social media viewpointsDoes the phrase direct marketer conjure up sleazy images? If you thought yes, you’re not alone.

Both social media marketing and direct response marketing place a focused pitch on the right list (prospects) and understanding what they want in order to engage them with relevant information that will get them to buy from you.

So why are social media and direct response considered mutually exclusive?

Jonathan Fields, author of Career Renegade, put a stake into the hearts of social media “purists” when he said, “Those making the most money with social media marketing today are doing so by turning it into direct-response 2.0.”

Is Revenue the Light at the End of Your Funnel?

Why is it considered crazy to link social media to direct marketing success metrics that tie your efforts to revenue? Cinderella stories of benefiting from word of mouth aren’t just urban legend. But going viral is a lightning strike, not a strategy—you can’t bank on it.

If the success or failure of a direct marketing mail campaign depends 40% on a targeted list, 40% on a compelling offer and 20% on the format and design, then is the winning recipe for a successful social media campaign so different?


  • The list is your audience (fans, followers, emails, subscribers).
  • The offer is your brand service or product combined with copy you use to promote it.
  • The format is the medium used in your message (video, blog post, eBook, etc.)

Fans Are Vanity. Revenue Is Sanity.

Smart marketers tie their social media efforts to a direct marketing methodology to strategically drive traffic into their sales funnel, giving them the Holy Grail, (gasp)… ROI!

Unfortunately, many social marketers have illusions that their social network connections are “their” audience. The harsh reality is that if they don’t visit you outside the network, they’re only friends you enjoy at Facebook’s “party.”

Converting connections from social networks to paying customers should be a critical focus of any social media campaign. Otherwise you’re only improving the experience for the social networks.

How to Convince and Convert Your Audience

A direct marketing campaign done right involves identifying your target audience, creating compelling one-on-one communications, and having a clear call to action laser-focused on “What’s in it for ME?”

The problem is some marketers don’t understand that “ME” is the customer! This fatal flaw causes them to shout, stalk, push and prod until the brand value is diminished and sales are meager.

Image source:

#1: Define your target audience

Send a survey. It’s easy to send your audience a survey when you have an email list. Simply offer something in return, perhaps an opportunity for them to be put into a drawing to win $50.00 (this invariably leads to a much higher response).

Ask for comments or feedback. Offer a free report asking for feedback. Pay attention to the language used. You will gather invaluable insights that will help you create or refine your offer.

Run analytics. Use a tool from sites like Compete or Quantcast to analyze the traffic at your site (and your competitors’) to gather a robust audience profile.

Determine the size of the crowd.

Who are they, where do they come from and what is the keyword bait? – Social Media Examiner

#2: Define what your target audience desires

Before you craft your marketing message or initiate conversation, you must know what your audience wants. What they want is more valuable than what they need. You need toilet paper, you want a nice purse—which would you buy on a whim?

Google’s Keyword Tool is a terrific, free way to get started finding out the words someone might use to solve their “pain.”

Sorting keywords that tie to your topic by amount of traffic.

If you’re struggling for ideas, try the Google Wonder Wheel to find additional terms related to your main search term.

Where in the world is the Google Wonder Wheel?

Example of Google Wonder Wheel data output for the phrase tax attorney.

Paid tools like Keyword Spy or SpyFu find keywords people are buying (PPC). The rule of thumb—if they’re making money on them, you can too!

Traffic is vanity, sales are sanity: find "buyer" keywords.

Research Best Practices Marketing Messages Using Keywords

Amazon is the king of reviews and “other related products.” Use your keyword list to find relevant books. Read the customer reviews and recommendations. This data is priceless because it has your target market using their own words to tell you exactly what they loved and hated!

Say you’re selling a weight loss product, for example. If the reviewers say “Great concept but I’m starving and have no energy!” You could use it for a tweet, “The Top 10 Ways You Can Lose Weight and Have More Energy Than Ever Before.”

