Mobile, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Marketing

Social Media Success is About the Wizard, Not the Wand

Thoughtful research genius Tom Webster wrote an interesting post a couple weeks ago about where the location-based business could head, moving beyond the momentary check-in toward more nuanced and relevant customer interactions, using location data as the raw materials.

His example was his local watering hole, where he figures by the time he’s checked in 10 times, the offer they make on Foursquare should encourage his evangelism, not just offer a discount on an item he doesn’t order.

And he’s absolutely right. Businesses could – and should – be doing so much more with location-based services like Foursquare, unified social log-ins like Janrain, custom landing tabs on Facebook, video, Google Analytics, mobile, ad retargeting with Fetchback, multi-variate testing, and about 100 other things. But you know why they aren’t? Because they are trying to run their core business, not maximize the value of Foursquare.

Pointing the Finger in the Wrong Direction

I think Tom (and others) are misplacing the blame. We have all the tools we need to do amazing digital and social marketing right now. The problem with advanced social marketing isn’t the wand, it’s the wizards.

We have so much crazy and amazing stuff at our disposal that it’s hard to fathom the days of not-so-long-ago when the big corporate decision was what size to make the direct mail piece.

Businesspeople (especially small business), and even professional marketers cannot possibly keep up with the pace of social media innovation. It’s wholly and completely unsustainable, and instead of learning to swim in this river of invention, it’s making people scared of getting in the water.

Whose fault is it that Klout is widely misused? Klout’s or the companies that use it? Whose fault is it that most companies utilize about 10% of Google Analytics’ capabilities? Google’s or the companies that don’t have time to learn how to use it better? Whose fault is it that for many companies Twitter is still just a tiny press release machine? Twitter’s, or the companies that use it that way?

We don’t have a technology and tools problem. We have an understanding and adoption problem, which is driven primarily by confusion and lack of time. In fact, I think we genuinely would be better off as marketers if we had a six month moratorium on EVERYTHING. No new Facebook features. No new social networks. No new YouTube functionality. No new Instagram or Foursquare or Viddy or mobile apps or near field communications or QR codes or the hot new skywriting app somebody is cooking up as I write this.

I am fortunate enough to do social marketing for a living, and it’s still challenging to keep up with it all. I can’t imagine how somebody with a “real job” doesn’t feel constantly overwhelmed.

Let’s focus on doing just a few things better, and worry less about doing everything that’s possible.

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  1. wasimalrayes says

    I can understand, especially for an SME business, with so much happening and to do, it can be quite a challenge to keep up with Socail Media activities, if a business owner is overwhelmed and struggling to keep up to date with their social media activities, may be they can delegate to one of their employees or educate one of the employees to do this, or outsource to a reputable firm.

  2. InspiredAnnette says

    You are on a roll this week Jay! Just a couple of weeks ago I was feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted, I had to take a step back and examine what the hell was what. I had to decide that I can’t POSSIBLY read so much or learn so much every, single, solitary day. The first thing I decided to do was hire an assistant; give up some $$$ in exchange for some sanity. This blog post is certainly timely for me since I’ve just come to grips with the fact that I can’t know about every bloody new gadget, app, software, hardware, method, methodology, or metric that can help my clients. I think my standards are so high (I need to know EVERYTHING!!!) that I was starting to drive myself crazy. No exercise, no social life, just sitting at my desk 14-16 hours a day. I can relate so personally to what you’ve been writing lately….right down to the working treadmill! Thanks for being so real!

  3. says

    Really solid post, Jay. You’re absolutely right that we have plenty of great technology available to do some pretty awesome things. Its the serious lack of education that is hurting businesses and this industry to be honest.

    It takes an enormous amount of time to learn social and a huge commitment to stay on top of current and future trends. In order for businesses to be successful they need to really buy-in to this ideal, that correctly educating yourself and your team is going to ultimately decide whether you’re successful or not. Thanks!

    • says

      @kevinfawley The other challenge is that businesses sometimes think that once the Twitter account is set up, and the Facebook page is built, that social media is “done” the way a magazine ad or trade show has a completion date. Doesn’t work that way.

