Attacking the Myths of Social Media: An Interview With Jason Falls
I recently met with Jason Falls, the founder of Social Media Explorer and co-author of the hot new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing (Jason co-authored this great new book with Erik Deckers).
Jason also has a past with Social Media Examiner. He was one of our founding contributors.
Mike: Some might think the title of your book is a little edgy for the business world. Share how you came up with it and what you are setting out to accomplish with this new book.
Jason: Well, when Erik and I sat down last December and started talking about the concept for the book, I was really dead set and determined that we needed to write the “No Bullshit” guide to social media marketing.
The reason that I came up with that concept is that over the past few years, as I was giving talks around the country about social media, I’ve always tried to be very simple and plainspoken in how I explained social media, social media marketing and technology to people.
I’ve also tried to be very sensitive to the fact that businesspeople don’t have time to mess around on social networks. They need to know: “How do I get in? How do I set it up? How do I start using it so that it shows me some results?”, because they’re trying to run their businesses. If we as social media consultants and practitioners and advisors say, “We just want you to experiment and play for six months,” nobody is going to give us the time of day.
I’ve always had that sort of no-nonsense attitude. I would come offstage from talking at conferences and whatnot and people would say, “I really appreciate the fact that you’ve got a really no-bullshit style—that you just get right to the point and tell it how it is and don’t make any apologies for it.” So I listened to my audience. They said, “You’re the no-bullshit guy,” so that’s how the title of the book came about.
Mike: Let’s talk a little bit about the implication of the title, which is that there’s a lot of crap—misinformation—out there. Maybe you can share a little about why you felt the need to cut straight to the problem that’s going on right now with social media.
Jason: I guess we should take a step back a little bit. We’re calling “bullshit” on what I call the “social media purists” who have been preaching at us for however long this industry has been an industry.
They’ve been preaching to us that social media is all about joining the conversation, it’s all about engaging with your customers, it’s all about listening first and it’s all about providing value to your audience.
Now, this is where we need to draw a very firm line. Erik and I agree with all of those points and pieces of advice. I consider myself to be a social media purist in line with that philosophical thinking. And I have said those things before, and Erik has too, and we believe in them.
But that’s where the social media purists stop. And if you add the word “marketing” to the phrase “social media,” you’re talking about business. You’re talking about making money. You’re talking about driving business. You’re talking about revenue. So where the social media purists stop, we have to take a step further and say, “No, no, no. There’s a lot more to it.”
There are some social media purists over the years who have said things like, “You cannot or should not sell using social media channels.” We’ve got a couple of case studies in the book showing they’ve said things like, “Well, you shouldn’t be pushing marketing messages on your personal Facebook profile because that’s an inappropriate place for that to happen.”
So we went out looking for stories of people who had gone against this social media puritanical advice and had been successful in doing so—to illustrate the point that if all you think social media is about is joining the conversation, engaging, holding hands in a circle and singing “Kumbaya,” then you’re not going to be in business very long. Because if you’re not thinking about revenue, if you’re not thinking about approaching it strategically, if you’re not thinking about measuring it, then you’re probably going to fail.
Mike: You and I have had multiple discussions about this over the years, and I’m very glad that you’re addressing this. I believe 100% that there is a place for business, marketing and sales specifically in social media. I think that, hopefully, a lot of those purists will eventually wake up and see that there’s a place for that.
You mentioned “Kumbaya,” and in your book you mentioned the Kumbaya Effect. Can you define what that is and maybe we can dig a little deeper into what we need to know about it?
Jason: The Kumbaya Effect is where a person or company gets lost in the warm-and-fuzzy of social media: “Oh, we love engaging with our customers, and we love sitting on Facebook and Twitter and chitter-chattering all day.” That’s fine—there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it. Part of what makes social media fun is that you’re having one-to-one conversations and you’re engaging with your customers.
But if you get lost in the euphoria of being social and forget to be aware of your business, then you lose traction, you lose market share and you lose the opportunity to make money.