Google. Find conversations using “I hate” or “I love” and your keyword. What forum, social network or other places online are they having these conversations? Social Mention is a terrific tool for this, and it’s free.

google search results

Use Google Search to find "hot buttons" around your keywords.

social mention

Use Social Mention to find the who, what and where around your keyword.

Google Trends gives you insight into where the people discussing your potential product or service are located. Are they college-educated? Do they live in small towns? Look for insights to help you geotarget your market with precision.

google trends

Geotarget conversations around your keywords to build better user data.

Social networks are one of the best sources for finding data about your audience’s loves and hates, as well as neutral conversations. Use your keywords to find people discussing their pain or desire, then head to their profiles to discover more about who they are.

Tie conversations to types of users using Twitter search. Who seems to be saying what and why: search Twitter with keywords.

#3: Create a “Home-Style” Digital Persona

Try creating some faux social profiles for your ideal target consumer.

Remember you’re most likely NOT your customer. Your marketing message must be crafted using their words in a language that resonates with them.

Tina Calabria at Step Two Designs gives a well done, in-depth explanation of personas.


Do you still think direct marketing is the polar opposite of social media marketing? By keeping your eye on your targeted goals like a seasoned direct marketer, you’ll build the bridge between vanity and sanity.

Start implementing the same fundamental principles of direct marketing to your social media campaign and you might just set the world on fire!

What do you think? Leave your answers and comments in the box below.

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  • Excellent article, I can definitely appreciate your multi-channel approach to driving ROI. I think social media marketing is trendy and sort of limitless at the moment but more and more marketers will discover that well timed multi-channel efforts incorporating direct mail, SMS, and email along with social media are the most effective means of filling your sales funnel.

  • What a tremendous post. There are definitely parallels between direct marketing and social media. As a veteran of both strategies, the tools may have changed, but the basic process is the same.

    The sales funnel remains the most important factor, but I think some people are struggling with the fact that social marketing requires much more patience, and may not be willing to put the time in with analytics and measuring tools to capitalize on the results.

    The tools you mentioned here are top notch, and offer some great suggestions on how to see the effects of what you’re doing.

  • Le Ann Kinsey

    Excellent article! Thank you!

  • Nice article Lori!

  • WOW Lori, you are spot on, I like the article, you have given some very valuable tips, insights, and resources.

    If I may add that long term growth and sales can come from building relationships, and that is the main added dimension that social media has over other marketing tools. It has opened the door for multi-level conversation, that if entered into with the intention of serving the customers and helping them get what they want, that will eventually lead to the ultimate purpose of any business, a word of mouth storm that will drive growth and business for a long time.

    That said there must be a short term strategy accompanying the above, and that is why the traditional tools will still have a place.

    Thank you for the article

  • David Wright

    GREAT post, Lori! Thank you for the thorough article and some new stuff to add to my tool box. The Google Wonder Wheel is one of my favorites!

  • MitchellAllen

    Lori, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was one of those people who really didn’t know what to make of Twitter. While thinking about David Perdew’s comment, in context, I think I have a better appreciation for the dilemma faced by marketers entering a social hurricane such as Twitter. If they go in listening to their social colleagues, they’re likely to hear about “those bums, the marketers.” If they go in listening to their marketing pals, they’re likely to hear about “those morons tweeting about Pop-Tarts.”

    In my opinion, Twitter, unlike Facebook, is more analogous to a National Convention venue. Some folks are there for fun, some are there for networking. Still others are there to initiate business – poorly or deftly.

    The myth, I believe, is that marketers have to pretend to be sociable. Isn’t that dishonest? Don’t pretend. They should find out how to “work the room” properly, using your tips of course. However, just because you’re a marketer doesn’t mean you have to be IBM-down and FBI-serious. What you have to do is stay focused and not waste time marketing to the wrong crowd by being syrupy and friendly in hopes of winning converts. (Too bad there is no opt-in list for Twitter Following – that’s more than half the battle for targeted audience right there!)

