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Learning from Mark Schaefer. The Future of Social Media

Posted in Conferences, events, Inbound marketing certification, Podcast, Resources/Guides

Learning from Mark Schaefer. The Future of Social Media

January 17, 2016, a Sunday, was an amazing day for at least 16 people in Bangalore! We got to meet Mark Schaefer at The Future of Social Media event. Mark has been in the marketing and social media industry for over 30 years. He’s a world renowned speaker, author of 5 bestselling books, college educator, podcaster and social media strategy consultant. He’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the CBS NEWS. Want to know more? Head out to his website


And yeah … don’t be surprised to see Mark in some new, trendy Bollywood number soon, what with his dance moves!

In this post, I’ll share some of my learning from the event. Be sure to listen to our podcast as well. It includes an exclusive interview with Mark, some audio clips from the session (you don’t want to miss those), and feedback from some students who attended.

5 Foundational Strategies of Social Media Marketing

It’s critical to stay in touch with the basics, never mind the layers of technology and platforms that make social media. To truly understand the nature and impact of social media, you must imbibe these 5 truths:

  1. Humans buy from humans
  2. Continuous small interactions make loyalty
  3. The Social Media mindset
  4. The Information Eco-system
  5. Content is power

5 foundational strategies of social media marketing

#1. Humans buy from humans

Mark talked about how his grandfather made a big success of his plumbing business years ago in Pittsburgh, USA. His success mantra rode on:

  • Human to human connections – Never forget that transactions happen between people, even when they’re representing a brand.
  • Honesty and transparency – If you are not upfront with your customers, you will experience immediacy in reactions.
  • Word of mouth & reputation – Good or bad service, word spreads in neighborhoods.
  • Primal need for connections – As humans, we are social in nature. We want to congregate into groups sharing common interests. We talk, we listen, we refer and we are influenced.

Businesses before the advent of mass broadcasting mediums thrived on “intimate and connected.” Radio brought in mass advertizing and that’s when “we bought our one-way ticket away from customers.”

With social media, businesses have a chance to make customers feel intimate and connected with their brand again.

Now that Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., have all come up with solutions that keep the user on the app even when they click on a link (so no traffic to your website), social media becomes even more critical. The role of the website has changed – it’s the place you sell. Social media is where you engage.

Mark narrated the tale of the guitarist, Dave Carroll  whose guitar broke because of the mishandling of United Airlines luggage bearers. When he asked the authorities to replace his guitar, they refused. Dave wrote a song “United break guitars” and published it on YouTube. After 2 million views, the airline replaced his guitar. This was 2008. Now, brands can rise and fall on social much faster. This is immediacy.

Today, businesses on social media need to respond to customers in 1 hour.

Some examples of truly social brands:

Hilton Suggests

The Great Escape Graubunden Tourism Advert 2015

#2. Continuous small interactions lead to loyalty

Mark shared his story of how he had purchased $20,000 worth of wares from a DIY store in his hometown. He planned to sell the house he was painting, repairing and really working hard on. He began landscaping and bought some bushes from the store which came with a guarantee.

After a while, the bushes died!

Inadequate customer research can disengage loyal customers

Mark took a picture of the bushes back to the store to redeem on the guarantee. The man at the counter asked Mark if he’d got the dead pushes as proof. Mark hadn’t but he showed the photo. The guy at the store said, “These could be any bushes! You could have taken a pic of anyone’s bushes!”

How did this make Mark, loyal customer with a $20,000 history with the store feel? Disappointed, to say the least. It was as though a friend had suddenly turned around and said he didn’t trust you!

That’s exactly how customers feel when they’re loyal to you over competitors and you don’t value it. The store guy could have checked Mark’s history, he could have shown more consideration and certainly honored the high value relationship.

Social media fits here best.

Social media enables continuous small interactions with a brand that ultimately create loyalty. Brands that reward their loyal customers earn rich rewards in turn – references, revenue, and good will.

And how do you drive this on social media? With content. Content must be helpful and consistent to build engagement over time.