  4. says

    Love the analogy Jay. We can get overwhelmed by all the shiny tools out there and it can be a challenge to keep the discipline. At the same time it can be a challenge just to shut off the electronic devices. I feel like I need my own personal airline attendant at times to tell me what to do. I love your thoughts on the focus that needs to take place. Thanks for the post.

  5. Neicolec says

    Love that title, Jay! And I agree with you. It’s like being handed wood, parts, and a whole lot of terrific, expensive power tools, many of which you don’t know how to use, and told you could build some great items that would make a lot of money. Figuring out what to build is the first challenge.

    People seem to think social media is easy, but that’s because their idea of social media is to put up a Facebook page and a Twitter account, share content, talk, and maybe run a contest. Easy but not necessarily effective. It’s actually very hard to think about your business goals and your audience needs, and understand all the tools enough to be able to come up with an effective, long-term strategy. It requires a lot of creativity, too. It takes time and hard work to become a wizard!

    • InspiredAnnette says

      @Neicolec Funny that you should say that. There’s that timing thing again. Last week I had a new assistant start with me. He lasted an hour. All I asked him to do was compose tweets for me to review. His response to my feedback/revisions on his tweets: “I don’t think I can be as comprehensive as you need me to be.” In other words, I’m not the social media guru I told you I was. EVERYONE thinks they know how to “do” social media work because they have the knowledge to put up a Facebook page or open a Twitter account. PUH-LEEEZE!!!!!

  6. nsweeney says

    Thank you, Jay. This reminds me of ambercadabra ‘s blog post from July ( about exercising filters. As someone with a “real job”, it’s hard to keep up with all of these “tools” (or are they distractions?). And I’m behind a computer screen 12+ hours a day. I couldn’t imagine running a restaurant or non-digital business and still be awesome at the 346 different social media tools out there (each with a different interface, controls, etc.).I’d like to think that getting in, getting out, and getting back to the business of running your business is the main goal of coupsmart where I work, but even I can understand not having even two minutes to again, learn yet another tool.I’m all for an upgrade moratorium, as I’m on my 89th phone in the last 16 months. But then again, we are living in an exponential society, where change is happening at a quicker and quicker pace.It makes me really miss Bob Ross even more.

  7. strote says

    The other key thing that marketers and social media practitioners of all stripes should keep in mind, is that many of the campaigns they come up with depend on the business giving something away either at a discount or free. Of course you can make a case for “rewarding loyalty”, i.e. buy 10 coffees, get one free, but these days companies are stressed enough trying to keep profit margins up. The freebie could be the profit margin. Aside from that there is the learning curve and limitation of 24 hours in a day.

  8. teriel says

    I agree with you Jay. I think we’ve developed the technology faster than we can adapt. It’s important to allow time for people to adapt and learn the technology instead of just rushing ahead.

  9. alliemwerner says

    Great blog post, Jay. I’m studying Social Media with @dr4ward at @NewhouseSU and I just subscribed to your blog. In class we often talk about the crazy pace of the tools, and oftentimes my professor’s lesson plan has to change because Google or Facebook or another site added something new, again, for the third time in a week. As I’m trying to jump into this whirlwind of social conversation, I agree, it’s frustrating trying to keep up. It discourages people who are curious, but too busy to learn. The fact that college students, like me, who’ve grown up with the tools and improve our studies by using them, still need a class to understand it, testifies to the truth that it’s all just a bit too overwhelming.

    Consider following me @alliemwerner and my class’s Hashtag #NewhouseSM4

    P.S. Love the title of your post – It totally drew me in!

  10. margieclayman says

    Great post, Jay. I’m not really sure this is just a social media thing though. Or a location-based thing. I think this has probably plagued marketers since the first dude with a stand was like, “Oh, I can totally leave cuneiform reminders that folks should buy from me!”

    You know, social media and all of these technological innovations call to mind why I used to hate those “radical make-over” episodes of shows like Oprah. “Oh, your self-esteem stinks? Here, have a new haircut!” Sure, it’s awesome for awhile, and it’s different, but if you don’t fix your real issues, eventually the haircut will grow out and you’ll be back to your normal self again.

