7 Lessons from Social Media and Inbound Marketing All-Stars

Ever revisit your blog posts and find new angles and

Ever revisit your blog posts and find new angles and insights waiting to be revealed?

At Inbound Marketing Summit 2011, I heard from and spoke with some of the top names in social media. And after guest blogging the key takeaways for our friends at Marketing Pilgrim, I wondered which ideas our blog audience would find most useful. Where does email fit in? What steps can small businesses and entrepreneurs take to enhance their marketing right now? What’s not working and should be avoided?

With that in mind, here are seven lessons gleaned from a cadre of marketing pros:

1. Be Selective With Your Social Media Methods

Just because social site check-ins and QR codes have tons of buzz, doesn’t mean they’re right for every audience. You’d think the Boston Celtics would reach a legion of fans via one or both of these methods, right? Not so. They still get far more email list sign ups at home games from paper forms than QR codes, and only a small fraction of the team’s fans check in at the Garden, says Celtics online marketing director Peter Stringer.

Lesson: It pays to try a variety of tactics and channels, but you shouldn’t expect all of them to be a hit with every customer and prospect. Ask your audience which methods they prefer and optimize those first.

2. Reassess How You Define Success

Looking for a formula to measure your social ROI? Consider the “Social CLV” model from Hearsay Social’s Clara Shih. Start with your standard customer lifetime value metric. Then augment it with word-of-mouth referrals, new sales ideas and customer support savings derived from social channels. This takes a bit more effort than tallying fans and followers, but it should give you a more accurate picture of the real returns.

Lesson: If you’re struggling to apply ROI models from other channels to social media, it’s time to find other sets of metrics you can use to measure and demonstrate its value.

3. Turn Up the Heat On Lukewarm Leads

Many of us still aren’t doing enough to nurture and transform initial interest into bona fide relationships and sales opportunities. We can change that by creating more personalized experiences with our sites, content and campaigns, says HubSpot’s Brian Halligan. Are you using the same landing pages and email series for all prospects – or are you segmenting your lists and testing different types of content and offers with your audience?

Lesson: Explore new ways to enhance the value and relevancy of your outreach to the middle of the funnel. Even modest tests in this area can have a significant impact on conversion rates.

4. Pay Attention to Pacing and Length

You can tie social media into your marketing in many ways, and Dan Zarrella‘s session on the science of social media contains dozens of stats and charts, but two quotes really cut to the chase: “Don’t crowd out your own content … let it breathe, like a nice glass of wine,” and this gem, “When writing for Facebook, keep it simple. Write for Snooki.” In other words, for the best results, keep your marketing content concise and on point.

Lesson: No matter how sophisticated your audience is, today we’re all pressed for time and want content that’s quick to read and easy to digest – especially on our smartphones and tablets. Become a ruthless editor.

5. Don’t Fall Behind on Google+

Although still a social newcomer, the ripple effects of Google+ are already evident in the slew of new features being rushed out by Facebook and Twitter. Despite its smaller user base, the true value of Google+ lies in the convergence of social and search, and its impact on organic and paid search marketing results, says blogger Chris Brogan. What’s often overlooked though, are also the potential benefits of Google+ for email marketing.

Lesson: To paraphrase Brogan, you won’t want to be caught on the sidelines with this emerging channel, waiting for the tipping point to arrive. Now that Google+ is open to the public, and will soon roll out features for brands, it’s time to get in the game.

6. Plan for Failure (to Help Avoid It)

Along with several tips for enchanting your customers and colleagues, this idea from Guy Kawasaki really stood out for me: When embarking on new initiatives, try a “pre-mortem” – that is, think of how the initiative could fail, list the factors and obstacles, then develop ways to overcome the potential problems. This approach is like a SWOT analysis on steroids. Applying this to an email campaign, for example, while you’re mapping out your newsletter launch, you might develop a re-engagement series with 2-3 different offers to test, in case the launch falls short of your goals.

