Selling the Unsellable

Three Little Pigs, or, How to Sell The Unsellable With Social Media

News is notoriously hard to sell. Many news organizations are still trying to find their footing in the post-newspaper era, and with such enormous competition online, it can be hard to find a way to make their products stand out. But have a look at this television ad for the London news organization The Guardian:

As of today, this advertisement has over 1,600,000 views on The Guardian’s YouTube page alone. It’s a stylish, clever ad, but it still wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if an accompanying social media campaign hadn’t driven it viral. Now The Guardian is capitalizing on the international attention and expanding into American markets. Not bad for a British news organization that has been around since 1907. By comparison, one only need consider the Chicago Tribune.

I have fielded the following two questions several times over the past few months:

1. Are businesses not using social media marketing because they don’t see the value?
2. Are there certain kinds of businesses for which social media marketing just won’t work?

The truth is, businesses are almost universally using social media in some fashion:

According to a recent study conducted by the Software and Information Industry Association, 98% of businesses are using social media for marketing. That’s up from 89% the year before. The survey also found that 69% of businesses found social media platforms useful. Not bad. Similarly, Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found 94% of businesses now use social media for marketing and 83% deemed it important to their business.

So there’s really no question of whether or not businesses are using social media marketing. Clearly they are. The question is whether or not they’re using it effectively.

For businesses trying to sell less visually “sexy” products — think the trades, shipping, manufacturing — the challenge is to create a multi-faceted marketing approach that brings your product to life for your audience. Make it personal. Anonymous, canned content and blind Tweets won’t cut it. Filler blogs won’t cut it. Your customers are looking for YOU on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, so meet them there. Show them what makes your company genuinely exceptional in a medium that demonstrates your progressive talents.

As The Guardian’s ad demonstrates, any business can benefit if it’s willing to put the time and effort into creating an attention-getting online marketing campaign. That doesn’t have to mean spending millions of dollars on a slick television ad. It simply means thinking of social media marketing as marketing — strategizing how to use it to your benefit, and calling on professionals who can help you do that effectively.