    This is where Facebook has the advantage, I think. While both platforms require your audience to follow you, on Facebook, your message is never diluted – if you can engage visitors on your fan page.

    Twitter’s advantage is the Retweet – reaching beyond your reach, so to speak.

    My favorite takeaway is your vanity vs. sanity theme. I think there are ego problems in any channel. The person who lets a loser Adwords ad continue running despite the numbers….



  • Great article Lori, as popular and hyped as Social Media marketing has become – traditional marketing values and methods are still important and I feel there will be a a revised focus to email marketing in 2011 (with Social networks helping grow those all important lists).
    Your reference to Personas has worked fantastically for us. We created a PR Donkey (@peppersantblai) for our rural hotel in the little Mediterranean island of Mallorca – who has now grown into a reference point for the island; an example of excellence in Social Media for Spain and now has her own Social Media marketing company (Rebuzzna).As you rightly pointed out research is key to developing the conversation and from our experience authenticity and genuine interaction is also important.
    “Give and you will receive” without fail works – but you need to also help it along and ensure all the effort put into your Social Media marketing and interaction also has it’s pay off – and good old fashioned mailing lists will always deliver.
    Looking forward to more from you soon

  • This post filled my social media appetite. Based on the results of my peers I was about to scrap my print campaign. I, however, see that I need print too complete the marketing mix. So thank you for the great post.
    Bon appetite everybody

  • timo

    The most effective way to get a response from social media marketing is engage consumers in continuous mobile conversations that are tightly integrated with their diverse and varying daily lifestyles and activities. No mailing lists needed. No addresses needed. No mail follow-up needed. Just the PoKos Social Messaging(TM) mobile marketing platform. Happy New Year!

  • Lori

    Thank you for your feedback. There are so many marketing touch points, what’s interesting, is even large companies are going a little “crazy” with their social media. Because it has such a low cost barrier to entry, they are just jumping in! With no regard to how it ties to direct response tv ads, direct mail campaigns, print ads, emails – not realizing that if all the dots aren’t properly connected then your marketing efforts can cancel each other out! It’s about stretching the marketing dollar for leverage to build brand and sales – not throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks.

  • gf

    Awesome article Lori, thanks for sharing the info, really informative and actionable advice

  • Michaelsfl

    I love it. tell me more…

  • Mruble18

    GREAT READ – love all the tips on the tools you reference….

  • Rod

    Very Helpful information. Please post more!

  • Fantastic as always, Lori!

    “Amazon is the king of reviews and “other related products.” Use your keyword list to find relevant books. Read the customer reviews and recommendations. This data is priceless because it has your target market using their own words to tell you exactly what they loved and hated!”

    That’s a gold nugget smart marketers can take straight to the bank.

    Thanks for such a thoroughly researched and well articulated post. Can’t wait for the next one.

  • Lori,
    As always a great article you covered so many useful and tangible points, I love the line “build the bridge between sanity and vanity” that is so very very true – if we could only convince clients of this!
    Looking forward to your next “write/right” .

  • Gary

    Simply put, great article. It is critical that we start thinking how to generate revenue with social media. And the parallel between social media and direct response is right on.

    Thanks for the article Lori.

  • Lori,

    This is a great post with lots of insight and links to other tools that can enhance direct response marketing and social media presence. I am looking forward to beginning to use these different tactics and learning first hand which work the best.

    While reading your post, I found myself asking ‘isn’t my audience finding me (or my client) through keywords and keyword research?

    Also, should our social media presence be varied across multiple platforms, or should we focus a specific ad campaign off of Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn separately?

  • Lori

    (Sorry for my delayed response, I was in Cabo on vacation and the internet was ridiculously slow!! )

    David thank you very much.

    You are so right! The “tools” have changed but the process is the same.

