Finally, A Social Media Marketing Strategy That Puts You Right In The Middle Of Your Target Market

Finally, A Social Media Marketing Strategy That Puts You Right In The Middle Of Your Target Market

Most conversation about social media strategy sucks.

Write compelling headlines, use interesting photos, follow “influencers” Pfffft…. what a crock of shit.

I’m going to blow the doors wide open on why most social media marketing strategies are garbage & why even the halfway decent ones still aren’t nearly as effective as they could be.

I’m also going introduce you to a more strategic, organized, scalable & effective solution for social media marketing. If you want to skip ahead to the new social media marketing framework, you can do so by clicking here.

When you look at most social media wisdom, it essentially boils down to a handful of main points.

  • Write Good Content
  • Write Interesting Headlines
  • Use Compelling Photos To Enhance Share-ability
  • Post Frequently

Fair enough, and I genuinely believe this is the cost of entry for social media marketing, but let’s look at two other forms of media that relied on similar tactics to get readers & attention:


how mass is the medium 10.13.pptx 7

image source: U.S. Census Bureau


Magazine Circulation

image source: Statistica.com

Now, there’s no arguing that the decline of print is a direct result of the rise of digital publications, social media & mobile.

But with everyone flocking to digital channels also meant that it’s not just competitors trying to siphon your market’s attention, but aunts, uncles, friends & people who actually talk back to you.

That’s what’s given rise to this garbage…


Make no mistake, Buzzfeed, Upworthy and the legion of copycat sites that have followed are fiercer than even your most worthy competitor.

Headlines & images like this have turned social media marketing into a farce, where it seems like the only way to gather any attention is to package content to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

What’s worse is that these methods are so damn effective that even time weathered news organizations have been forced to put on their monkey hat & dance.


As far as photos are concerned, I don’t care if the data supports that photos get a ton more engagement on Facebook or that tweets with photos get more clicks, RT’s & Shares.


image source

The reality is, NONE of this matters, when your social media channels aren’t connected to the right audience.

In fact, a study by Harvard Business School found that 79% of companies don’t feel as though they’re effective users of social media for marketing purposes.

Most Businesses Don't Feel Their Social Media Strategies Are Effective

I believe this is a three part problem.

Problem 1 – Social Media Platforms Are Not Designed To Get New Customers

You see, there is what I consider a major design flaw that is built into practically every social media channel out there – invite your friends & import your contacts.

Conversion XL Facebook

This creates a really rocky foundation for most social media channels.

Your mom, your coworkers, and the people you added from high-school just to see if they got fat are not your target market.

No amount of “interesting headlines” will make them any more interested in buying from you either. Ultimately, this is what I suspect most people’s fan page invite lists look like. (check yours here)

Sorry, but I'm just not in your target market
Sorry, but I’m just not in your target market

On Facebook in particular, this poses a real problem, because of the way the newsfeed algorithm is calculated. 


image source: Techcrunch

It’s pretty simple actually, the more people who interact with your stuff, the more likely it will be shown to other people connected to your page. Inversely, when fewer people interact with your stuff, it’s less likely to be shown to the other people connected to your page.

This not only destroys your chances for getting your content distributed, it also minimizes your ability to use social media channels to gather unfiltered feedback from customers, fans of your brand, and the market at large (more on this later).

This problem is only compounded if you run poorly targeted ad campaigns, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Import Contacts


Twitter Import Contacts

Even if you’ve avoided adding your friends, and instead used the social network’s built in “import contacts” function (most have one) you’re still only reaching out to existing contacts… who… lets face it, are using social networking sites to interact with friends & family OR find customers of their own.

So, to get more people connected to your social media channels, you can muck up your design with various social media icons – which may distract from conversions

muck up the design

…and/or rely on the people currently connected to your page to spread the word about you, by way of liking, commenting & sharing your stuff…

Facebook marketing fail

…or, you can pay for ads, which may or may not be shown in a context that is conducive to getting people’s attention.

no context

Now, like I said earlier, I believe the cost of entry to social media marketing is knowing how to write compelling headlines & develop engaging content worth your viewers time. I also know first hand just how powerful social ads can be.

What I am saying is that methods don’t answer a core question, which is really quite simple – “How do we reach new people?”

Problem 2 – Most Social Media Strategies Aren’t Strategic At All

I’ve personally interviewed over 100 business owners and asked, “what do you do after you publish a new piece of content?” and the answer 99% of the time goes something like this:

  • Post to Facebook
  • Post to Twitter
  • Post to Linkedin
  • Post to Google+
  • Post to other sites like Reddit, stumbleupon, etc…
  • Email to list
  • …Wait…

Some of the more savvy people go a step further and tell me they’re using an optimized publisher like Buffer to post when the most people are likely to see it, or use ifttt to automate publishing to multiple networks, but this model is still full of holes.

The most obvious is that eventually, you’ll just run out of social networks to publish to.

Be honest, does your publishing strategy go beyond these sites at all?

image source: business2community.com

In response to this problem, the social media marketing community has suggested something very simple… re-publish to the same network again. In fact, the data even seems to support that publishing to the same network multiple times can result in higher re-circulation.

Reposting Buffer

image source

Adam Mordecai of Upworthy has even suggested that testing a new headline to the same content every 15 minutes is one of the major ways that Upworthy has been able to make the most out of Facebook.

Reposting Upworthy

While I’m all for testing, and obviously can not deny the impact this has had for Upworthy, what do you think the broader implications might be if even 2-3% of the pages & people you were connected to adopted the same behavior?

