Are You More Social Than a 3rd Grader?
Giving new meaning to the subject of “Social Studies”
Any B2B marketers interested in peeking around the corner to see the future of social media don’t have to look much further than my 3rd grader. As a marketer (and Dad) I’m fascinated how seamlessly my 9 year-old has adopted social media tools to communicate with friends and family, share ideas and capture experiences online. She’s gained fluency in the language of hashtags, vines, emojis, instagram, selfies, facetime, among many others, without a teacher, coach or meddling parent to show her the â€˜right’ way to do social media. BTW, this isn’t the narrative of some annoyingly proud parent glowing about how “advanced” their kid is with current technology – it’s more a marketer’s firsthand observations about some of the things we can likely expect as social marketing and sales becomes an even more dominant way of engaging with our future customers and prospects.
For those marketers (likely more than would admit) who right now are saying to themselves “Gee, the 3rd grade social media bar is pretty high,” don’t fret. All you have to do is go “back to school” to repeat Social Studies…
Here are some tips to help you get a better look at technology marketing’s new social reality:
Short is the new long
In my daughter’s world of online communication 140 characters is the equivalent of a novel. I’m sure as her vocabulary continues to grow so will the volume, but not the length, of messages she is sending to communicate her ideas online. Snackable content is the norm in her world and the more she and others in her age group get accustomed to communicating in short bursts the harder it will be to change. If you can recall the world before texts and tweets, the concept of writing an entire thought in just a few words or phrases was an anomaly. Now imagine the opposite scenario where you have only known how to communicate in 140 characters or less and all of a sudden you are tasked with writing an entire paragraph or even a full page of content to express an idea. A higher volume of extremely short form content could represent the bread crumb trail to help your future customers become more self-educated and aware of your offerings in more bite-size pieces.
The Rebus Principle
If you have ever played the puzzling game of Concentration or texted with a 3rd grader, then you are familiar with lots of images and icons telling a story in place of words. The rebus principle is based on the prehistoric cave painting concept that symbols and images could be used to represent language — and this principle has made a strong comeback across social media in the form of infographics, twitpics, emoticons, whiteboard animations and photos. My apologies for using words to make the point, but visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text, which underscores the importance of using more appealing images in social feeds if your goal is quicker consumption and deeper engagement with your audience.
Face-to-face sales face extinction
Ironically, my third grader’s “smartphone” has put the phone call on its death watch. Like her friends, she almost exclusively sends texts, emojis, voice messages, instagrams and facetimes to communicate on a daily basis. The old “don’t call me, I’ll call you” attitude will have soon been completely displaced with a new approach of “don’t call me, I’ll text you” when I’m ready. If she and her age group represent the future of technology buyers, then it’s no wonder that some sales and marketing forecasters predict that in the next five years only 15% of sales interactions will be outside of the social, mobile, video sphere.
Whether or not this prediction comes true, I would argue that none of us is prepared right now. And right now, the biggest obstacle to successful selling via social media is a lack of adoption. As B2B marketers and sales teams prepare for the “new normal” of engaging buyers through social media channels more effectively, it will require a fundamental shift to more proactive social selling strategies. Looking down the road at buyers who expect to engage with vendors primarily through social channels, here are 3 pillars for developing a strong foundation to your social strategy.
Go back to school
As social continues to become much more prominent in how technology buyers communicate and consume content it’s important to be prepared for the best ways to engage them. Even if that means going back to social “elementary school” for some of us. If a 3rd grader is any indication of the lessons marketers can be learning about using social media more effectively in the not-so-distant future, then dismissing the habits of our earliest adopters is not an option.