Welcome to 2014, a year when the audience is media-savvy and the pace is faster than Speedy Gonzales’. For anyone with a product or message, the potential reach provided by the Internet is like a dangling carrot. The promise of quickly reaching millions is irresistible, which accounts for the deluge of marketing that comes with every online experience.
Do you use Gmail? Then you see ads every time you check your mail. Do you read blogs? Many of them, from large to small, have ads served into the body of their posts, the sidebar, or both. Pop-ups, banner ads, sponsored content, and other common features of the contemporary online experience are hard to escape.
The vast array of ad-blocking browser extensions out there shows that many in the modern audience choose to skip the bombardment. They don’t want to hear your sales pitch. Everywhere you look, someone is trying to sell you something. This has inoculated the public against the majority of advertising. It is also exactly why SixEstate uses newsblogging as our main strategy. Creating a niche is very different than outright selling.
The Comic Artist and Twitter
The other day I was having coffee with a local comic book artist. He was asking a bit of advice on the Kickstarter for his latest project, and while we were talking I took a look at his Twitter account. It was a sales pitch. By that I mean that all of the tweets, few and infrequent ones, were links to his products and and Kickstarter campaign.
I explained to him that people these days don’t like being sold to. It is the main reason content-based marketing is becoming the standard. The long-form stuff (blogs, white papers, etc.) has to be useful. The short-form stuff (social media, mostly) requires a more human aspect. These two qualities are what engage an audience these days.
We talked for another hour or two over coffee. I explained that anyone looking at his profile would see nothing but promo, and that the way he was going, he was turning away all but his die-hard fans.
“Don’t be that guy,” I told him. “You know the one. The bozo at the cocktail party who keeps trying to sell you insurance while you’re flirting with someone.”
We talked about the importance of shining a light on the works of others in his genre. It’s not only good manners, it’s great strategy. By doing so he would not only raise awareness of things related to his own work, but would also bring him to the attention of those he was retweeting.
“Always put about four retweets or purely social tweets in between links to your own work,” I said, and it turns out he took my advice to heart.
A few days later, the artist called me up. He had taken my advice to heart and started interacting with people on Twitter. In less than a week both his follower count and his sales had significantly increased.
The same basic principle applies in many ways to blogging. if you spend all of your time shouting about your own wares, people will quickly move on. If you develop a reputation for being knowledgable in your field and sharing lots of useful information, people will begin to consider your site as a resource, as well as being a place to buy things or services.
Take a look at your content strategy. If it is composed purely of sales-oriented content, you’re not really offering value to your readers. To make sales, you need to make it worthwhile for readers to keep coming back. Provide pertinent information for your niche. Add a few purely nonbusiness shares to your strategy while also pointing out related, quality works of others. Become a resource, and the long-term gains will be significant.
But How Do I Sell?
People are sick of sales pitches. The important thing to realize about this is that it does not mean you cannot sell, it means you need to adjust your strategy. The takeaway here is that you need to blend your pitches into a more organic approach. When you weave those pitches into broader offerings, people are more likely to respond to them because they have become used to looking toward your online presence for expertise on a subject. Earning trust and respect online will bring you business.
Image by ppart/123RF.
George “Loki” Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.