You Don’t Scream at a Rose To Force it to Bloom….

social media for seoValerie Vince-Vaughn writes: “My boss heard you speak and now he is your biggest fan. Personally I think you are way too against social media to be respected. Do you think it’s your age?  Your bio says you’ve been doing this for a long time.  Maybe you’re just out of touch?”

Dear Valerie –

Out of touch?  I’d say that hyphenating a name like Vince-Vaughn may be a case of pots and kettles, but there’s a benefit to being ancient, one of which is you better learn to ignore the idiots.

There’s no doubt that I am a social media skeptic.

Yes, I endorse things like marketing with videos, using ratings and reviews, and even advertising on Facebook  but from a social media purist (cough) perspective, I imagine I’d be perceived as against it.

Why?  I am a realist.

I know that not all forms of social media are created equal. 

Nor is social media right for everyone.  For example, if your site completely sucks and you couldn’t convert your own mother, driving a bunch of traffic isn’t necessarily going to make you an overnight success.

For the past couple years, social media “experts” (most are about as skillful as a surgeon with tremors) have been telling us that social media is the second coming.  According to many of them, it’s right for everyone, every time, everywhere and if you don’t jump on the latest and greatest sharing site immediately (hello Quora), you’ll be sucked up by the blackhole of death in exactly 2.2 seconds.

Here’s the thing….  There are pieces and parts of social media that will work for you but they will NOT all work for you, no matter how much money you put into them.

Take one of my closest friends for example.  He is a mucky-muck VP at a $500+ million company.  Last year, he spent over $500K on social media with three different outside consultants before he hired one that told him exactly what I’ve been telling him (for free) all along.  Their audience wasn’t using Twitter or Facebook.  Sure they had over 5,000 fans and followers between those two properties, but very few of them were active.  (When they really dug deep into their stats, they found that only 17% of their Twitter followers tweeted more than once every two weeks.)

You can’t scream at a rose to force it to bloom.  Well, you can, but you’ll waste a whole lot of time screaming and it’s an exercise in futility. 

A rose blooms when it’s ready.

If you want to use social media efficiently, figure out where your customers are.   Don’t determine where you want them to be – find out where they are now.   Talk to them there – on their turf.

If they’re not actively using Facebook, no matter how much you try to promote Facebook through your e-mails and sharing tags on your site, it’s not going to make a whisker of difference.  Yes, you may increase your like/follower numbers but last I knew, those weren’t accepted at financial institutions.

On the flip side, you can decide that you don’t care about your users at all and just develop your social media program for the SEO benefits.  (And yes, I am a VERY big fan of this particular strategy.)  Michael Gray (@graywolf on Twitter) recently had an interesting blog post about this and just today,  Jennifer Sable Lopez (@jennita on Twitter) wrote the Social Media Marketer’s SEO Checklist on the SEOmoz blog.   Both are worth reading.

So Valerie Vince-Vaughn, am I dated?  Perhaps.  But so is money.


  1. says

    “If you want to use social media efficiently, figure out where your customers are. Don’t determine where you want them to be – find out where they are now. Talk to them there – on their turf.”

    Thank you Amy. IMO two if the quickest ways that companies can fail at social media is to not actually know if their customers ARE using social media, and not understanding WHY they are using social media. Unfortunately, most companies think all their ‘social media strategy’ needs to consist of is a Facebook page. And as you alluded to, there are too many ‘consultants’ out there that will tell them the same thing, then add that their ‘strategy’ is a success if they get X number of ‘Likes’.

    My advice for creating a social media strategy:

    1 – Figure out what you are trying to accomplish via social media. If it’s generating sales, then write that down. If it’s building visibility/brand awareness, then go with that. But you need to figure out what your goal is for using social media, because that plays a large role in which tool(s) you will use.

    2 – Figure out where your customers are online, and what activities they are engaging in. It’s not enough to know where they are, you need to know what they are doing on that site. And it’s not an absolute that if they aren’t there that you shouldn’t be, if your customers aren’t using a site/channel, it could be that they are on the way (think mobile versions of social sites).

    3 – Be honest about your resources. Do you have a team of 2 or 50 that can handle your social media efforts. Will you need to outsource, or do you want to outsource? Outsourcing might be a ‘necessary evil’, but it’s an additional cost to absorb.

    4 – Once you’ve decided what your social media strategy will be based on 1-3, set goals for that strategy. Think ‘this will be a success if X, Y and Z happen in 3 months’. And saying ‘we want to use social media to increase website traffic by 25% over 3 months’ is pretty weak. Think about what you want that traffic to do, such as sign up for an email newsletter, buy directly from a product page, etc. Then measure metrics associated with that goal.