In a 2011 study by DDP & Paris (by way of Adage.com), it was found that the #3 reason why people “Unliked” a Page on Facebook was simply because they published too much. The #1 and #2 reasons were that the “brand was no longer of interest” and “the information available was no longer of interest.” I would argue, these reasons might also be symptoms of too frequent publishing.


These answers, along with Upworthy’s publishing schedule recommendation reveal yet another problem – you have absolutely no idea who is being exposed to your content when you publish it.

CXL Who Is On At Time Of Day

At least with a channel like email, not only can you see when most of your subscribers are opening your messages, but you’re also able to see

  • when they’re most likely to click
  • what they’re clicking on
  • who is clicking on what

This data allows you to create actionable segments so you can deliver targeted messaging to those who will be the most receptive to it.

So if, for example, a large enough group of people click on that limited-time offer on buy one get one free dress shirts, you could save that segment and follow up with similar offers later.


Even though most of the major social media players have unrolled analytics on post performance, the reality is, there has yet to be a good model that aims to personalize how marketing is delivered through social channels (though I have a solution for this later)

That’s a huge problem when your organic growth hinges on other people liking, commenting & sharing your stuff.

Then again, if that’s what your organic growth strategy hinges on, you’ve got even bigger problems…

Lessons Learned From Analyzing 1 000 000 000 Company Mentions – mention s blog

If your social media strategy is built around the premise of “create interesting content & get people to share it.” I’ve got bad news for you.

First, according to a recent study on mention.com, an overwhelming number of branded mentions over social media are neutral.

So if you were expecting that people were going to fawn over how awesome you are and do your marketing for you, it’s probably not going to happen the way you expect it.

Second, and this is the bigger one, with a standard “social media marketing strategy” the chances of getting direct feedback are proportional to how frequently you publish. Not only that, but the feedback you get can be easily biased.

website reviews

On social media, it’s just easier to not respond if you don’t care.

Problem 3 – Poor Targeting & Hap-Hazard Networking Is Not A Strategy

Once you go beyond your first “fans & followers” being people you already know, and the mentality that these people should spread the word about how awesome you are for free, you’re left to wonder, “how do I grow my network?”

On Twitter, the three main strategies I see are:

#1 The follow/unfollow strategy

This works in a couple different ways:

  • Following people who follow a competitor or similar brand on Twitter
  • Following people who have a specific keyword in their profile

Then, after a certain time-frame, unfollowing the people who don’t follow you back.

Now to a certain extent, this might work, but even using tools like Followerwonk to narrow down who you follow, you’re essentially relying on something that looks like this to catch people’s attention:

Twitter Notifications

Compelling, right?

Then, maybe if you’ve pinned your most compelling tweet to the top of your twitter page, and maybe if they click through to your profile, and maybe if they click on the link, you might get just a little bit of traffic.

Tommy Walker Twitter Profile

Over a longer period of time, there may be some effectiveness here, but honestly, unless you’ve already established a well known brand, there are better avenues to explore.

Sidenote: the Linkedin version of this strategy looks like this:


(nothing frustrates me more than an invite without context)

#2. The “Tweet At People Who Need That Thing You Do” Strategy

Twitter Social Listening

Use Twitter search to monitor the keywords that are relevant to your business. This is pretty straight forward, and can be effective, however it is all to often abused.

Just look at what happens to the poor guy in the image above. He mentions on Twitter that he needs a CRM platform, and not one, not two, but three companies within 24 hours are like, “HEY, you should try OUR tool!

That’s like saying “Man, I wish I were in a relationship” then 5 different suitors showed up at the exact same time, looked at you desprately, and said “PICK MEEE!”


image source

It’s overwhelming. And a little creepy.

How To Identify Social Media Influencers Business Insider

image source: Businessinsider.com

There is a whole mess of advice out there about “targeting influencers” suggesting that you follow, retweet, tweet at & link to their stuff, so they can become familiar with who you are.

You may even write a blog post about them, or pitch a guest post to their blog in order to really get their attention.

Without a doubt, this can work, but there is a much stronger likelihood that it won’t.

Not to sound mean, but the influencer you’re trying to pitch has probably heard some version of your idea at least one other time, and if we’re being honest, you’re not likely approaching the conversation with a “here’s what’s in it for you” mindset either.


image source: BuzzStream

Having been on both sides of this equation, I can honestly say that the occasional retweet & “great post” mention on Twitter doesn’t go very far, and that if you really want influencers to take notice, you need to be consistent, willing to offer something valuable, and not entirely self serving in the way you present your motives.

There is no doubt that having a couple of influencers is powerful, but all the ass-kissing relationship building that’s necessary for this to be an effective strategy may not be the best use of your time (right now).

According to that study by mention I was talking about earlier, 91% of mentions come from “non-influencers” – people with less than 500 followers.


This presents us with a very interesting & unique opportunity, which we’ll talk about in the next section.

Part 2 – Developing A Smarter Social Media Strategy

So to recap, there are a few major problems I’ve found when speaking with 99% of online business owners about their social media marketing strategy.

  • Distribution stops once they run out of social networks to publish to
  • Over-reliance on headlines & images to drive traffic
  • No pro-active method for reaching new interested prospects & instead relying on word of mouth or Ads
  • No method for segmenting how content gets distributed
  • No method for “listening” outside of using keywords or soliciting feedback through social media posting
  • No/weak methods for actively building a network
  • Over-reliance on influencers to mention brand
  • Not enough emphasis on “the little guy” (where the majority of mentions actually come from)

But most of all, none of this is social. Everything we’ve talked about has been about using social networks to broadcast.