    So it is with marketing. Social Media is like your great make-over, but if you aren’t coming up with ideas and trying to do cool stuff, you’re going to end up right back in a hole. And according to 7 sources I’ve checked with, holes are bad.

  11. says

    Hallelujah! This entire thought process that all of us face regularly is exactly why I want to write a book called The Curator Era. I am supposed to keep my small biz clients up to speed AND keep up myself obviously. Crazy.

    I’ve begun to narrow my focus to Facebook Marketing for Small Biz, Email Marketing, Great Web development (that should come first) and Analytics. That’s all most of them can handle in the beginning anyway, and at least I can be a master of SOMETHING.

  12. cmkuhlman says

    Your wish for a six month moratorium on anything new sounds familiar – I hear it from my clients all the time in the context of organizational change. Just last week I was talking with a colleague about the pace of change and we got onto the subject of one client that we helped manage the transition from a private partnership to a public company. We talked about how ironic it seems now that all we heard at the time was people saying please go tell the CEO and COO to stop because we need a few months to catch our breath. But they didn’t get a break, the company went public and here it is a decade later and the pace of change has only accelerated.

    It seems to me that with social media the successful organizations are going to be the ones that figure out their business goals and then ask the question of which tools they should use to get them there. Rather than setting a goal to get smart about a particular tool and then wondering if there’s a better tool.

  13. says

    I think if I suggested a 6 month moratorium to my clients they’d either (1) go ballistic (“How can we NOT do all of this stuff??!”) or (2) worship the ground I walk on (“Thank you, thank you! Now we can finally FOCUS on getting it right!”). Not that I want anyone worshiping me, but I’d rather work with the 2nd type of client – the ones who get that a tool is just a tool, that it’s what you DO with it that makes the difference. Decide on your business goals and then pick the tools that will help you get there. And those tools don’t need to be the latest & greatest – a simple hand tool will often do the job as well as an amped up, multi-feature, takes-3-months-to-learn-how-to-use-it power tool. Tools (especially power tools) only end up getting you in trouble unless you know what you’re doing with them (who wants to lose a finger in a table saw?!). Unfortunately, people tend to blame the tool when things don’t turn out quite how they’d hoped…

    • says

      @Monica Hemingway Tools are dangerous if you don’t know how to use them, and when we have to learn new ones every week, it just ups that danger.

  14. says

    I agree, if you don’t have a strong hold right now, it’s more likely you’ll end up swept by the floods of updates from various social networks. But then again, I think it’s all about picking wisely, on which services you want to practice with your brand. Focus on just a few, and then probably you can have a better grasp of it in due time.

  15. DaveGallant says

    I’m in total agreeance. In a recent podcast, I spoke about this very problem.

    At every corner, a new social technology is at your doorstep. The irony is that as more technologies emerge, it seems that they are starting to seperate us from the conversation, instead of bringing us closer together.

  16. HotSpotPromo says

    I just had a client this week send me a “whine” about receiving yet another invite to yet another new social media tool. I keep coming back to my original question – are the majority of my target market there? It’s only when my target market is highly active on a certain tool/in a certain place that I need to even consider the tool. If they’re not using it, neither am I. I think we sometimes forget the basics in light of the bells and whistles.

    Great post!

  17. letstalkandchat says

    the title of your post says it all. it actually took my attention so i read the entire post. great!

    If you’re looking for webinar software, then check out Evergreen Business System. Its perfect for marketers and let’s you automate the scheduling of your webinars, build your list, and even follow up with your webinar registrants. If you’re going to buy Evergreen Business System, then you might as well get a free bonus! So check out and you’ll get a great bonus that tells you how to create a webinar, what is a webinar, and a blueprint for making a successful one. None of the other people offering bonuses are offering this. Hurry in case the guy (some dude that worked on Lord of the RIngs) offering the bonus decides to pull it down.

  18. cbwhittemore says

    Jay, you are so right on. Let’s definitely *focus* on doing a few things better. Thank you!



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