Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

Confessions of a social media manager

Imagine, if you will, the following scene. Forget for a second that I’m not Catholic.

Me: “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been since…well, I’ve never confessed.”

Priest: “What is it my child?”

Me: “Well, a long time ago, way back in 2008, I doubted the power of…of…I can’t say it.”

Priest: “You’ve come this far. Now tell me.”

Me: “I doubted the power of social media.”

I instantly burst into flames. Fade out.

I wasn’t a true believer from the beginning. True belief tends to freak me out a bit. I saw a lot of people making a lot of money on something they were claiming was the next big thing—and oh, by the way, they can teach you about it for a price. Looking at it that way, I’m not so embarrassed that I wasn’t fully convinced of the power of social.

Gradually, however, I learned to ignore the affiliate-types, the self-proclaimed gurus and the rest of the loudmouths. I focused on the true value of the conversations people were having online. I focused on the access social media afforded, in a completely unprecedented, almost shocking way, to individuals of every stripe. I maintained what I thought was an appropriate amount of realism regarding the effectiveness of social marketing in the form of skepticism. I still do.

But here’s what changed. Until roughly two years ago, I was convinced there were still some business that could not benefit from a well-executed social media strategy. Some companies, I thought, still can’t get anything out of social. I would play a fun little game in my head, wherein I would try to imagine a business that had little to no chance with social, and then I would try to make up a strategy—playing devil’s advocate to myself (I know this sounds entirely schizophrenic). And, until about a year ago, my favorite scenario to ruminate on involved the tack and feed shop near my childhood home. That, boys and girls, was the business for which I would always come up empty. More on this after I acknowledge the inspiration for this post.

UnMarketing, by Scott Stratten, is the first official selection of the Bazaarvoice Marketing Book Club, and I’m loving it so far. Chapter 19 deals with localized Twitter marketing, something I’ve had a fair amount of experience with. Stratten conducts a thought exercise, almost eerily similar to mine, to demonstrate how a fictional Toronto pizza place might profit from going social. Here’s a killer example of how he’s able to distill core concepts into tangible steps (and he’s funny, to boot!):

By putting “near: Toronto” beside your keyword, you will see all the tweets from people who listed in their profile location that they are in Toronto. So now the person who tweets “I want pizza” can now be found geographically.


This isn’t an excuse to start replying to everyone on this list to say “Come use us! We rulez teh universe! LOLZ!” Reply to some people, say something like, “Heya, we could help you out! Let us know, hope you feel better soon!”

Marin Tack and Feed, in Fairfax, CA, was (unfairly) made a victim of this mental exercise again and again because it was a challenge—the challenge, because I couldn’t answer the question people in our business hear on an almost daily basis: “What’s the social media play?” In 2008, I answered the question. Here’s the quick, updated version:

  • Twitter searches will be slim pickins’ but you should still set up columns in Tweetdeck for things like:
    • “horseback near: ‘fairfax, ca’”
    • Ranch* near:"fairfax, ca"  within:50km
    • "party ideas" near:"fairfax, ca" within:50km
  • Encourage your customers to follow you on Twitter, but don’t leave them hanging—make sure that once they do, you start talking with them, helping to promote their content, being a good social media citizen in general. They’ll return the favor.
  • Start a blog (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?). You already go to equestrian events, so start blogging about them. The owners are all competitive riders, so they have a depth of expertise that would work perfectly on a blog. Write about horseback riding in general, so that you rank well on Google for terms like “horseback riding Marin”.
  • Create a Facebook page, and again, make sure you keep it lively. Post 3rd party content about horseback riding, maintain an event calendar, do whatever it takes to keep it from being a ghost town.

I’m just scratching the surface above, but my point is that I’ve seen the light, so to speak. Most businesses will still fail with social media due to poor planning, lack of measurement, lack of commitment and a host of other reasons. But I no longer believe that there are certain categories, verticals or specialties that can’t find value from well-orchestrated efforts.

What are some of the social media revelations that you’ve had?

© 2016 Ian Greenleigh