The social media & broader inbound community like to talk about the idea of “pull” marketing, but with methods like “post more frequently” & “use better images.” we trick ourselves into thinking we’re pulling when really we’re just trying to find more clever ways to push.

First & Foremost, You Need To Get Your Site Organized

If I asked you how organized your website information architecture was, how would you answer?

Let’s hypothetically say this diagram from the Journal of IA represents how my online book, movie & comic store is set up.


Once you get into the third level of the structure, you’ll notice there are categories for genres, setting & period. Digging deeper, you might get into specific settings or genres like 19th Century or Horror

It’s important to have the information organized on site because, out there in the broad world of social media, there are literally thousands of groups dedicated to conversations about each one of these categories.

The idea is match these groups on social media to the content on your site, and have as close to a 1:1 distribution model as possible. So when you publish something on say Horror, you know exactly who you’ll be distributing that content to.

Finding The Raw Data To Build A Social Media Marketing Database

As a quick example, let’s look at what kind of groups are centered around “Horror” on the major social media marketing sites

Facebook Groups:

horror Facebook Search

Google+ Communities:

Google + horror

Pinterest Boards:

Pinterest boards

Twitter (use twubs.com to find hashtag chats):

Twubs horror


reddit horror


Tumblr Horror

Even in compiling these screenshots, I’ve found a few thousand people who have self-identified as having a broad interest in “horror”.

We haven’t even looked into the sub-genres of horror, like:

  • Vampires
  • Serial Killers
  • Zombies
  • Real life horror stories
  •  or B Horror

… nor have we tapped into the the communities that have been formed in the comments on established blogs…and this is just one of the categories on this hypothetical site.

A quick Google search using the query (with quotes) – “Horror Novels” inurl:forum – also reveals a number of conversations happening in specialized forums dedicated to the subject.

Google Search

Using a tool like ubersuggest to generate a variety of keywords & select advanced search operators (such as “intitle:” or “related:” ) you can easily get the raw data necessary to build a database for where your social media marketing can take place.

Building The Social Media Marketing Database

As you’re finding these groups, it’s best to keep everything organized.

For this, I’ve found it’s best to create a Google Spreadsheet that records:

  • every group you find
  • admins & influential members
  • the total number of members in the group
  • commonly discussed topics
  • & general notes (best performing content, big discussions, preferred media, etc)
Social Filter Example SpreadSheet Google Sheets

On this master spreadsheet, it’s also important that you create a new sheet (by clicking the + sign on the bottom) to organize the groups you find by the categories on your site. (you can get the spreadsheet here)

Add New Sheet

I recommend inputing every group, including the bad ones, because once you’ve filled this sheet out, you’ll minimize your chances of stumbling upon a group that provide no value further down the road.

Rating The Groups For Easier Sorting

After you’ve insert the groups, the thing that makes this methodology effective is that you evaluate and rate each group on three main criteria:

Interaction – From a birds eye view, are group members actually talking to each other? Or are they just blasting links at the wall?

Horror Junkies

Conversation – If there is conversation, are group members trying to help progress each other, or are conversations along the lines of “great post?”

What horror movies do you consider a perfect 10 horror

Knowledge – Overall, how would you say your knowledge (or taste) stands up to the others in the room? Do you have more to offer them, or is there something you can learn?

These people know way more about horror movies than I do. I shall give this group a 10
These people know way more about horror movies than I do. I shall give this group a 10

The idea is to rate each group on a scale of 1-10, with what you consider to be average being a 5. With these scores in place, you can easily sort the spreadsheet to meet various marketing related criteria.

For example, if you sorted the spreadsheet to show only the groups with Knowledge score 10, you’d expose yourself to conversation that might accelerate your learning.

If you wanted to gather feedback on an idea, you could gather feedback from the groups with a Conversation score of 6 or higher. You might also look at Knowledge score 4 or lower for ways to create content that would develop them into customers.

ICK Scores

Here are some other ideas on how you can use your social media marketing database:

  • Product Development
  • Unfiltered Market Feedback
  • Partnerships (with admins & influential members)
  • Idea Validation
  • & Content Distribution

Social + Media ( that just happens to be marketing)

No matter how you use your social media database, it’s important you realize that the goal for organizing & rating these groups is not to have a more effective method of spamming distributing your content. If you just blindly start blasting links into into these channels, you’re bound to get ignored, or worse, banned.

The idea is to be social & create media specifically around the needs of the groups you interact with.

By listening to, and participating with such core part of the market, you stand a much better chance of responding with the exact solution they need.

Using a similar, albeit less structured version of this method, blogger Matthew Woodward, was able to grow a blog to earn over $76,000+ in it’s first year doing affiliate sales.

matthewwoodward 2


And What About Your Branded Channels?

CXL Google

Does all of this mean you abandon your main branded channels? No. Absolutely not.

What it does mean though is that you can allow yourself to be more selective about what you’re publishing to these channels. If something you’ve distributed into the groups & forums hasn’t performed particularly well, it might not be worth sharing through your branded channels.


There is a lot more you can do once the database in place, like tracking who is sharing your stuff, so you can give them priority access to new content later, or curating other people’s awesome content in order to raise your own “online street cred”

Ultimately, the goal here is to bring a lot more focus to your social media marketing efforts, and reduce the amount of noise that your content has to fight through in order to stand out.

featured image source

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Join the conversation Add your comment

  1. You were absolutely right Tommy, I did find your Smarter SMM Strategy article quite interesting.

    You had me at ::: Most conversation about social media strategy sucks. Write compelling headlines, use interesting photos, follow “influencers” Pfffft…. what a crock of shit.