Content is the fuel

Having a strong social media strategy that rides on content ensures you build a reliable, targeted audience versus what you get with advertising. Content can be categorized into Hygiene, Hub and Hero.

Hero, Hub and Hygiene content & impact of SEO

Image courtesy: Mark Schaefer’s blog {Grow}

Hygiene content is where most of your content figures in. It’s your everyday, regular content that answers people’s common questions. It’ll help get traffic to your website. For example, The North Face (Mountain Athletics) does that.

Hub content tells people a story. It could be about you, your company or your customers. People watch one piece of content after another because of the storytelling itself. SEO is important here as well. For example, The North Face Unearthed videos,

Hero content is inspirational, dramatic or exciting. It sells the idea of a better world. It’s the kind of stuff that goes viral. In the FIFA World Cup 2014, Adidas spend the most money but Nike got the most publicity because of its hero content – “Risk Everything” and “The Last Game.” Chiptotle’s Back to the Start is another example.

What does loyalty look like? See this.

Loyal social media users reward brands


#3. The Social Mindset

Content on social media must be RITE – Relevant, Interesting, Timely and Entertaining. Your strategy will ride on:

  • meaningful content
  • targeted connections
  • authentic helpfulness

You need to leverage social media conversations. Use powerful search features to find targeted audiences and research their needs and pains. Then you need to be authentically helpful. Conversations cannot happen if you sell. You need to offer help, teach or guide to get people’s attention and sustain that engagement over time.

Meaningful content is part of strong social media strategy

Many benefits of social media cannot be quantified. That’s how it is. Results can take a long time to realization.

#4. The Information Eco-system

Mark started with the story of Expert Laser Services and Adventures in Office Imaging blogger Nathan Dube. When Nathan was appointed marketer for the company, he was given a zero budget. Nathan cleverly came up with the Destroy Your Printer contest. He invited frustrated printer owners to shoot videos of how creatively they destroy their printer.

The entry barriers for content creation are negligible.

The contest was promoted through the company’s blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and it caught momentum. People not only loved the craziness of the videos themselves but new business also came in for the company. Nathan got the company 100 leads in 8 weeks from Facebook.

That’s how the information eco-system is today. Your website is at the center. Social media surrounds it – that’s where you have interactions and engagement. Your social media channels direct people to your website (inbound marketing). Your website is your marketplace.

Another challenge for marketers is that social media changes. But every change happens over a period of time, not overnight. We need to go where the target audience is but we can start slow. We can start at place and grow there before moving on.

What position do social media platforms take?

Correlation between shared content and market share

There is a direct correlation here. The tenets of content marketing are:

  • Have content.
  • Have connections.
  • Have engagement.

We need to tell stories. We need to involve people in our stories. And this strategy needs to be driven from the top.

dealing with social media marketing challenges

#5. Content is power

What are the common challenges in the implementation of a content strategy?

  • Culture
  • Budget
  • ROI
  • Technology
  • Legal issues

You need to move from creative excellence to content excellence. Never mind how great your content is, it never reaches its potential if it is not seen.

Magic happens when content moves. You need to create power and influence on the web by making sure that happens.

Mark gave an example of one of his own controversial blog posts. The post was published on New York Times from where it got syndicated into national media. From national, it got picked by international media and was again syndicated. Content moved and created power on the internet. How did this start? With great content.

In the world of free publishing tools and high speed internet, you don’t need the world to pick you. You can pick yourself. 

On influencer marketing

If you can get an influencer to share your content or recommend your brand, your brand presence can accelerate. The internet has democratized influence. The influencers of today are not just celebrities, they are common people who’ve done some uncommon things.

Robert Cialdini, an expert in workplace gives the 6 key principles of influence:

  • Scarcity
  • Likability
  • Reciprocity
  • Authority
  • Consistency
  • Social proof

Mark also shared the story of the world’s #1 tech blogger, Robert Scoble. Such is the influence of Robert that he quadrupled the traffic to a startup with one mention on his blog.

Are your employees brand influencers?

