  111. AMEN to all!

    Pink hair… not a prob. Try two eyebrow rings, a nose ring and 12 earrings (6 in each ear)… that one tends to knock people because I am a mommy, but I also dress professionally…lol

    However, like you, I found people quite welcoming. I actually got “adopted” by the Chicago WordPress guys and gals last year…lol.

    I live in a small town of about 12K (I have just as many twitter followers…yikes.) Some of what I say clicks with many people, but it is the fact that a lot of them are too lazy or not yet ready to put a good plan. My thing is that I am developing a site for Southern Illinois. People always ask me online – What is in Southern Illinois. The Internet really gives easy small town an actual face itself. I am making it my goal to help business owners try to have a presence online by some means. If they want to go further, my door is open. I have talked the talked and walked the walk, so I am encourage them to journey with me.

    Thank you for reaffirming I am not off the beaten path.

  112. Or if you are off the beaten path, at least that’s a good place to be. :)

  113. Re: Harsh Reality #5 – sometimes it’s true, sometimes not. I had a really bad experience with Mike Filsaime – didn’t check him out properly first. Did some research after and found gazillions of complaints (even from some respected bloggers). Yet he keeps on churning out products that sell, getting recommendations from other “gurus”, making millions … go figure …

  114. Some harsh truths here. I can see they’re very valid points though, and will have to digest slowly. Many thanks for the info.

  115. Hi guys,

    Thanks for posting a very entertaining blog. I enjoyed reading all “7 Harsh Realities to Social Media Marketing.” My favorite one was #3 “It will eat your life (if you let it).” I totally agree with this statement, because you can easily get distracted if you don’t have any boundaries.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  116. Can I claim #116th like FIRST? Probably not.

    Trying to find a way to tell you that I thought your post kicked butt without repeating everyone else.

    Solid ideas about being decent and doing it the right way, which reminds me to get back to blogging. If you’re a blogger who uses Twitter to promote your words, then when you go on a story slump it becomes much more difficult to keep the interest going.

    #MustFindMoreTimeToBlog

    Thanks for a nudge

  117. What a meaty post. Well done for publicly barbecuing the Social Marketing myths with such accuracy. Truth is valuable because it is so rare.

  118. I had given up on my blog as no one was reading it. I kept my domain and switched it to something else due to all of the work I have put in to it.

  119. Gwen, I read somewhere else that even the popular blogs don’t always get a lot of comments. Did you have a traffic stat counter on your blog??? You might be surprised to know how many people visit your website.

    Just a thought. I hate to hear people giving up on their blogs because it’s so much fun.

    Cheers

  120. What you have said is true, and I myself have realized the same thing. Well, this was a real good post.

  121. This is a recipebook for the perfect blog. Our blogs have always been just a newsletter thrown together without really building a sense of community. I didn’t realize there were basic tenants that should be followed. Thx!

  122. I could strongly relate to Harsh Reality #2: You’ve got to give (some of) your best stuff away…
    It has taken me more than a couple of years to learn this lesson first hand. People want to see what you have to offer before they are ever going to get serious about opening up their wallets and doing “real” business with you.

    I have found that you can easily give away most of you best stuff, because most people need help in sorting and sifting out this great information so they can put it to good use. That is where I and my coaching come in. The model works great for me.

    Thanks for having such a great site. I enjoy it.

  123. Harsh Reality – This is not a one night stuff, I am agree with all harsh reality but i like most Harsh Reality #3 – It will eat your life. Great post! I would love to see a follow up this post, Thanks

  124. Awesome article! In social marketing , you can’t be successful overnight. You have to do your homework, be persistent and smart.

    • Its amazing at how much work it takes to be successful in social marketing. Most people obviously give up to soon, but with work and lots of time, your efforts start to pay off. This is probably one of the hardest things to do for a business because it takes dedication and time, which most people want an instant fix to. Love this site! Thanks copyblogger!

  125. I like point number 4. People don’t want to see your sells pitch on their twitter feed every top of the hour. When I am considering following someone, after the bio, I look at the past posts. If there are a lot of repeats about a special, or something they are selling, I pass.

    I wish every small business person and marketer would learn this point. You have to round out your posts on social media and share other topics. When you are always trying to sell your getting no where because social media is a place to get the latest information, news, etc. I think you made a great point.

  126. Great article! I think this is a wonderful check list for anyone wanting a successful and profitable business. All your points are spot on. It is a great learning lesson that could be referred back to often! So many want to find the quick and easy route. I must say that since being on the internet since 1995, this by far is the easiest way to connect with people, build a business and become successful in a fairly short time. BUT …. if you don’t take action, don’t have a plan and don’t stay focused – it won’t work and you will be disappointed.

    Thank you for sharing your tips and advice. If taken to heart, everyone would benefit very quickly.

  127. I find that many people expect instant success, get discouraged, and drop their marketing. It takes time, patience , and persistence to be successful. Don’t forget to set limits and keep focused.

  128. Great tips in this post, I think maybe one thing to add is focus on being creative and unique. No one cares if you’re just tweeting about internal events that aren’t relevant to the brand’s users. I only follow some brands because they offer contests and promotional giveaways. No one cares if the office had a friday party or something along those lines (too often I see companies hiring an intern to tweet about something – it’s pretty scary!).

    One more thing is that social isn’t for EVERY company – some niches/products/services don’t really benefit that much from having a social presence – take some business services like document destruction for example, I don’t see that being an easy service to build up a legitimate following around. Thanks for some great insights with this post!

  129. Super post, great artical about marketing all in one nut shell

  130. Very interesting post, it is ironic though a post about no one reading blogs has generated so many responese!
    Never the less an entertaining piece of writing :)
    and yes, dont forget to feed the pets aswell :p

  131. Great post, with reasuring advice, I know a few guys with degrees in marketing, who have totally lost it when it comes to marketing with social media, perseverance is the answer, keep at it. Its not a get rich quick arena.

  132. I have found that you can easily give away most of you best stuff, because most people need help in sorting and sifting out this great information so they can put it to good use. That is where I and my coaching come in. The model works great for me.

  133. I think part and parcel with harsh realities 3 and 4 is that you have to be willing to let something of yourself out on the web. The people that I’ve seen be most successful with social media treat their internet friends a lot like real friends. You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, tell your deepest, darkest secrets on your facebook page, but you need to think about the persona that you’re projecting across various social media. You sort of need people to want to be your friends, to be curious about what’s happening with you, not just what’s happening with whatever service/skill you’re trying to sell.

  134. Definitely great stuff to keep in memory really face things are written here thanks for sharing cheers!!! :O

  135. Its wonderful at how much effort it takes to be successful in social marketing. Most people observably quit soon. This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do for a business as it takes dedication and long time, which the majority people want an immediate. I Love this site really ! Thanks It has taken me very long time to learn this lesson.

  136. Harsh Reality #3: It will eat your life that what happening with me. :( there are readers but earning is too low.

  137. Well done for being so direct, open and honest about these – the realities of social media marketing. A valuable Post. Thank you.