    Knowing how to better manage your social media presence and executing a plan to increase your social media presence and being able to track the ROI on both has merit albeit, there’s a ton of misinformation in this area too!

    All in all, I’d say you did one helluva job on this piece and I fully expect to see it repurposed and promoted across your top social channels again before the dust settles.

    I for one, intend to share this A+ article with a couple of additions that I find will fast track some of the typical obstacles many/most iMarketers encounter daily.

    Strong Work Tommy!

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Thanks Neil!

      I can’t wait to see what you add to this. Please let me know when you’ve got something live :D

    2. The attitude is dead-on as is the simple challenge to current ‘best practices’.

    3. Thanks man, that means a lot coming from you. This is only 1/3rd of the full system that I teach, and looking at what you’re doing with content carnivores, I think there could be some good synergies.

      Would it be ok if I emailed you tomorrow?

  2. Bookmarked and tweeted. DEFINITELY an article I will be printing and highlighting and digesting for a couple of days.

    I agree so much about Buzz feed, upworthy etc… Companies like that are seemingly ruining the facebook platform in particular and stealing attention with garbage re-purposed articles.

    Great read!

    1. Hi Tommy. Nice post + couldn’t agree more. Hopefully you won’t see this as a ploy or cynical influencer ping… but I did an experiment on Twitter a few months back with this sort of broadcast/engagement/strategy stuff in mind (it was originally published on Social Media Today). If you’re interested, it’s here: http://ow.ly/yHA68

  3. Epic post Tommy – great observations about the limitations of social media “strategy” as currently employed by most organizations, and a very compelling case for your “smarter social media strategy.”

    Aside from the logic of your suggested approach, what strikes me most about it is that it’s a hell of a lot of work.

    This isn’t a weakness of your scheme so much as it is an indictment of the lackluster social media tactics you so rightfully eviscerate above. The “create shit and shop it around” mentality is one predicated on wishful thinking about the simplicity of the process.

    Creating truly “compelling content” is difficult and time consuming, and – as you detail – requires an understanding of the audience for who the content is created. And effectively starting and sustaining conversations around what’s been developed even more so.

    That investment of time and effort is antithetical to the culture of “easy wins” and “low hanging fruit” (cough, sputter, gag) that informs, I think, how so many approach social media optimization.

    The compelling allure of social media is that it opens an avenue by which a brand can make a direct connection to people to whom that brand is relevant. But without the sort of work and planning you outline, so much “compelling content” is exposed both for what it is, and the doomed and deprecated mechanism by which is “shared” on social media: that is, advertising served up on a push marketing platter.

    True social media optimization is so much more than this. And so much harder.

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Indeed. It is much much harder, because there is more to a person than making them click machines.

      This is why the more serious I get about my own content development, the more I loathe click-bait factories like BuzzWorthy or UpFeed (heh). While there is some merit to what they’re doing, I ultimately wonder what value they’re bringing to the table, and if the long term effects will erode the foundation and turn people off from social media. It’s like Farmville or Zynga poker updates, only a lot harder to combat.

      There have been those who have argued with me on the idea of getting people to invest in your avatar & name rather than your headlines and images, and to them I ask, do you remember the title of the last Seth Godin article you read? “no” well did it change your perspective that day “yeah.” See my point?

      The funny part is too, establishing your own community this way, while harder to set up initially, sets you up for a much bigger success long term. I read somewhere (but I couldn’t find the cite, so I didn’t include it) that something like only 0.4% of content that goes viral without a community.

      That means that that the other 99.6% of content that has gone viral did so because it started in some community, then took over its little corner of the internet.

      Then I look at the things my friends on Facebook are sharing days after it front-paged on Reddit, 9Gag, imgur or ::shutter:: 4Chan, and I realize… it all starts with community.

  4. Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Viralnova etc. is the reality of internet now. You can’t escape it. If you want to succeed, you need to step up your game. There is no such thing as an easy click!

    Awesome article btw :)


  5. Great post! Love the fact that you first addressed the problem and then provided a solution. The reality is that social media is about relationships and community. If you get me to click on your post because of the headline but your content didn’t bring any value then what’s the point. Sure you look good with all the likes and shares you get but what good does that do if it’s not bringing in quality traffic and building a community.

    I also love the solution you provide. To actively seek out your audience and see what their needs are. You are not just posting things up hoping it will stick but you are actually providing value. It takes work and most won’t do this but that is what will make you stick out and help you to build your community.

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Thanks Carlos!

      You’re absolutely right. It is about relationships & community.

      Now, can you think of any company that makes you feel like you’re truly a part of their community? I’m curious to know what some of the good examples are.

    2. First one that comes to mind is Buffer. They are very active with their community and genuinely care what we have to say. They are always looking for ways to improve and they do that by finding out what the customer’s needs are.

    3. Great example! And I know Leo took great care early on to guest post and contribute to communities that could benefit from his vast knowledge :-)

      They’ve done a wonderful job of cultivating their own community, and love that the stuff they creates always has that “this is for you” vibe.

  6. a) Great post. I love how you break down each section with analysis, some dat, and suggested steps to correct. It’s awesome to see highly actionable advice. It’s reallyt he polar opposite of the accepted wisdom (create great content.. ok, well uh what does that mean exactly)

    b) I’ve got a lot of homework to do ;)

  7. Great article.. My issue is that I’m having a hard time finding communities that are actively discussing my company’s area. We sell fireplaces, however all the communities about fireplaces are either ghost towns, or so full of spam and advertisements it makes any conversation impossible.

    I could of course be slightly broader and look for communities centred around ‘interior design’ etc, but if I write for this audience I fear I would be diluting our subject area somewhat. Do you have any advice?

