Alessandra Horton

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You Know What It Takes To Grow A Social Media Audience?

Scene from the movie Glengarry Ross — Alec Balding holding brass balls in front of his pants.

YOU MIGHT have noticed it by now: no matter how much effort and hard work you put behind all those recipes from various famous social media gurus and marketers, growing an audience feels impossible. It just doesn’t appear to be working anymore.

Your follower’s list is crawling like a snail. Your visits are diminishing by the hour, and your interaction with your current customers appears to be inexistent.

Online advertising is critical if you want your business to thrive in today’s world, so why is it that yours is not working?

There is a dark secret no marketing guru will admit in front of you. One that keeps making almost every piece of advice you are most likely going to be getting from online articles useless.

Here is why all these articles are not working for you. This is the dark side of online marketing no one wants you to know about.

Snake Oil Salesmen

There is an obvious connection between most articles a person looking for marketing advice will find online; they are written by very prominent speakers who seem to be very successful at giving away the secrets of dominating that terrible monster called an online advertisement for (apparently) absolutely nothing, free of charge!

But if you find most of these articles, videos, or podcasts to be somewhat similar in tone and form, it is most likely because they are being written by using templates on “how to write the perfect article to make credulous victims click the buy now button.”

Their titles usually go something like this:

“What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From ____”

“How ___ Turned His Haters Into Loyal Customers”

“How I ___________ In Three Weeks”

“6 Powerful Ways of ______ In Six Weeks”

“What _____ Taught Me About Marketing”

You get the idea. The only thing these marketing tips are useful for is at making you click on the title. It is a very similar strategy marketers have used for years to sell fad diets.

You probably recognize this one; it has been published thousands of times by every healthy cooking magazine by now.

“How I Lost __ Pounds In Six Weeks With Popcorn!”

The only way you will lose weight by reading a magazine or blog that publishes articles with titles like the one from above is when you start running out of money after you bought all these courses and books they are continually pushing their readers to buy.

The Strategy

In the case of the popcorn diet, even though we know popcorn is a scientifically proven food that could diminish cravings and lead to weight loss thanks to its low caloric intake (when adequately prepared), the results in these articles are often exaggerated to oblivion. Using a truth to sell a lie is one of the most used strategies by oil snake salesmen.

And for a good reason too. It works.

Those articles are also good at making you feel as if you had just discovered the easiest solution for your problem without anyone’s help.

Read the article, watch the video, buy the online course, and you will have the upper hand at this Internet advertising thing everyone is talking about (and probably bragging rights too). After all, if it worked for Jeff, the marketing guru, why wouldn’t it work for you? Posting a few lines on Twitter during lunchbreak seems easy enough, right?

It is essential to realize that not all of those articles are lies, but sadly, most of them are, and to add insult to injury, some are being written not by the guru you are buying your books and online courses from, but by his/her assistants, interns, or copyeditors.

How to fix it: stop buying into the whole “marketing/social media guru” scheme. If all a person has to show for is a large social media following (something even your teen nephew can easily purchase today), and not tangible results, as for example, specific campaigns or a client list, you are most likely going to be wasting precious time in getting advice from a snake oil salesman.

They Offer Useless Advices

This one will come as a shock for some, but big brands spend big bucks to get those likes on social media. It is not about consistency, is not about being cheeky with your followers, is not about posting funny cat pics.

It is about spending cash. Loads of cash.

Burger King raised its advertising spending to 372 million U.S. dollars in the U.S. in 2019. — Source: statista.com

Here is a graphic showing every dollar Burger King invested in advertising from 2010 to the date.

Almost 400 million in 2016. Do you remember 2016? How much money did your business spend on Advertising in 2016? A few thousand? Zero?

My point exactly.

Now, you might not be in the business of selling burgers, but you are in the business of betting people to notice your brand, aren’t you? Around 300 million a year for at least the last eleven years; that is what it took to Burger King to get noticed. Consider that the next time you hear a marketing/social media guru, mention Burger King as an example of how successful advertising campaigns get done.