Lesson: We all know success isn’t guaranteed, but we still tend to expect it when we’re emotionally invested in our ideas and campaigns. Make a plan B part of your launch and tilt the odds in your favor. And if plan A does work, you’ve already got an A/B test in the pipeline, ready to go!

7. Engage and Inspire With Authenticity

Author Ben Mezrich‘s session was anything but the typical conference presentation. He had no charts, tactics or case studies. He talked about getting his earliest book proposals routinely rejected – even by an unimpressed janitor who found his manuscript in a vacant editor’s office. Relying on anecdotes over slides, Mezrich just talked, using personal stories laced with humor and a quirky optimism that carried the audience along on his rise to fame.

Lesson: From PowerPoint to PDFs, email to snail mail and social, we’re increasingly averse to thinly veiled sales pitches. What grabs our attention now? Real people and real stories. Is your content attracting a devoted and growing fan base? Do they recommend it to their friends and colleagues? If not, follow the path of most good writers: Think about the storytellers you admire and rave about. Then, steal adapt their techniques to develop a voice that works for you and your audience.


  1. Gerri

    9/24/2011 10:12 pm

    Nice set of tips. I am not so sure about Google+ simply because of its poor uptake. But then again, it’s popularity may pick up and you wouldn’t want to be left those people who get left behind as it increases in popularity.

  2. Hunter Boyle

    9/26/2011 3:09 pm

    Thanks for posting, Gerri. Google+ definitely has an uphill climb compared to Facebook’s 800M user reach, but it’s already over 43M, so it’s clearly gaining ground fast on Twitter.

    For us as marketers, the key idea to keep in mind isn’t that G+ needs to replace either or both of those sites. With an audience approaching 50M users and a 30% growth rate days after opening its doors to the entire public, plus Google’s total user base for its combined services, there is a huge and quickly growing audience already amassing there. If the tech-savvy, early adopter crowd is who you want to connect with, why not try to reach them there now?

  3. Bob Haag

    9/29/2011 9:13 am

    Google’s already getting into hot water with the anti-monopoly movement… Just a matter of time before they will be getting investigated left and right… with all the negative publicity that is newsworthy. They don’t appear to be willing to keep a low profile like Microsoft with Bing and their other internet services… so F/B will probably better serve as the unbiased leader in social segmenting… at least in the public’s eye!

  4. charles

    9/29/2011 1:59 pm

    GREAT article. Great content and very good speculative thought on Google+.

    Bob Haag’s point above is very good too. I believe in monopolisation because it is great for the economy. It is very easy to beat a monopoly by a better and cheaper product, so a monopoly is forced to be EVEN CHEAPER AND BETTER – hence I think Google is great.

  5. Kazi Haque

    9/29/2011 2:49 pm

    thanks for such an great article. i really liked No.6 lessons. failure is not an option.

  6. Hunter Boyle

    9/30/2011 8:44 am

    Thanks for your comments and insights, guys.

    Bob and Charles, regarding the Google monopoly issue, I’m not sure that the company has all that much to worry about in reality. Having covered the big Microsoft antitrust trial a decade ago, and seeing how few barriers there have been to recent mega-mergers like Comcast-NBC and the wireless providers, to me it seems unlikely that regulators will clamp down hard enough on Google to stifle its growth. Google is definitely not keeping a low profile like Microsoft and Bing — that’s exactly why it keeps succeeding while they’re both flailing!

  7. Martin

    10/16/2011 8:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing your insights with us Hunter.

    I can give the vicarious vantage of shorter articles, as you mentioned.

    I am new to all of this, and quite a bit is over my head. At the same time, I love it and am learning what I can.

    That being said, I can only absorb so much. Much of my learning is from nice blogs, such as this, and of the post is a mile long, I can’t even take it, unless it’s extremely captivating, as I have short bursts of being able to absorb material, as I have taken in so much in a short time, and there are so many authorities with their own unique suggestions.

    A post such as this, I can read through, and thanks for the other insights.