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Nick, I am very happy you bring that up!

      This is certainly something I teach in the program, but what you’re talking about is what I call avoiding the “meta-marketing” trap.

      Instead of being the fireplace guy who tries to sell fireplaces to fireplace enthusiasts, being in & around the interior design communities, the real estate community, the people who build houses communities, the “I love my family” communities… these are the places where your market is waaaaaay more likely to be.

      Now… here’s the thing…. If they catch you marketing, you’re done. This is a very very important point that I can not iterate enough.

      I understand the fear of diluting your subject area, but what you’re really doing is finding how what you’re an expert in overlaps with other areas.

      – Does a fireplace as a part of your interior design improve the value of a home?
      – How many warm childhood memories happen around the fireplace?
      – Your client wants a fireplace, how hard are they to install?

      As you expand your audience, it’s important to realize that not everyone is going to be into everything & they really don’t have to be. As a person, different people know you for different things, and bringing that multi-layered personality to the social web brings more character to your business too.

      But also, you should know ahead of time what your goals are for each category of the market you’re going for. Are you trying to learn their language to develop better content? Are you trying to make direct sales? Are you trying to build a content distribution network?

      While it’s tempting to go after multiple goals for each category, you really need to pick just one to start with.

      That way, when you’re in the “people who build things” communities, you end up establishing yourself as the go-to “fireplace guy” because you know things like how a fireplace can improve the value of the house, how to install, etc.

      But… don’t push.

      The key is to always be listening & responding and releasing content at the times when people will be the most receptive to it.

      It’s a very different paradigm than what most people are used to, but for the people I’ve taught this method to, those who embraced it saw very nice results once they adapted to it.

    2. Tommy,

      Thanks for your detailed response. In terms of the content I produce, would you recommend sticking to just fireplaces, or widening the scope to blog posts on interior design trends, redecorating guides etc?

      Again thanks for your help.

    3. Nick,

      Personally, if I were your audience – an article that talks 30% wide-scope, and 70% fireplace might help me out.

      This way everyone knows what you’re good at, but also know some other aspects.

      However, I’m curious to hear Tommy’s thoughts.

    4. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Hey Mark,

      I think he was talking more from the broad content strategy perspective, not just from a single article standpoint ;-)

      I answered the question a little earlier, but honestly, I was trying to get something else done at the time, and I feel like I may have phoned it in a little with the whole “it depends on your audience” front.

      Switching hats for a moment, and looking at things from a content strategist standpoint, this is the data I’d be looking at, and how I would iterate on it…

      First, look at the referring traffic to the site. Who’s linking to you, and what pages are they linking to you from? Look at those pages, what are they saying, what’s the context they’re referencing you in, and what (if anything) are their people saying?

      If there’s nothing happening on that page directly, go a little wider & see what else has been happening on that website recently. What’s the context? Is there any way you can contribute, or add to the conversation they’re having on your own site, while still remaining relevant to your readers?

      Next, survey your existing customers. Who are they? Do they have families? What kind of values do they have? What’s their style? Where do they live? How do they enjoy their free time?

      You might be able to gleam a lot of information off the product they’ve already purchased as well. Are they modern, traditional, hipsterish?

      These things all influence not just the content, but also the tone & structure of the pieces you create.

      And who else do they read? There’s a lot to work with there, from partnerships to “borrowing” style, to strategic networking.

      Then of course, there’s the comments. I’m personally going to be trying to have better conversations in the comment threads here, because I want to know through conversation who the readers of conversionxl are.

      Part of that means inviting people who have shared on Twitter to come back and leave their thoughts. This ultimately will help me to understand you, and create the content you need, in addition to the content I want to create.

      Honestly, most of the data’s already there, it’s just a matter of looking at it all and coming up with a plan that helps you grow.

  8. This is great stuff. Love the resources and examples for really getting your efforts organized. One question, though. Jumping into a program like this seems a little daunting. I know it’s probably not worth doing if you don’t do it right, but do you recommend locking yourself in a room for two weeks to get things in order? Or do you see getting to your process being more of a piecemeal improvement that you make over time?

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Oooh very good question Elliott!

      It all depends on where you’re at, and being genuinely honest about how much your current methods are working for you.

      http://analytics.twitter.com and a look at your Facebook page insights will tell you how effective what you’re currently doing really is.

      For some people, it honestly won’t going to make a huge difference locking themselves in a room for two weeks. The only thing that will be different is that they can’t trick themselves into thinking that they’re “working” by posting stuff that ultimately gets no traction.

      For others, with an established flow that does actually drive results, this is something that should be built into the process.

      I recommend to transition into the habit slowly, and start building the database a few groups at a time on a daily basis. Once you’ve gotten to the point where you feel like you’ve found the maximum (usually between 25-50 for each category) go through daily & rate. (no interacting yet) Once you’ve rated, then comb through and participate.

      It can be a much slower & deliberate process if your existing methods are already driving real results, and can be more zen, like tending to a garden.

    2. Tommy,

      Thanks for your detailed response. In terms of the content I produce, would you recommend sticking to just fireplaces, or widening the scope to blog posts on interior design trends, redecorating guides etc?

      Again thanks for your help.

    3. Portrait of Tommy Walker


      Well I can’t say without knowing your existing audience. I mean, all fireplaces all the time might get repetitive, but it’s all going to depend on your audience.

      Best thing you could do is survey your audience, and see what kind of content they might want.

  9. Hey Tommy – thanks so much for including Mention’s data in the post! I can’t agree more that social marketing and marketing strategies in general need to shift towards real conversations with real people who might actually be interested in having a relationship with your brand, whether or not they know it yet. Of course it takes a bit of work upfront, but in the long run, it’s all worth it.