One of the most common pieces of advice we often come across on the websites of those marketing gurus is the old “Check your social media channels at least twice a day, every day.” It usually comes wrapped in one of those “How Often Should You Post on Social Media in 202X?” articles.

  • Post often, at least two times a day (maximum four posts a day).
  • Speak their language, be funny and positive. Be human!
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Always use images and videos.
  • Add a call to action to your website in every post.
  • Build around hashtags.

The list can go on and on forever. The truth is there is nothing you can do on Social Media other than pour stupid amounts of money into ads to get 10% of the results you are probably trying to get.

And to illustrate my point: I introduce you to the Coca-Cola Social Media Hub.

The image above is not from NORAD, but from a “quick” Social Media Newsroom Coca-Cola built in 2016 for the Olympic Games.

From the video description:

More than 100 Coca-Cola marketers, social media analysts and creatives are powering the company’s real-time marketing efforts during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

If that is what Coca-Cola does for a single event, god knows what they do the rest of the year. The biggest brands have at least one of those in each region. We are talking about several hubs with several hundreds of social media employees doing what you are probably planning on doing for your social media channel, but twenty-four hours a day (weekends included).
That means the rest of us is probably screwed when it comes to social media advertising.

We can ten times a day, schedule our posts beforehand, follow a strict content calendar to maximize the time and the days our posts get published, and still, we never get even close to getting the same traction these big brands get with their hubs.

And that is the crucial issue; Social Media and Online Advertising are built around these big, powerful brands, not our business. There is a reason why your following base is not increasing exponentially, and it is called money.

How to fix it: focus only on strategies within your budget. You won’t be getting anything out by listening to a twenty-minute talk of what a well-known brand, with access to thousands of subscribers, influencers, Youtube ads, and celebrities, was able to accomplish with two billion dollars last fiscal year when all you have are a few thousands for google ads.

You might get some far fetched lesson from one of these big brand success stories, but you are most likely not going to be able to use what you think you learned in your own marketing campaign unless you have a bottomless wallet.

Marketing Junkies

Most of the articles about advertising you are going to find online are written so the unsuspecting victim can read how average Joe doubled his small company’s income by doing the obvious; spending more time doing social media.

And, of course, paying for the guru’s books and online courses.

But you will never get any useful, actionable information out of these articles, and the authors know it. These are good at one thing and one thing alone: creating marketing junkies. Entrepreneurs who go from article to article, from video to video, liking, upvoting, subscribing and getting their next fix on DIY advertising.

How to fix it:

  1. Ask around to the people you already know how they managed to get their business started or how they got more leads.
  2. Ask your dentist how he built his solo practicing.
  3. Ask your mechanic.
  4. Ask your favorite bakery.
  5. Ask your friend’s uncle, who tunes pianos.
  6. Ask the plumber next time he unplugs your toilet.
  7. Ask real people, don’t buy into the nectar of online marketing books, workshops, and podcasts.

When I write about advertising, I make it my priority to go to the source. If I write about someone’s success, I make every effort to interview the person behind the story; I don’t merely repost a few quotes from someone else’s article. I get in contact with the company or persons behind the story, and I make it my mission to get the facts by myself, first hand.

And so should you.

Think about your business marketing as if you were a country. Countries act on reliable intelligence, not on hearsays (for the most part). If you were a General, would you advise the President to mobilize our troops to the Canadian border because you read from someone online the Canadians were about to invade us? Using the same logic, why are you ready to invest your hard-earned time and money into a strategy you came across in some article?

The answer is you shouldn’t. Not without the proper evidence. Remember: trust, but verify.

Alessandra Horton is a freelance writer and editor. You can read her in places like Medium. She is currently taking an indefinite hiatus from Twitter.

Alessandra Horton is a freelance writer and editor rambling about marketing and the web. She is currently taking an indefinite hiatus from Twitter.