Every single business owner out there will tell you, if they know anything at all about their own business, “If I’m not doing something every moment of the day that’s going to lead to revenue, then I’m failing myself. I’m failing my business.”
So in terms of providing content and having conversations with people online as business folks, we need to make sure that we are consumer-centric. I’m not saying that we need to immediately just start dropping links to buy our stuff all the time. That’s not the point.
The point is we need to continue to be social, we need to continue to join the conversation and we need to continue to be consumer-centric. But we have to be business-aware—because if we’re not and we get lost in the euphoria, if we fall victim to the Kumbaya Effect, then we lose sight of our goals and we lose sight of what we need to do to drive our businesses.
Mike: You and Erik have done some research and discovered some businesses that are doing things that go against the grain of the purists. Can you mention one example of a business, big or small, that you think is doing something positive that’s actually generating results?
Jason: Last year for Christmas, my mother, Sara George, wanted a remote car starter, so she wouldn’t have to go out and sit in the car for 10 minutes on cold mornings. So my wife and I sent her a check and said, “It would be better if you have it installed where you live as opposed to us doing it here in Louisville,” which is three and a half hours away. “So here’s your check. Go and get your remote car starter.”
A few weeks after Christmas, she wakes up one morning—it’s really cold—and she goes on Facebook to check what’s going on before she goes to work.
She sees a message from a gentleman by the name of Greg Tackett. Now, she and Greg Tackett are acquaintances probably at best, but they live in a small town in eastern Kentucky. So in a small town, the context is a little different. They probably would say hello to each other walking down the street. They know each other well enough to do that, and so they’re connected as friends on Facebook.
Well, Greg Tackett posts a message on his personal Facebook wall, not on a brand page or anything like that, that says something along the lines of, “Come and get your remote car starter for these cold mornings at Tackett’s Custom Audio Car Stereo Place.” I can’t remember the exact name of the business.
Immediately, social media purists who had seen that flipped out: “Oh, you can’t sell via social media. You can’t put marketing messages on your Facebook personal profile. That’s against the rules. That’s wrong. You can’t do that. You’re a spammer!”
How would you think she responded to that message?
Mike: I think she probably would have said, “Wow, that’s exactly what I need!”
Jason: Exactly! She responded to the message with: “Can I make an appointment for Thursday?”
Even better, the viral nature of Facebook (and this is what you have to really think about) and the context of this man, Greg Tackett, putting that post on his personal wall, increases his likelihood of generating business.
Most of his personal friends live in the same small town. They know him, they know he has children to feed and they know he runs an auto aftermarket shop. And they know it’s cold outside, right? They saw his post and they saw my mother’s activity, and I think there were 12 or 13 people in that conversation thread who said, “I want one too.”
We did the math on that one Facebook wall post on Greg Tackett’s personal page, which was against all the rules of the social media purists. If all of those people had come and purchased a remote car starter that week—which I know my mother did, and several others probably did too—that one wall post generated about $4,000 in revenue for him.
Mike: That’s cool. You mentioned one of the myths earlier: that you can’t sell and you can’t make money with social media. Give me another big myth that you see businesses falling prey to when it comes to social media.
Watch this video from the authors
Jason: I think that probably the biggest myth of them all is that you can’t measure it.
Despite the fact that there are a number of people out there now finally talking about the measurement, quantification and qualification of what all of this means, you still have businesses out there asking, “How can I measure how much I’m getting out of Twitter or Facebook? I don’t control those websites. I’m not selling anything there. I’m just having my employees spend time there. What does it all mean?”
I think that obviously asking the measurement question first is missing the point because typically you don’t measure what you don’t have. So you have to start out by saying, “First of all, what do we want to accomplish?” You need to set your goals first.
In the book, we talk about that myth of not being able to measure social media return.
The case study that we use in the book is actually about a brand that people have maybe heard about, but it’s a different scenario. Some folks have maybe heard of the Fiskateers website, which is a scrapbooking online community for the Fiskars brand of scissors.