    Thanks so much for sharing your personal process and rating system – it definitely lightens the workload. Really look forward to giving it a try!

  10. Hi Tommy – wow, powerful stuff. Contains a lot of bad news but I would imagine the light at the end of the tunnel appeals to a lot of us who just want to believe in social as a more effective channel. Have signed up for SocialFilter and can’t wait to get to grips with it.

  11. Tommy, you already know that I followed a lot of your advice on this and it worked faster than I thought it would.

    My version of the process:
    1. Choose a community where your buyers hang out. It can even be a forum or listserve

    2. Be the coolest, most helpful person in that community.

    3. Bring something awesome to share, like a great dinner guest. A piece of content that solves a common problem, or a useful tool is great. These should be resources on your own website

    4. Share your content or tool with the community whenever people need help with that common problem.

    5. After just a few weeks community members will start sharing your resource for you whenever that need comes up

    1. HASHIM!!!

      Man, I’m glad you decided to come into the comments on here :-D

      Curious, as someone who actually went through the process and adapted it to fit for you, would you mind talking a little bit more about your experience, and what came to you after?

  12. Great blog post! No internet marketer tells me how to write headlines without sounding like Cosmo. But I’m not Cosmo. Also, I don’t want to write list posts. I don’t want “100 links on internet marketing”. I want the 5 or 10 best. It’s similar for doing info graphics. Most show no information at all and I don’t have 1000 or more $$ to have one created. Or guestposting. Or the advice to “be remarkable”. And so on…

    These guys (mostly) are thin on strategy and big on tactics. But without strategy there is no need for tactics.

    At least everyone in internet marketing writes about everyone else: “You already know what I think of internet marketing “gurus”, and how most of their “products” are just recycled garbage.” Original mail from today!

    Looking forward to your new product.

  13. Most marketers try to make some sense of social media so they can sell more products, which sounds great. Know the secrets to the algorithms and put out more content that draws people in. The problem is that they have no mix. They have no strategy. They don’t understand the social aspect of the of social media. It’s all about building trust through relationships. And to do that you need to bond with your audience. It’s not always about pushing the limits on what you can sell them or how many people engaged in your post. It’s about creating an experience that your fans, friends and followers will want to keep enjoying so they in turn will tell their friends and help grow your followers list with like-minded fans. So learn to post funny stuff, serious stuff, boring stuff and a mix of subjects that educate, entertain and engage your audience.

  14. Totally agree.
    I do believe that social media are about building relationships and demonstrating thought leadership. However, it is very important to understand that posting about others can make the relationship with your followers stronger!
    There’s a great tool that can help come up with that 80% of content that is not yours but is still specific to your niche.
    It’s called ZootRock.

  15. Good initial info, but I am not clear on implementing it. Is this strategy more for people already regularly creating and posting content…or can it be used as a starting strategy? I work for an online e-commerce company that has hundreds of orders per month but we have done ZERO with our Facebook and Twitter pages (or any other social media).

    To me, your “strategy” felt like you were saying to be involved in discussions on facebook, twitter, reddit, forums, etc…the places people are talking about your product/item. And at appropriate times interject relevant info…but not necessarily a sales pitch.

    So my two direct questions are:
    1) At some point you have to pitch your service/product…when/how are you suggesting to do this?
    2) To be involved in many simultaneous conversations can take a lot of time and if youre a coach, CEO, sales person, etc you can’t alot all day to this. How do suggest to scale and manage this?

    Or am I completely missing your point?


    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      You’re not necessarily missing the point, but you’re applying a broadcast sensibility to the strategy, which is where the dissonance is coming in.

      I looked at your site, and I see that you sell eCigarettes, so I’ll adapt this to you.

      First of all, we have to go under the assumption that nobody knows who you are, right?

      Now if that’s the case, than it’s also highly unlikely they will be talking about your product directly.

      However, there are communities out there of smoking enthusiasts that you could join in. You’re not talking about your product, but you rather about the “smoking” lifestyle.

      At no point do you HAVE to pitch your product, because what you’re doing is tapping into a community that will genuinely be interested in how cool you the person are.

      Think about your friends who have ever sold Amway and felt like they HAD to pitch you, and how off-putting that would be. Now think about a similar friend who started getting getting in shape w/o making a big deal about it, but inviting you go work out sometime… it’s a similar vibe.

      If you’re cool about it, and break away from the marketer/salesman need to pitch, by natural curiosity, people will click to your profile, see you sell what you sell & decide to visit or not.

      At that point your ad retargeting strategies can kick in, you can go for the email address, or whatever, but by the time they get to the site, they’re already familiar with the person who sent them there, so they’re more primed.

      Now, look outside specific smoking enthusiast specific communities & just at people who smoke.

      Quit smoking support groups
      (I could go on)

      As far as the “time” aspect is concerned, the reality is you’re likely to only be having many small conversations here & there, so a half hour each morning dropping into your groups to answer questions like “What’s your favorite ___ to ___”

      The idea is not to just go in and straight pitch, but rather to establish enough of a presence that when someone says “Hey I need [something relevant to what you do] you jump in either in the comment thread or more likely through direct message, and say, “I can help.”

      Your constant exposure in the group means you’re not just trying to spam them & scientifically, it’s supported they’re more likely to trust you for that reason.

      The science behind it is called “The Mere Exposure Effect” which basically states the more you see something, the more you trust it.

      The most common metaphor used to describe it is if you went jogging every day and passed the same person eating their lunch on a bench, if you one day had to save a man from drowning, you’d give your person on the bench your phone & keys, instead of the person you’ve never met before.

