There are so many do’s and don’ts in the social media marketing handbook these days, it’s hard to know how to get the most out of your channels. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about brands that treat their social platforms as extended sales funnels, with a closer eye on their ROI than their brand marketing. That’s a shame and a waste, since social media is the ideal platform for humanizing your brand and sharing your awesome branding with new people. It’s really not the ideal platform for selling, although it can absolutely serve that purpose as well.

brand marketing

There will always be other channels for very salesy content (and email marketing is almost always going to be a better bet for ROI), but social media specifically has a huge capacity for friendly branding that many are ignoring for the most part. One social media expert who is not ignoring this, however, is Jason Falls – which is why he caught my eye online.

Social Media for Business: Are You Missing the Point?

Jason is a digital strategist who has co-authored two books on marketing; the most recent focuses on taking the BS (my euphemism) out of social media marketing. Below you’ll find my questions for Jason and his thoughts on what makes for great social media that doesn’t feel forced or over the top – social media that focuses on and takes advantage of direct communication with fans, as opposed to direct marketing to potential buyers.

What is the worst mistake that small businesses make using social media?

Assuming that it’s free and easy. This is a marketing channel. It may or may not be one that works well for every business, but it’s a path to your customer. If you don’t invest the time, money and energy into it, then you’re failing your customers there. They are valuable – don’t shrug them off to some intern or refuse to invest any money because you don’t see a direct response return. If anything, use it as a place for customer service and feedback so you can see intrinsic value.

How can brands strike a balance between brand marketing and direct marketing when using social media?

Just genuinely participating, sharing content, engaging in conversations and showing your human side is brand marketing in and of itself. That’s what makes me want to engage with you, trust you and perhaps even predisposes me to purchase from you. I buy Charmin because their social content cracks me up: it’s not about selling toilet paper, it’s about offering a humorous aside for people during the day. That’s great brand marketing. If they dropped a coupon every now and then, I wouldn’t mind. But that’s not why I follow them.

brand marketing

What are your thoughts on sharing the same content across different social channels?

Each audience and platform is slightly different, so the logic is that you should prepare content specifically for that audience. Obviously Twitter is shorter, and not as image or video friendly (yet). So if you post the same thing on Facebook, you’re missing an opportunity to add images, video, longer text and so on. That doesn’t mean you have to invest a great deal of time in creating separate content, but massaging it a bit for the type of responses and user you have on each platform makes sense. In the case of LinkedIn, for instance, you might have a B2B focus there, while focusing on a consumer audience on Facebook – so the messages should be different.

What do you think about the 80/20 rule (80% other content, 20% self promotional content) for social media marketing?

That’s a good rule of thumb, but it’s not such a hard number for everyone. Every audience is different, and some will tolerate more direct calls to action than others. You certainly want to engage and keep people’s attention – and spamming isn’t a great way to do that. But many B2B followers are actually looking for product information and company expertise, and don’t really care about some trade article that doesn’t have anything to do with you. You have to test the ratio with your own audience to find the right mix.

Related Class: B2B Social Media Strategy

What is the biggest missed opportunity that most businesses aren’t taking advantage of on social media?

Most business simply aren’t seeing this as a human communications channel. They’re too busy trying to monetize it and spam audiences with ads and offers. There are channels for that. Social media can be one, but it’s inherently more useful if you just have someone there to answer questions, serve the customers and show you have a human side to what you do.

Jason Falls is a digital strategist, author and public speaker. His work has touched a number of large brands including Maker’s Mark, AT&T, Cafepress and Humana. To find out more about Jason visit his website.

To learn more about boosting your brand through smart social media use and well-tailored content, check out this class: How To Manage a Brand in a Social Media World.