    Find out what people want and how to give it to them. It used to be only large companies with large budgets could afford to “do it right”, but now with all these free tools, if you just create your own methodology, you can have a “real” process to do the homework to spend your dollars more wisely.

    SMO (social media optimization) is like SEO (search engine optimization), it’s organic in nature (when done right) but it’s sticky and is a great foundation to build upon. But you are correct it does require patience.

    Too many people are trying to do a mass marketing approach with social media – get as many to come as possible – then get some sales. But it’s a lot of work to get the wrong people there.

    Focusing on the right people is key…I always say “Friends and Fans are vanity. Sales are sanity. It’s up to you to decide how crazy you can afford to be. ”

    Happy New Year!

  • Lori

    Hussein, you are spot on to say that you need both a long term and short term strategy. Before I start either strategy, I am very careful to find the right audience, and create the right messaging. However, as you point out, social media makes marketing much more real time and fluid, so as with all good strategies you must be prepared to adapt. This is where listening is so important to the success of your program! Consistency is key – anyone can do anything for the “short term” – but if you can consistently provide quality content wrapped in good context you set the stage for success.

    Cheers to the new year – thank you for your gracious comment.

  • Lori

    I love the Google wonder wheel too! It’s funny one of my top tech friends was saying no one even used it (for search) – and I said, yeah but all the marketers LOVE it. LOL.

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Lori

    What a great comment! Very thought provoking and well said.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about being clear with your purpose on twitter. Don’t pretend you don’t have anything to sell, if you do! But you also don’t have to be Captain Obvious, either. There is a fine balance between being helpful to build your authority and trust and waiting to “snake” someone in – ha!

    I’m a life long learner, so I love all the different products for sale online. My experience is there are many good marketing products that really can help you – I’ve learned a lot from people like Darren Rose, Mari Smith (great Facebook product), Brian Clark and even Ryan Deiss. In my opinion they stand out above the crowd because they listen, offer help and stay engaged with their audience to solve problems.

    Facebook is better for in depth conversations, however, I still gravitate towards LinkedIn if I’m going to be openly talking “shop”. I have tried to separate my friends and business people on Facebook, but it’s not easy to do, so it gets complicated. 🙂

    The only words of caution I’d add to any marketer – is to make sure you aren’t just taking shop with other shop owners. You’d be surprised how much time we spend talking to each other – and not spending enough time with people who truly need our help, guidance and even services.

    I know good people who are “social media snobs” and that gets you no where long term, in my opinion. 🙂

    Happy New Year – really enjoyed your comment – “poorly or deftly” – ha – very true.

    “In my opinion, Twitter, unlike Facebook, is more analogous to a National Convention venue. Some folks are there for fun, some are there for networking. Still others are there to initiate business – poorly or deftly.”

  • Lori

    Roger – a man after my own heart! I have been preaching to some clients with large email lists that they are not using them correctly. They use them to shout and if they used them the way we’ve PROVEN social media to work, they would be a gold mine.

    I completely agree the top marketers will find a way to connect the dots with social media, email and direct mail in a holistic way to really turn it up a notch.

    Glad you stopped by and took the time to share. Keep up the good work in 2011 – it’s going to be great!

  • Lori

    Thank you Sean! I love Amazon for great headlines too – some of the book titles are great starting points for brainstorming for topics. And as you point out, the consumer reviews and recommendations are truly priceless. I also find the ability to look at the index very powerful.

  • Lori

    Bill – thank you so much for the kind comment. I must admit, 2010 was a little rough as it came to client work simply because most of them didn’t “get it”. It took as much effort to convince them to make the right choices as actually executing them!

    My mantra became, “If you don’t trust me then let me find you a different agency. Without trust we can’t do anything amazing together – at best we’ll be ordinary, and there isn’t enough ROI from Social Media to settle for that.”

