This is how Social Media really works


New swings!, originally uploaded by mathowie.

Earlier this month, my wife and I were thinking of what to get our daughter for her upcoming fourth birthday, and upgrading her small plastic swingset that she was out growing was high on our list. I had started scouting around the web trying to find companies that did custom playground stuff that wasn't just huge because we don't have a ton of room in our yard. Everyone thinks bigger is better, but I was looking for smarter, for small spaces.

A few days later I'm reading RSS feeds in Google Reader, which consists mostly of friends and writers I admire. Lilly from Girlhacker posted a great entry about the Obamas getting a swingset playground (March 10th entry) for their kids to have a somewhat normal childhood, and it was the first playset at the White House since the Kennedy family. The post also paints the awesome mental image of an ex-military man on some swings and testing out slides for the Obamas. Lilly does the classic blogging thing that in addition to pointing to the news story she found out about it, she dug up the manufacturer of the swingsets and a few archival photos.

I visited the manufacturer's site, ordered a catalog, and found out I had a local seller. The local seller has a nice big lot where they encourage anyone in Portland to come down and try everything out (yes, including adults, the sets are heavy duty), so we did just that. A few days of figuring out what would fit, and we ordered the set, which got delivered and installed today, just a week after buying it.

I mention this entire story because there are thousands of people all over twitter and blogs that think throwing thousands of dollars at people that describe themselves as a "marketing guru" is the way to increase their company sales. I'm here to say I think that may very well be a waste of money, time, and energy. The Rainbow company makes awesome stuff, has a great website (pretty damn slick all-CSS one at that), and helpful catalog materials (both online and off). They got on my radar when a friend dug up their details for a blog post, in a way no marketing budget could influence.

So maybe instead of getting your company on twitter, paying marketers to mention you are on twitter, and paying people to blog about your company, forget all that and just make awesome stuff that gets people excited about your products, hire people that represent the company well, and when your stuff is so awesome that friends share it with other friends, you may not even need "social media marketing" after all.

56 thoughts on “This is how Social Media really works

  1. I like it; do what you do, Well, and you will get the results you are trying to pay for – maybe better.
    But paying for it is the easy route, and the big companies can do that, us little guys have to work hard on it.
    yet there may be a middle ground where there is sense in making a moderate monetary investment in drawing attention to you blog.

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  2. Well said Matt.
    Social media can be a great thing for getting the word out about brands. But sticking someone in there (ala paying someone) to blow the brand’s horn is the same thing as planting someone at your friend’s next BBQ. It’s lame if it’s not honest.
    Oh, and as far as making good quality products…don’t get me started.
    -Joseph Fedcamp

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  3. Matt, first great post, well argued and well positioned, but I need to play devil’s advocate. The large majority of the “things” that are in your house are not products that a normal person can feel passion about. A bar of soap, laundry detergent, garbage bags, etc. These products are good products, but are largely viewed as a commodity. There is relatively little in terms of creating that passionate experience that you described. Social Media (I also believe that whole web is quickly becoming social as evidenced by CNN’s twitter experiments) has become a place where people gather and spend large amounts of time. As with every other media that has been ad supported (and it doesn’t like like Social Media will be different) the marketing dollars will follow the audience. And these marketing expenditures will be proved to change/enhance attitudes about these products.

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  4. You do realize that social media IS word of mouth, and you got that from a social medium — reading a friend’s blog.
    Hence, social media works. 🙂

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  5. I don’t get it…random inspiration quotes tweeted out at random times seems like a no-brainer to me!
    Kidding. Great post. The phrase “You can’t polish a turd,” needs to enter the social media vernacular.

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