Influencer marketing can be a great strategy for startups. They can borrow or buy it to gain visibility. However, the influencer also has some accountability to his own followers. Your product or service should tie in to the influencer’s audience’s needs.

Your employees can become your brand advocates as well. They are influencers in their own circles.

6 questions to a social media strategy

Before you come up with a social media strategy for any brand, ask the owners of the business these 6 questions:

  1. Complete this sentence “Only we …” Define what makes you different. How do you stand out? You may need to get the answer from your customers, get their reasons for staying with your brand.
  2. Can your culture nurture and sustain a social media transformation? To understand this, learn what the company’s cultural touchpoints are. For example, is it:
    • employee centric?
    • customer centric?
    • well resourced?
    • nimble?
    • committed?
  3. Are we the kind of company people want to waste time with? Our we conversational? If Search has moved to Facebook, how much money should we invest on this platform?
  4. Where are our customers and competitors? And how can you maneuver so you stand out from the crowd? What are your customer’s unmet or unserved needs?
  5. What is the source of rich content in our company? Is it blogs, videos, podcasts or images? Can you repurpose the content – make slides, infographics, etc., from existing content? Be willing to set your content free.
  6. What does success look like? 60% of marketers say they can’t measure social media’s ROI. It’s not straightforward but you can do it.

Social media measurement is qualitative and quantitative

Multi-level approach to measuring social media’s ROI

A mathematical formula may not give the right answer to the question of “What’s your social media ROI?” Different things need to be measured at different stages of your social media maturity. Each stage could be yearlong. And that’s fine!

The first stage would be about measuring awareness with metrics such as:

  • Audience gains
  • Publisher goals
  • Web traffic

The second stage would involve measuring engagement:

  • Opt-ins
  • Lead generation
  • Customer advocacy
  • Social sharing

The third stage would be about revenue:

  • Customer retention
  • Conversion rate
  • SEO benefits
  • Cost reduction
  • Loyalty
  • Sales

Audience interactions and loyalty on social media

What’s the future of social media?

The digital business world started with websites. Then came the golden period of Search and SEO. We moved into interactivity and social … and that too is reaching a tipping point. Content will go up by 500% by 2020. That’s scary. What’s more, 75% of this content will come from consumers.

So, what’s next?

Mark says, “Content isn’t enough. Audience isn’t enough. We need ignition.” With ignition, he means “Who is sharing your content?” and “Where is it being shared?”.

The fourth circle that we’re seeing signs of growth in now are Augmented Reality, wearable devices and content filters. That’s the future of social media.

The role of websites in the digital world has changed.

Image courtesy: Mark Schaefer’s blog

6 Elements of the Content Code

Build a strong content strategy that focuses on building trust. SEO is a secondary aspect, dependent on the type of content.

  1. Brand development – Focus your resources on building trust.
  2. Build audience and influence – Focus on heroic branding to build an audience. That alone can move your content. Think about why people share content – self-identity, to show love and support, an act of kindness or generosity or trust.
  3. Plan distribution, advertising & SEO. Keep in mind, SEO becomes less important as we move from hygiene to hub to hero content.
  4. Build authority of your website. Small businesses are using Linkedin to build authority.
  5. Social proof – Makes sure your content has a catchy title (Use tools like for help.). Tip: Posts longer than 1000 words get shared more often.
  6. Shareability – Ensure your content is shareable. Use social media buttons on your blog, video, podcast, etc., pages to make it convenient for people to share your content.

Phew! That’s been a long read, hasn’t it?

Of course, there were more case studies, stories and tips but I hope what I shared here is good to you get started on your social media strategy or at least tweak it where it may be going wrong.

Again, many thanks to Mark Schaefer for sharing his knowledge and experience with us.

Adieu for now!

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About Monica

Monica is a digital marketer, blogger and technical writer. She’s helped small businesses with content strategy and development since 6+ years and is now extending the value with online marketing. Her goal is to introduce more businesses to this exciting and profitable marketing medium. She is a regular blogger for WMA. Connect with her on Linkedin or Twitter for digital marketing assistance or to say hello!