      Same rules apply here, and it (can be) a minor investment of time on a daily basis once you’ve got everything set up.

      If you have any questions about just how effective it can be though, you should just ask Hashim Warren (he’s in the comments) as he was one of the first people to go through the program with me, and he saw pretty incredible results in a surprisingly short period of time.

  16. Tommy,

    This is great! Thank you for finally allowing me to read an article that isn’t sugarcoated to death with nonsense about “Compelling Content” and any other Social Media Marketing BS.

    I have a hard time with Marketing in general as I am new to it. It has basically been dropped on my lap where I work and I am doing my best to learn what works best for us. I will be sure to bookmark and share this article with fellow marketers. Also, I will be on the lookout for more of your articles!

    Thanks Again & Kind Regards,

    Kevin Reyes

  17. Hey Tommy,

    Wicked post! Couldn’t have taken you more than…what…2 weeks? :)

    My question for you is this: My agency does content marketing for SaaS companies, and try as I might, I have yet to find a discussion group that covered this topic that wasn’t stuffed full of other marketers; all of whom are pretty much just blasting links to their content.

    For your example, Horror, I can see that the discussion groups are filled with Horror fans, not people flogging horror movies/books/etc…

    For my niche, I have yet to find any forums that actually have end users asking questions I can actually answer. Perhaps they use different language?

    To find out, I’m reaching out to them one by one to ask where they hang out, what language they use, what their favorite blog/podcast is.

    If you have thought on a faster way to gather this data, I would love to hear it!


    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Hey Trent…

      3 days ;-)

      What you’re talking about is something I cover in the first week of the full program.

      It’s about avoiding what I call the “meta-marketing” trap.

      If you’re in a group of marketers trying to sell marketing to marketers who sell marketing to marketers, it’s way more difficult to find a customer.

      Get in front of a group of restaurant owners or people in chamber of commerce though, and suddenly you’re no longer shouting into the wind.

      Part of what I teach is how to avoid this trap and search these kinds of groups out.

      The “meta-marketing” groups are still important, but not for the purpose of finding customers.

      And yes, almost always do you find that your actual market speaks a very different language, mostly because they still use social media like real human beings ;-)

  18. Ouch, Tommy! But you nailed it. I’m a copywriter, first and foremost, so generally I like to go deep and connect with people who may refer me or hire me. I’m finding LinkedIn to be a really rich source!

  19. This post is fantastic! You got it all right Tommy. As we use the social media more and more each day just to promote our products and service, we learn to value content quality which like you, makes my brain bleed whenever I have to take too much of my time just to come up with something that is catchy. And then I’ll just ask myself, is this all that social media marketing means? I have tried tools like CrowdBooster, SocialFlow, Postific, and the like. But I guess it’s your words which I should have heard first.

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Oh wow Stuart!

      What kind words man. I mean, there is merit to tools like CrowdBooster & SocialFlow (I’ve used them in the past & loved it) but optimized publishing and broadcasting is only one part of the equation.

      Everything we’re talking about here should really be done as the foundation to a “traditional” social media marketing strategy, which is really… just icing on the cake.

  20. Found a lot to like about your method. One of the problems I am seeing with social in just pushing content is that even with lots of followers it is just an aimless broadcast and I rarely get much engagement. I was reading Matthew Woodwards latest post yesterday and thinking that engaging in forums and blogs would be a better strategy but also getting involved with hashtags on twitter or even Instagram as they are again a conversation on a tiny scale. I think you get it really right that if I want to target people looking to lose weight or people trying to gain muscle or whatever my article is about then if it is just pushed to everyone doing that then it is mostly invisible to everyone even that target. Thanks also for the spreadsheet. Having that kind of structure is a great way to keep organized for an unorganized person

  21. Tommy, thanks for connecting on Twitter (@simplybrinn). If you’re looking for more topic springboard ideas, I’ve long been interested in how to efficiently deliver platform-specific content that doesn’t require quitting my day job. Case in point: I blog about architecture, and get decent traffic to my site and a fair number of followers across all SoMe platforms. However, on Tumblr, I am well over 100k followers. The numbers are great but engagement is low; in part due to infrequent posting, and in part due to format I think. I feel an 800 word blog post is not the right media type for the platform, and that images or other visual content would be better suited to it. With a full time job, a side business and other commitments, I don’t have the hours left to create Tumblr specific content; I’m not even sure if it would do anything for me. I’m interested in whether tailoring content to specific platforms is necessary, effective, and if there are any time saving tips. Any experience on this front you could share?

  22. good post. The initial part of the post is what done by people throw around the term ” social media expert” loosely. the advice you gave in the end is what many many marketers of the underworld have already been doing. A lot of people do not know how to target and have this mentality that one size fits all. They dont know that targeting and laser-targeting are soley different. cold traffic, warm traffic, the order of your conversion funnel, etc etc. A regular “blogger” is not the same as a smart digital marketer.

  23. Interesting read – agree with the premise that listening, engaging & proper targeting should absolutely be part of every social media strategy. Need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater though – I wouldn’t be here reading this if it weren’t for a random tweet & the powerful headline. Nice image too!
    By the same token, I wouldn’t be commenting or have even made it to the end had the content not been of interest and valuable to me. Ticking the boxes of the ‘crock of shit’ social media advice being pedalled across the internet :)

    1. haha!

      You’re absolutely right & I did say very very early in the piece that headlines & images are important, but they should be the cost to entry, not where you place all your bets – hence, the compelling headline and image on this piece :-P

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for sticking around :-)

  24. You did Tommy! And it’s not that I disagree at all – on the contrary. A little bit of the devil’s advocate in me ;)
    And you’re welcome!