Without going into too much detail, basically it’s a community of scrapbookers, a branded community, by invitation only. They have about 8,000 members who are avid scrapbookers. Fiskars, the scissors company, sends them samples and gets feedback from them, and so on.
Fiskars developed an 8,000-member community of people passionate about scrapbooking and almost equally as passionate about Fiskars scissors because Fiskars was providing this community for them. Fiskars thought, “We’ve got 8,000 people online who will do anything we ask them to do. Let’s send prototypes and have the community test them. Let’s get product and feature adjustment ideas from them, and let’s let the community decide what the next version of our scissors is going to look like.”
Because they have an 8,000-member focus group at their fingertips, they’ve cut and trimmed their research and development budget. They no longer have to go out and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars with intricate market research focus groups and whatnot, figuring out what people want out of their scissors, because they have those people right there.
So, you can measure it. You just have to have a plan first. You have to know what you’re trying to accomplish so that you can then say, “Okay, how much money did we make? How much money did we save? Are our customers happy?” Those are the three things that CEOs really care about.
Mike: You mentioned earlier selling with social media, and you made it very clear through your examples and discussion that yes, businesses can sell with social media. What I’d like you to do is share a tip or two about how to sell with social media.
Jason: The first thing you need to think about and understand is that when you’re selling things, you’re not just selling through social media, so you want to make sure that you have a comprehensive go-to-market sales strategy. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar store, you sell virtual products, you sell things online or whatever, you need to think of this not in terms of a social media strategy, but also as a sales strategy overall.
Within the confines of social media, as it were, what you need to think about is that you want to have a point to every communication. The point is always: what is your call to action? What are you trying to get people to do?
When you’re in an informal conversation with a customer, it doesn’t mean you need to drop a link, “Click this and buy,” on everything you say. But you need to make sure that throughout your day, you are constantly following through with the point of your communication. Maybe that’s to register for an upcoming webinar, download a white paper or sign up for your e-newsletter. It’s moving the consumer further down into the marketing funnel.
You have to think about a point that drives people to action—to buy, download, reserve, call or something of that nature. I think that you can do that both in calls to action on your blog and calls to action on Facebook posts.
A perfect example is Dell Outlet, the Twitter account for Dell’s overstock situations. They’ve treated that account differently over the years, but at times, it’s just been a never-ending stream of links for you to click on and get discounts on products. But they have enough people out there who are interested in their products that they can do that. If you have an audience that says, “Pizza joint, I just want coupons and that’s all I want,” then just make your Twitter stream coupons.
Mike: Jason, it’s been a very interesting discussion, to say the least. Where can folks go to learn more about your new book, No Bullshit Social Media, and to learn more about you?
Jason: The book website is www.NoBullshitSocialMedia.com. We tried to make that pretty easy for people to remember. There, you’ve got links to where you can purchase it at Que Publishing, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
You can also get a free sample chapter as well, so if you read the first chapter and decide that it’s not for you, then you can save a little money and not buy the book. But I think most people will probably find it appealing and will want to buy it.
Kindle and Nook versions are out as well. The electronic versions can be purchased on various websites and apps where you get those. And it should be in most bookstores across the country now as well.
Then as far as I go, I’m @JasonFalls on Twitter. I’m typically Jason Falls on most social networks. I’m happy to connect with folks there. And then www.SocialMediaExplorer.com is my blog and company website where a couple of other writers and I try to keep us all on our toes thinking about the issues of the day in the social media world.
Mike: I encourage everyone to go out there and read the sample chapter of Jason’s book and pick up a copy.
Jason, thank you so much for making time for me today. I really appreciate this interview.
Jason: Anytime, Michael. I love you, and it was great being a part of helping www.SocialMediaExaminer.com get off and running a couple of years ago and I love coming back.
Listen to our complete extended interview below to hear more about Jason’s experience writing the book and his thoughts on Google+ and Facebook competition.
What do you think about Jason’s no-nonsense attitude? What are your thoughts on his “No Bullshit” guide to social media? Leave your comments in the box below.
Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by Michael Stelzner »