Growing up my mother used to say to me (regularly, if I’m honest), “If you have nothing to say, then don’t say it.” It’s sage advice that can be applied to social marketing and selling. In 2014, as we know, we witnessed an explosion in content marketing, and with it came an even greater explosion in social sharing of that content. As we head into 2015 we need to bring a little sanity into the mix.
The problem is that some content producers (both institutional and individual) have gone down the quantity route and pump out posts, articles, and the like at a truly remarkable rate. And some marketing departments have practically turned into one-trick ponies putting greater and greater emphasis on the speed and volume of content production and sharing. If this continues, then before long the impact of content marketing will be seriously eroded and consumers of information will start to apply greater levels of filtering to what they receive or, worse, simply switch-off.
We have finite capacity, not to mention time, to read and digest information, and as the digital noise volume increases, eventually a lot of us will just stick our digital fingers in our digital ears and digitally scream “Shush!” By this, I mean we’ll start to ignore the Twitter feeds, unfollow the tweeters who are pushing the limits of scheduling tools to dominate feeds. Furthermore, we’ll narrow the list of those people and companies we continue to pay attention to, and the criteria for that selection will be quality over quantity.
This is not just true for the content creators, but also for the content sharers. For example, in 2014 social selling moved center stage and salespeople found themselves needing to get up to speed quickly on how to leverage social media to connect with customers in new ways. One of these ways is to share relevant content with customers to add value or to insert themselves into online conversations happening over social media. Unfortunately, little attention was paid to training or guiding these salespeople and many of them have become sharing machines, bombarding their online networks with a constant stream of shared and, often, random content. This kind of behavior, far from adding value, is likely to drive connections (i.e. current and prospective customers) away rather than keep them and attract more.
So back to my mother’s advice: In 2015 it’s time we all draw a collective breath, put down our virtual pens for a moment, and regardless of whether we’re in marketing or sales, take a step back and ask ourselves, how can we better serve our customers by staying a little quieter at times and showing more restraint. We all know that talking too much is not a good strategy in marketing and sales–but typing too much has become the new talking too much. It’s time to take our fingers off the keyboard for a moment and be more thoughtful and deliberate in what we create and share; to resist the temptation just to get something out (i.e. “say something when we really have nothing to say”). For example, can we take our posts and improve them? Maybe combine a number of pieces and produce something of depth instead of a series of pithy posts? Even go a little further and customize our content to speak directly to a subsection of our target customers and clearly state the intended audience so others can choose to read it or not. This kind of consideration will go a long way.
As for the sharers, how about foregoing the constant broad sharing and actually select and share with a subset of your connections that will most benefit from a specific piece of content. Furthermore, comment on what you’re sharing. Show that you’ve actually read it rather than just hit share because you thought the headline looked somewhat relevant. Contextualize the content for that subset of connections and state why you think they specifically should read it.
As someone who passionately believes in the power of content and in spreading and debating ideas, I fervently hope that in 2015 we move more people down the quality path. It will be far more advantageous to be known as someone who provides either original or curated content on a less frequent basis but that the content is top quality or extremely well contextualized and targeted, rather than to be known as the person who has nothing to say but still says it every hour, on the hour.
John Golden is author of Winning the Battle for Sales and Social Upheaval: How to Win @ Social Selling and chief strategy officer of CRM provider Piperlinersales.