  25. Tommy,

    Boy, you hit on plenty in here.

    According to the graph, the percentage of US households taking newspapers peaked in 1960, well before social media had any impact. In fact, one could argue that the advent of broad social media acceptance in 2010 somewhat arrested the newspapers’ fall. That, and you can’t line your bird cage with an iPAD.

    Ultimately, much of social media’s popularity and the content social media popularizes boils down to the same thing that makes reality(??) TV such a big hit in the US today. Many people are shallow and love nonsense. Escapism rules, meaningful content doesn’t, unless it impacts a serious, immediate need. That’s why sites like TMZ (16 million monthly visitors), playbuzz.com (29.7 million), and bleacherreport.com (31 million) are so popular (Quantcast figures).

    You’ve boiled social media marketing down to what marketing has always been.
    1) Know Your Audience (Who they really are as people, their problems, and motivations), Where They Are, and How to Reach Them
    2) How you can help them
    3) Your value proposition
    4) Building relationships give you credibility and let you communicate numbers 2 and 3.
    Marketers now just think social media changed everything, when it just sped things up, just not as much as they think it has.

    Epic Post! There is nearly as much great info in the comments as the post. As a sales and marketing professional with roots in the custom install end of consumer electronics industry, I especially liked your fireplace example. There are so many parallels between marketing custom audio/video / automation and fireplaces. Your point about marketing to the architects and builders is spot on. Better still build long term relationships with them and be their resource. We used that strategy and built a multi-million dollar annual business.

    Thank again!

  26. Hey thanks Steve! I’m really glad you enjoyed the article!

    To your point about the decline of newspapers, that actually corresponds to the rise in television in the 60’s, so it is interesting to see how everything ties together.


    Yes, it essentially does boil down to these things but what always amazes me is that the “finding” part isn’t so systematic for many social teams.

    Really glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks a bunch for adding your thoughts here! Great that the discussion is still going on this piece!

  27. It’s rare that I read to the end of a comment feed and even rarer that I comment, but that’s all gonna change after reading your post. So of course there’s no better place to start than right here!

    With my photography blog I always found posting to Facebook was a stab in the dark. Engagement was dishearteningly low, but I loved the content so it didn’t matter, it wasn’t commercial.

    As a copy-writer and freelance journo however, content is my trade. I have another professional blog, it’s been sorely neglected, but the aim is to get my posts in front of prospective clients and to rise above the chatter of so many competing voices.

    Your methods are really useful and most acutely I hear your point that you don’t want to appear as the salesman. I couldn’t agree more, the benefit I see is that if you contribute and offer value in multiple places, there will be strong growth in your personal brand. You may not need the blatant ‘sell’.

    Finally, I have very divergent interests; ‘tech start-ups’ and ‘international-law’. These are two areas that have very little cross-over. I have always had a personal website with a blog but I have simply posted on a range of topics, all intermingled. Would you advise to create two distinct blogs?

    Thanks so much for all the advise. Practice what you preach!

  28. Amazing article! Thanks a lot! Thanks for showing how to search for discussions.

  29. Tommy,

    This is insane resource. I’m scheduling this on Buffer and heck, you nailed it.

    I love the graphic on the strategy part (hint: movies). I think that is smart and seriously something I have been missing out A LOT! I got to work on that and thanks for sharing dear (new) friend.

    Appreciate it and have a blessed Sunday!

  30. Our team is very use to producing Flyer Design for our clients. Our design is second to none. Articles like this one: Finally, A Social Media Marketing Strategy That Puts You Right In The Middle Of Your Target Market! are very useful for both myself and my team. Thank you for sharing!

  31. An excellent read – great social media marketing advice – you’ve put into words a lot of my nagging concerns about much of the advice that’s circulating the Net. Mostly because you are the expert and I’m still learning. Great job!

  32. FINALLY someone is honest about the world of social media! I literally stumbled upon this article in a Google search and what a breath of fresh air!

    I spent 11 years in network marketing and have now branched out with my own company to teach business owners how to build a powerful personal brand. I left network marketing as far as building a team because I got so tired of the hard selling. The shove your products down everyone’s windpipe until they choke marketing. The “gurus” selling their so called marketing systems that don’t any problem what so ever. Just a fancy title and description to draw people in. There is so much smoke and mirror marketing out there being taught it makes me gag. In my branding program this is something I preach to my clients…build genuine relationships, find your target market market, offer value, solve their problem. More soft selling and a lot less hard selling. There are way too many people out there trying to trick their audience into buying stuff which may work on the front end but when they walk away feeling cheated they will not trust you to purchase again. Building true relationships with your audience, under promising and over delivering is the path to long term success in any business to keep people coming back over and over with their hearts and wallets wide open. Great article!

  33. Great info. Lucky me I found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book-marked it for later!

  34. So basically, it’s stalking, listening, then talking to all of them. It’s like gathering a group of similar-minded people, making friends with them, then ‘mentioning’ that oh, you’re selling cookies. Or software. Huh. Thanks for the images, by the way. The header made me smile.

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  36. Thank you for this post! As I begin to take my business online, it’s been quite overwhelming to find my audience, and find out what they’re talking about and what their pain points are. This is a great,detailed explanation of how to take that next step, as well as a solid reminder that relationships are key..and what better way to develop relationships than join a conversation?

  37. Finally, someone being honest and cutting through all the bullsh*t!

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Finally, A Social Media Marketing Strategy That Puts You Right In The Middle Of Your Target Market