    But the bottom line is that many companies don’t have much success from using social media, and it’s usually not the failing of the sites and tools, but rather how the companies are attempting to use them, and a lack of planning out exactly what they are wanting to accomplish. And they often let hype drive the decision to use a certain tool over common sense.

    PS: I have spent exactly 1 hour on Quora, and from what I could see no one other than bleeding edge early adopters are there. Quora might turn out to be a wonderful tool for companies to use to connect with customers, but for right now, it’s being driven by hype from the ‘social media fishbowl’ rather than site utility.

      • says

        By the way, I think one of the reasons why folks get so caught up in the tools is because that’s all they really know for sure. The rest of the stuff is too often presented with rainbows, unicorns, fairies and the thing that sends me over the edge in 2.2 seconds…. “Be remarkable. That’s all that matters!”

  2. says

    “Unicorns and rainbows…” I love it! Your “remarkable” quote wouldn’t happen to be in regard to a certain bespectacled NYC resident would it. ;-)

    • says

      Hi James -
      No, I actually wasn’t even thinking about him but now that you mention it, I will officially add him to my list of people I need to smack. (And I don’t mean kiss!)
      Thanks for writing & don’t forget, if you ever leave your cushy financial business, I’d hire you as a copywriter in a heartbeat!

  3. Monique Trulson says

    Great post Amy! I know I’m an analytics addict, but I am always completely shocked at the number of people who get into Social Media “just because”, and then pour time and resources in it without any way to measure it. It starts with measuring, listening, “creeping” (as my kids would say) on your intended audience to see if they really want to interact on any particular channel. And that never stops, nor does the need to keep going once you start – nothing more disheartening than a large link on a webpage to a Twitter account that hasn’t been updated in months, or a Facebook page that’s empty and lonely.

    • says

      Um, I have both.

      Seriously…. Thanks for your comments Monique.

      Your analytics point is critical — it floors me how many people don’t look at their data at all, ESPECIALLY when it comes to social media.

      I don’t expect folks to take it as seriously as you do (you are a rockstar) but even an occasional glance might be nice….

  4. says

    Well, now I’m in love with Mack Collier too! I’m a late adopter and will continue to be late. Will I get there? Yes. Will I spend a lot of time there?

    Not unless I am sure my customers (the ones that buy things from me) are there and care if I am.

    I recommend ALL my clients look at social media and then give them advice that is grounded and real like Mack’s.

    Especially about the resources.

    But then again Amy (until this post I NEVER thought of you as ‘older’) you gave me some very sage advice as well not so long ago. Don’t jump in unless I am able to stay with it – people will form expectations…

    I remember it well.

    • says

      Thank you JoAnna! And I just subscribed to Customer Care Goddess ;)

      I do think it can be difficult to track the true worth of a company’s social media program sometimes, but companies have to help themselves out by having a solid plan in place BEFORE they launch! Too many companies jump on Facebook or Twitter cause it’s the ‘big thing’, then 3 months later they see no real growth other than a 100 followers or likes, and dump it.

      So glad to ‘meet’ you JoAnna! If I can ever help you in any way, my contact info is on my site, ;)


  5. MIke McCormick says

    Maybe Valerie Vince-Vaughn is married to the actor. I’ve made a poster of this: “If you want to use social media efficiently, figure out where your customers are. Don’t determine where you want them to be – find out where they are now. Talk to them there – on their turf.”

  6. Gregory Hilbert says

    Thank you Amy, I greatly enjoyed your caution against leaps into social media. I suspect you’ve saved a few would-be lemmings from drowning!

    I’d love to read your thoughts about something I think of as correlated to the rise in use of social media: mobile communication devices (ie iPad, Blackberry, etc). Most of us focused on commerce serve markets dominated by big-screen desktop and laptop users. But if we happen to serve markets adopting mobile devices at a high rate, should we be anticipating an eventual need to re-design our pages to accommodate small mobile-device screens?

    • says

      Hi Greg:

      How are you ole’ buddy? Nice to have you here!

      Yes! But you shouldn’t be anticipating that mobile will come — it’s already here!

      Ok, ok, you’re right. Not for all markets but it may as well be at the rate that it’s moving.

      Definitely work on getting your web stuff to be mobile-friendly. Start with your e-mails, especially your thrusts. It sounds basic but the majority of companies don’t do this.

      Then, decide what you need. An app? A site? Both? I’ve listed some questions to get you started here:

      Thanks again for stopping by.

  7. Eric Winter says

    Good post, Amy. It’s nice to hear voices of pragmatism when it comes to social.

    I’m curious to hear whether you or other readers find the social graph an important source of data on their current customers and/or prospective customers. I saw a thing with Gary Vaynerchuk on that was compelling. He talks about how social (twitter) should be seen mainly as a tool for listening instead of talking.

    Sounds good, but I’d love to hear more case studies.

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