Jason Falls: Breaking the Social Media Rules

by Eric Melin on October 5, 2011

The man was on fire.

Last night Jason Falls was in Kansas City to give a presentation for SocialIRL called “Stories Behind the Book No Bulls**t Social Media,” which he co-authored with Erik Deckers, and he took straight aim at the idea that there are hallowed rules in the world of social media marketing that simply can’t be broken.

The Man and His Book

“Social media purists say things like join the conversation, be human, and engage,” he said. “But what they don’t say is how to drive business, plan strategically, and measure social media.” After all, there are two halves of the equation. Saying that businesses aren’t supposed to sell in social media, that you must engage, that you can’t measure the value of relationships — all bulls**t.

The best example of someone that broke the hallowed “social media rules” came from Jason’s Mom.

His Mom asked for a remote car starter for Christmas. Later, she logged on to Facebook and her friend Greg who owns an auto accessories store writes something like this on his personal Facebook wall: “Stay warm and get your remote starter for only $350 today at [his business].”

She commented, “Can I make an appointment for Thursday?” She bought one, and at least 12 other people were interested from looking at the comments. Why did this obvious advertising message work against all the better judgments of those who stress only personal, authentic sharing and no generic broadcast messages?

Because he sent a relevant message to the right audience (older crowd — his Facebook friends) at the right time (cold weather), it produced at least one 300-dollar sale. It’s the Relevancy Bullseye!

As he wrote on Social Media Explorer: Optimal communication takes place when when a marketer can deliver a relevant message to a relevant audience in a relevant location at a relevant time.

Rules are made to be broken, especially in social media.

More rule-breaking examples:

Jim Olenbush of Austin-based Cantera Real Estate sees in the newspaper (of all antiquated things!) that a big company is relocating to his town. What does he do? He targets a small number of Facebook messages to people on Facebook that identify themselves as working at that company. The result? A very financial one, and an astounding one in this market: He sold 7 or 8 houses.

Jim also read something about affluent Mexicans wanting to move to Texas, so he spent around $400 on targeted Facebook campaigns to Mexico about Austin homes and opportunities. The result? He sold a million-dollar house. Now that’s some impressive lead generation. How about ROI? Easy to calculate. … And all this, coming from a guy who has 2 tweets and is following zero people on Twitter. Ha!

What I like about these examples is that they started about as (seemingly) impersonal as you can get — and ended up with a huge ROI. Because the messaging was hyper-targeted — not because it was personal or authentic — it succeeded.

Hell, just look at Dell Computers’ @DellOutlet Twitter account: No personal messages, only sales stuff, it’s only following 35 accounts, BUT it has 1.5 million followers and had generated $6.5 million in sales by December 2009.

Fiskars Scissors’ Fiskateers community for scrapbookers exceeded their 6-month goal for their new forum in one day because they listened online and identified a need for a scrapbooking forum. They created an invite-only community that currently sits at around 8,000 members – truly through WOM marketing only. The benefits from this community are far-reaching and disprove anyone who says you can’t measure the value of relationships.

Relevancy BullseyeBecause of this community, their R&D team posts prototypes and videos, and gets feedback from these targeted fans. Why would a company spend money to do focus groups and traditional market research when they can do it in their own community? How much cost savings is that? Here’s the kicker: They save money on PR and marketing because bloggers and media members are in the community too and they spread company news across the web for them – so those budgets have been slashed as too. HUGE savings all around.

The ultimate question then for Fiskateers is: How much $$ has been made from this community and how much is saved? With help from Brains on Fire, the agency behind the madness, the ROI for Fiskars was calculated at over 500% per year.

Jason concluded this portion of his talk with what he calls the Truth, and this is something that we are constantly telling clients here at Spiral16 (which is why we’ve designed a flexible web monitoring solution that can customized to the nth degree):

Every company is different. Every circumstance for your market, your message, and your audience is different.

In other words, there are good practices for sure, but there are no “social media rules.”

Photo credits: Social Media Explorer, Mark Smiciklas, Twin/Tone & Soul Asylum

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