For those who have been following me for a while, you know that in addition to lawyering, parenting, dog-caring, YouTubing and viral-video making, I have also been expanding my knowledge base to social media marketing. It’s been almost a year now, and I have put together a list of what I feel to be the most important lessons I’ve learned in that time.
1. Just because I like something, doesn’t mean other will.
Just because I love a product or campaign concept, doesn’t mean others will. And just because I hate a product or campaign concept, doesn’t mean other will hate it. Success is being able to see past your own subjective assessment in order to determine the best plan of action given your goals. If something is not working, it doesn’t matter whose idea it was. It doesn’t matter how much you love it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand why everyone does not love it as much. The saying goes that madness is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. If something is not working, something has to change.
The flipside to stubbornly sticking to a strategy that is not working just because you like it, is stubbornly avoiding one that might work just because you don’t like it. Setting aside moral or ethical objections, avoiding a strategy because you think it’s silly or even absurd might make you feel good about yourself, but it won’t get you close to the results you want.
2. Market research is important
Having an idea is always the starting point. But more important than the idea is making sure there is a market for it. Often times, life experience constitutes market research – for people who have been immersed in a field and conceived of an innovation knowing the market and the demand, their experience is their research. Other times, people come up with an idea with no real knowledge of the market demand, in which case market research is essential if you want to avoid blind trial-and-error. You may have come up with the best idea in the world. But if there is no demand for it, you have to weigh your options accordingly. And this goes back to Point 1: Just because you like something, doesn’t mean others will.
Market research is essential. And it is not necessarily as costly as most people think. It can take on the form of focus groups, chat rooms, online forums. It can take on the form of twitter surveys. If you don’t have the following, you can pay a few dollars to run a survey on someone else’s platform. There are cheap alternatives to costly market research which you can implement on a tight budget. But if you don’t know what the actual demand is for a product, you don’t know if you’re fishing in empty water.
3. Negative feedback is the most important
People have the tendency to disregard what people say because they don’t like the way they’re saying it. Or because it’s coupled with a gratuitous insult (as is too often the case on the internet). But I have found that the negative feedback – even if gratuitously offensive or expletive-laced – is the most important. Every loves being flattered, but flattery is only good for the ego, not for evolution.
If you want to make the most effective changes, focus only on the negative feedback, regardless of how much it pains you to read. Sometimes it will be irrelevant. Sometimes it will be embarrassing. Other times it will be hurtful. But one legitimate negative comment is exponentially more useful for development than all the compliments in the world. In the restaurant business, they say that nothing is worse than the dissatisfied polite customers. They are too polite to tell the owner what they didn’t like about the experience, but they never come back. So the owner sits there only to see the traffic dwindling while thinking that s/he is doing everything right because after all, no one is complaining…
4. Don’t be penny wise, pound foolish
Entrepreneurialism is a risk. It may be calculated risk. It may be highly-researched risk. But it is always a risk and, in that sense, you are gambling. And anyone who has been to a casino before can tell you that you don’t sit down at the $200 blackjack table with $20. The same goes for marketing. You can get lucky results off a $20 Facebook ad, but the odds are not on your side. All the more so if everyone around you is sitting down at the table with $2,000. You need to be prepared to sit down at that table with enough to be able to play with the others. Or you have to work your way up from the $20 table.
You can be smart about costs, but not afraid of them. The best poker players in the world see their chips as a tool for leverage. The worst poker players are afraid of losing their chips and, as a result of that fear, ironically end up going broke sooner. You can have cheap and creative marketing concepts, but you can’t be too cheap on placement. If you’re not prepared to risk what is reasonably required to play the game, there’s no point in playing at all.
5. Try and understand the changing landscape
Gary Vaynerchuk said something incredibly interesting and insightful: The 3rd generation often destroys the business because they cling to the marketing strategies of the 1st and 2nd generation, while the market and marketing has since moved on.
I can’t pretend to understand all the social media venues that exist for creative and effective marketing, but I am aware of them. You always have to be asking yourself if you are conditioned by the ways of the past. If you are fishing in what were once teeming water that have since become oxygen-deprived. If you cling to print advertisement at the expense of social media advertising. If you are sticking to Google ad words instead of exploring Facebook and Instagram. It’s comforting to stick with what you understand. But comfort is temporary. And it is the antithesis of evolution.
And those are my two cents.