A friend of mine gets very frustrated with her gardening efforts. She plants and invests money for new plants, but the flowers do not seem to want to pay her back with blooms. Her flowers never look very healthy and even if they grow for a year or so, after a while they give up and die. So she has to buy new flowers, pay more money and gets even more frustrated.
What is she doing wrong?
She always imagines how a flower as it is depicted on the package or in a book would look like. And she plants the flowers in her garden in an empty spot she wants to fill. She has a clear image in her head of what the arrangement is going to look like. But she does not consider what the flower needs to prosper and grow: Does the flower need shade or sun? Is it a plant that needs a lot of water or rather dry soil? What kind of soil does the flower prefer? How tall is the flower going to grow – if it grows at all?
So she ends up planting her flowers in all the wrong places. A water-loving plant simply goes dry long before the hot summer months. A tiny flower in the back of a flowerbed gets lost behind the larger plants in front. A sun-thirsty bloom never opens for sheer lack of light.
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What does this have to do with marketing?
This is exactly what is happening to a lot of marketing efforts. People spend money and time on social media marketing efforts. They post the messages they want the world to know. They describe products and features, the come up with new slogans and witty advertising messages. They are active on many social networks – but their efforts die the unglamorous death of a flower in the wrong flowerbed.
I face this over and over again: Clients who are just starting out with social media are so focused on seeing marketing results and getting their message out that they totally forget about what their target audience wants or needs. They skip the essential part of social media marketing that is about providing value to or catering to the needs of your target group and go straight for posting what they want people to know about their products and business.
And no one listens…
Research should come first
This is neither the way gardening nor social media marketing works. If you choose this path, your social media marketing is most likely not going to bloom and flower. Before you can get your message to potential customers, you have to do your homework and get to know them. You need to know what they like, how they behave and how they like to consume information.
You need to get to know your audience first!
Nurturing and growing comes next
But even if you did your homework and know your target audience, starting the relationship with a sales message most of the time will still not work. Before your marketing flower can bloom and before you can think of harvesting (=selling) you have to nurture your relationship, you have to provide fertilizer and water and keep weeds from overgrowing your young plant.
In social media, that means you have to consider the needs and preferences of your audience first. You have to provide information they want to have or are looking for.
If you fail with this, your flowers (or relationships with your target group) will simply die because you failed to cater for their needs.
And this is what you have to understand before you start with social media marketing and get frustrated because reactions to your efforts are not what you expect and are looking for: Building an audience, catering for relationships and building trust comes long before the harvest.
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The difference between successful social media people and the thousands of businesses claiming that „social media marketing does not work for them“ lies in their basic attitude. Do your research and get to know your target audience first and then start providing exactly what they want and need (aka providing fertilizer and water). And you will feel like the successful gardener who researched the flowers he plants before simply putting them in the wrong spot. You will start noticing that your audience is listening to you and responding.
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Successful gardening does not start with the harvest
The customer or audience life cycle almost never starts with a sale. It starts with planting, nurturing and then much later comes the harvesting part.
Instead of talking about the benefits of your product or even worse shouting out advertising slogans in constant repetition you can answer questions of your target audience, take part in discussions, entertain them and be generally helpful. A great concept is creating informative content like blog posts, white papers, interviews with insiders from your niche, Infographics and more. You can share these pieces of content on your social networks and thus provide value.
A lot of people ask me why they should put so much effort in creating this value for the social channels. And the answer is simple: To make people listen to you and trust you, to show your expertise and show that you are not only trying to rip them off.
This is the foundation of ever being able to sell anything with social media. Providing value in social media is key to growing an audience and only if you have an audience that trusts you, they will hear what you are saying about your products – eventually.
Why growing and nurturing needs to be part of your marketing
Social media marketing success is not about shouting louder or necessarily to a bigger crowd.
I have seen people stop their activity after realizing that they will not sell anything with their first posts on social media. They failed to understand that nurturing and growing, building an audience and trust is part of the process.
Some people in social media seem to expect their newly planted plants not only to grow and thrive in the worst spots without any maintenance; they seem to expect the plants to bloom when they are still tiny seedlings. And it does not help that some so-called experts spread “advice” that is actually more of social media myths.
Instead of thinking far too much and too early about what you want to sell and what message you want to get out to an audience they do not even have (yet), you should focus on what your audience wants and needs. It is not only that people do not like to follow over-salesy social accounts and you would be failing in building an audience. The truth is that the complete principle of social media is based on relationships and building trust.
If you do not want to invest in building these, your marketing is doomed.
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