Trying to do social media marketing that actually works grows more difficult by the day. In fact, Facebook is regularly throwing advertisers right out the back door of the castle. To get back in, companies are often required to redo their sites and behavior in ways that neuter effectiveness. Do not underestimate this problem.

However, despite the changing marketing landscape, there are still two things that haven’t changed and most likely never well. Let’s take a look.


The Marketing Success Triangle Has NOT Changed

Right markets get the right message by the right media.

Simply broadcasting a message to millions via social media accomplishes little for most businesses. Companies like GoPro and Red Bull are great examples of brand-builders using viral videos and social media to rise from obscurity to fame in the marketplace.

But your business is probably not akin to theirs. You have to be very careful to model and emulate businesses that have much more in common with your own. Take capital and human resources, for example. If you’re funding your business’s growth from its profits or from money borrowed by mortgaging your home and your grandma’s wheelchair, you’re in an entirely different place than a company into which hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital and Wall Street money flow.

Further, viral explosions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, as Greg Levitt, co-founder of, a social media sharing platform, admits. From his firm’s research:

  • Consumers are most likely to share articles, news and content related to science, but only 9 percent of person-to-person recipients click on the shared links regarding these topics.
  • Timely news and political items are less widely shared at 2 percent, but the click rates are 86 percent and 77 percent, respectively.
  • Business-related: Only 4 percent share and 24 percent click on the shared links.
  • Health: 3 percent share, 15 percent click.
  • Celebrity and entertainment: 2 percent share, but 40 percent click.
  • Consumer reviews of products, businesses: 1 percent share, 4 percernt click.
  • Personal finance: 1 percent share, 11 percent click.

(The above stats were based on surveys of 500 publishers of online content.)

Levitt explains the wide disparity between share and click rates as “ego sharing.” That is, senders sharing content they believe will boost their perceived intelligence, informed status, etc. regardless of whether they think recipients will find it interesting or not. The overall average is 3 percent sharing of content and 24 percent of recipients clicking on shared links.

To me, this says there are only two useful plays: First, work with a tightly targeted list of thought-leader, market-leader and influential recipients to deliver content of high interest and value that enhances their status if shared — to hit or beat the 3 percent bar, but so that the 24 percent of those recipients who are shared with are ideal for you. Or, second, you need a massive volume outreach so the 3 percent matters.

The stats about forwarding/sharing of “reviews” about products and businesses suggest that angst over this — and time and money spent on it — may be overdone.

Ironically, and in the face of what I’ve pointed out above, you can make a case that it’s important to include social media as part of your integrated marketing plan. But approach it strategically, with the same direct-response and sound business principles that you would in any other media channel. 


The Stuff of Bank Deposits Has NOT Changed

You can’t go to the bank and deposit likes, views, retweets, viral explosions, social media conversations or brand recognition. Bankers are extremely narrow-minded. They won’t even accept vegetables grown in your backyard garden or bitcoin. They want real money.

You must insist on exactly the same thing from all media. Contrary to popular belief, no media is different. No media gets a pass because it’s different. Don’t be fooled. Be open-minded, creative and opportunistic, but always keep a watchful eye on the bottom line.

Opportunism and skepticism are not mutually exclusive. They can and should work in concert, like partners, just as Walt Disney, the visionary, and Roy Disney, the money watcher, worked successfully in tandem. Approach social media this way, and you’ll avoid being burnt.




Renewing Company Goals Can Make You More Successful–Here’s Why

Set high standards for your business, even if that means changing goals.

How are your New Years resolutions holding up? If you’ve started skipping the gym or had a glass during Dry January, don’t beat yourself up. Failure is part of the process. If you’ve miscalculated a goal, don’t get demoralized and give up on the intention. Instead, refocus. In your personal life and in business, it’s OK to revise your goals so long as you’re learning in the process.

Setting the goals for your business can be complicated. How do you strike a balance between goals you can reasonably reach and stretch goals that will help drive you forward? How do you grow into new markets or products while keeping the core of your business healthy? How will you communicate those goals to the people in a position to help you reach them, and how will you make them relevant for everyone else?

I advise setting stretch goals and overpromising. Personally, it helps me to get more done. But setting the standard very high for yourself or your business means you may have to face at least partial failure pretty often. Everyone faces failure differently, but to me, that’s OK. The lessons and growth failure provides are invaluable. Recognizing your own expectations and efforts–and setting another high goal–are more important than exceeding a lofty goal.

Communicate goals and progress regularly.

Even at smaller businesses where the entire team is local to one office, it takes effort to make your goals visible and continually report on incentives tied to them. If individual team members aren’t (yet) helping you move toward your goal, don’t keep that information to yourself. They may be ready to set new resolutions, too, with the right support and encouragement.

In larger companies, each team or department may set expectations for itself and its members, (hopefully) aligned with the company’s overall direction. If that direction needs to change, those expectations and incentives may suddenly be less aligned. You’re steering the ship, but the crew needs to know when the direction has changed.

At 600 employees, Kabbage is a complex web of minds and unique contributions, each necessary to the success of the company. Part of my job as co-founder is to communicate what those goals are during the year and be transparent and communicative about how those goals are being realized (or not).

For us, we summarize corporate goals and our progress in a monthly email to the full team. We then reiterate our performance at Town Hall meetings where anyone in the company has the opportunity to ask questions.

If you’re revising your resolutions, don’t forget to share your new goals, and any adjusted incentives, with your team. You’re not admitting failure, you’re updating them on the new plan for success. Effective communication of company goals, well beyond the leadership team, can help everyone feel like they’re pulling in the same direction.

When it comes to incentives, don’t overthink it.

Dozens of books and journal articles promise to explain how to motivate your employees to help you meet your (new and evolving) goals. We use shorthand from personality tests (“ENTJs need confidence-builders and unconditional encouragement “) or generation characteristics (“Millennials need autonomy and purpose”) to predict what drives others.

However, it’s a universal truth in business: people show up because you pay them. If you stop paying them, they’ll stop showing up.

I’m a big believer in bonuses and profit-sharing to distribute and communicate our responsibility for meeting goals. Like other companies our size, we provide annual bonuses to our team based on our achievement of company goals: sometimes we payout in full or partially depending on our progress.

As a small business owner, if you’re in a position to reward in this way, it is a great function to build incentives around company goals.

Remember, you can start again whenever you want.

I’ve never held grudges. Not as a kid, not in romance, not in business. If you do something terrible or fail me, I’m generally pretty willing to start over. It’s the same with goals: it doesn’t feel like a failure if we keep making progress. Coming up short sometimes tells me we’re keeping standards and productivity high.

So don’t get discouraged by the goals if you’ve fallen behind on your New Year’s resolution or your 5-year-plan. Make a February resolution, and one again in March or May if you need to. Keep setting high standards for what you and your business can be. It’s the only way to grow.