    Funny thing is, once I started putting it like that, everything shifted. Not because they would have to find a new partner, but because they got it – trying to get to even 3rd base with your foot still on 2nd – is pretty darn hard. 🙂

    Here’s to better benchmarks, more case studies and big successes for all in 2011 – the more we learn the better we can be – together!

  • Lori


    Couldn’t agree more. I think once people begin to understand how to use social media to connect the dots to more traditional methods, they will be able to get the ROI they need. Using social media for free trials of products and marketing research can be a great use of social media for a brand – neither one of those things have ever been tied directly to ROI – but certainly have responsibility for it.

    Once marketers really start understanding social media itself isn’t the funnel, it’s a new way to get them into YOUR funnel you’ve created for your brand.

    If done right, many of those “inbound marketing leads” are more qualified and inclined to become a real customer, not just a one time buyer. The key is to connect the dots between all your marketing efforts and leverage your dollars with a very integrated well planned campaign.

    Have a great 2011!


  • I’m not sure I understand the question – if you are asking how you can tie an ad budget for TV together with a social media campaign, it would really depend on your objectives.

    One way we have been able to do this is to use radio and tv to drive interest to our facebook page where we were having a contest with the outcome to build our email list. We were very targeted with demographics, even the prize was specific to our audience, and this was a great way to drive traffic to a relatively new social media campaign.

    I hope this helps – if you want to clarify your question I’d be happy to answer it if I misunderstood.

  • Sabine – I’m so glad to help you out! I’m a big believer in an integrated approach. Even if all your other efforts are there to support your social media campaign – you will find quicker success by touching your consumers in multiple ways. Every industry is different, but across several of my clients any where from 3 – 7 touch points is necessary to “make the sale”.

    Happy New Year!

  • I use social media in all my marketing campaigns for my clients. I have been using online direct response for about 12 years – yes some of the blunt style sites are probably mine – but the basic science behind it is still the same. Social media is not a parallel to what I do it is the mouth of the funnel. Social media is the ‘front of house’ area where businesses engage with potential customers or clients, and the relationship is formed. In Direct Response we call this ‘qualifying’ – but social media gives us the benefit of encouraging the casual visitor to ‘qualify themselves’ by taking any number of actions we can track and measure.

    For example, if someone comes to your blog and reads your article, they may ‘Like’ the article to share it to their friends, and may ‘Like’ your facebook page when they go there. They may also watch your videos and follow your tweets and subscribe to your newsletter. A smart business will craft this process so it encourages adoption of as many channels as possible, and present as many opportunities to do so as possible – with measuring.

    The reason why is that each time somone Likes, follows, watches, reads, recommends or subscribes to your content, they are re-affirming their own interest in your business, products, services or whatever your offering is. This is pure gold for a marketer with a well crafted and measured funnel, as by the time the person is presented with an offer, they have already said ‘yes’ half a dozen times or more. Sales conversions are significantly higher as a result. The landing page of one of my clients is converting almost 20% of visitors!

    The role of direct response is to optimise the landing points along the way, and to encourage the person to move through a determined path of consumption of your information. The direct response marketer then optimises the sales page/offer at any point it is presented, and tracks conversions and metrics. The boon of social media is the person has already done half the work for you 🙂

    Last note. If it takes 7 exposures to your message before someone decides to do business with you – social media is handling about 6 of those for you!

  • Great article exploring the gap between social media and direct response. Thanks for the links to these sites and tools.

  • Pingback: Social Media and Direct Marketing Should Be Siblings, Not Strangers « The Relevance Compass()

  • Great article. The basics of understanding the prospect is key in any marketing program, especially now as prospects/buyers conduct research via web searches to help solve business problems and make buying decisions.

    I have found the Buyer Persona training and tools developed by Pragmatic Marketing ( to be great at gathering information to develop Buyer Personas for any company.

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  • Helpful post on improving your social media campaign. Thank you for bringing awareness to ways you can indentify your target audience before developing your pitch.

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