You Can’t Win the Marketing Arms Race
Quick, it’s an emergency: you really need to be an author right now. Don’t worry, you can pay someone to write the book. But this is a real emergency, you need to be a best-selling author. Unsurprisingly, you can buy that success, too. Along with the needed interviews on media outlets, you can buy Twitter followers, hits and likes. Instagram “influencers” are taking over the platform, using their enormous fan bases to advertise products. It appears everything is for sale – even sales themselves.
But why does buying time on a medium that is supposed to be democratic and free rub the liberal arts major in me the wrong way? Am I the final hold out in a world that has otherwise succumbed to the fact that the grand idea marketplace is nothing more than auction for the highest bidder?
Maybe it really is just me – but that seems unlikely. The world is too full of simpleminded thinking that yields control to money and social media trickery. I still think that being fantastic is a legitimate path to popularity and thought-leadership. Great ideas also cost money to create and share with a target audience, and there are no guarantees. Your idea could die a slow death, be ignored or misunderstood.
Or it could take off like wildfire.
Here’s the upside. If your idea organically goes viral, you enjoy the climb to the top with very little investment and the admiration and loyalty of everyone who helps propel you there. Ad impressions can win you a sale, but not always a repeat customer.
Providing content that inspires and truly helps a consumer is powerful magic. It proves to your followers that you care about them. If you stumble, don’t worry. These fans aren’t here for you because they like your instagram selfies; they’re here because they like your product. By contrast, popularity that is bought only serves to put businesses in the line of fire when a problem occurs.
Often times, because companies bought their way into the limelight, they are insecure at heart and inexperienced in dealing with the issues that arise. Meanwhile, companies who earn their way into positions of power have learned valuable lessons along the way. Lessons that will enable them to act authentically when a problem rears its ugly head.
This isn’t to say that no purchased self-promotion is good. It can help. But it is a marketing arms race. There is a place for marketing tools as well. I was speaking with a CEO of a social media software company who was bemoaning the constant need for content last week. It seems everyone wants what they do not possess.
The best approach is to not enter the arms race: believe in your product. Figure out what is great about your products and your company. Your posts should show customers how to use your product to their advantage – and how it’s relevant to current challenges. Be real and have fun. That being said, be sure to measure and keep track of your success. This means paying attention to what content excites your followers, and when and where they consume this content.
You can never go wrong being yourself, and while you may not create the instant stir your competition does, you’ll create a sustained and loyal customer base for the long run.