Don’t play with your food: how to make your social media marketing count

baby eating spaghetti play dough

Social media: not just for humble-bragging

We’re all a little self centered, aren't we? I mean, c'mon. If you're being honest with yourself, you’ve taken long pauses in the mirror, been involved in a selfie, and when friends tag you in photos on Facebook, you look for yourself first to ensure that it was a good picture. And you know what? You shouldn’t be embarrassed of this. It’s your nature, we’re all human. 

However, self-centeredness in the marketing world is a dangerous beast because it causes a fundamental error that kills your social media performance: it causes you to think that other people will care about our business as much as you do. 

Most founders, executives, and yes, even marketers, falsely assume this and they blast away with “what’s new with us” updates. In this way, they’re a lot like an infant who tries to stuff play dough into Mom or Dad’s mouth because she presumes that just because she loves it, everyone must. 

All of the parents in the audience today know that as she grows up, she'll achieve the intelligence to know that not everybody eats play dough


But seriously, do you like play dough too? 

Somewhere along the way, this lesson is lost on adults. We all spend so much time focusing on others while growing up (perhaps too much, if I remember high school correctly), so what happens? Somewhere between the ages of “entry level” and ‘middle management” we fall back into our ways of shameless self-promotion, and it hurts us. 

Without telling you the WIIFM, this is just a window decoration. 

Without telling you the WIIFM, this is just a window decoration. 

When businesses talk only about themselves, people tune out. Most social media posts can be grouped into two categories: updates, and requests to follow. What’s missing is the part where we learn why we’re supposed to care. These messages are often utterly missing the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factor. Unless 100% of your readership shares your same last name (thanks for the shares, mom!) and you’re okay with that, you’re going to keep spinning your wheels wondering why you’re not blowing up yet. 

It's subtle, but look at the difference between these two posts from transportation apps Lyft and Uber. Lyft's message is all about them: "we're celebrating ... we've built." Uber's is about their consumer. "You're planning ... your event." 

lyft social media share
uber social media share

The former post is just so much more noise in your LinkedIn feed, while the latter shows some virtual hospitality by taking your interests into account. 

Don’t just tell them to care, give them a reason to

You can fix this self-centeredness in your social media, and you can do it pretty simply: seek to educate your readers. In the Uber post above, they tell you how you can be a better host using their app. Genius. Updates like Lyft's, on the other hand, don’t count - just because it’s new information doesn’t make it useful.

While pics of your new office digs are exciting to you (and probably mildly interesting to investors), your customers on the whole don’t care. They’re plenty busy with their own office thank you very much, and if you want to reach them you’ll have to reach across the aisle, consider their point of view, and tell them something that's both new and useful. 

To make this pivot, go back to the drawing board and reevaluate your buyer personas and pick out the things that they struggle with the most: things like creating content, accounting, finding new customers, and managing labor costs. Find out what value you have to deliver in that regard and set a new rule for your posts: never put up anything unless it educates your customers on one new helpful thing.

If you must do updates, pace yourself in a 4-1-1 ratio as recommended by Marketo. That’s 4 pieces of nurturing or educational content to every 1 soft ask (please like me?) and 1 hard ask (why don’t you like me!).

You can still find a home for Humans of New York-style posts about your employees in an effort to humanize your lovely company, but remember to deliver some insight and a truly interesting story. 

In short order, you’ll find that posts are both harder to come up with and exceedingly more valuable. This will hopefully encourage you to do less posting of higher quality and that’s going to focus your effort on driving business value, for both you and your customers. 

Remember, don’t offer them play dough and wonder whey they don't like it. Know that they don’t, and instead, offer them something that they can actually swallow.


Hungry for more tips? Try reading the amazing 6-step recipe to baking perfect blogposts.