Apparently, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was quite a salesman. I’ve always thought of Twain as a teller of homespun tales, a social commentator, and a humorist. What I didn’t know was that Twain was as savvy at marketing as he was at writing. I can only imagine what he could do with today’s social media tools.
In an era of back-slapping “good-old-boy” salesmanship, Twain standardized a marketing method that, today, is the driving force behind social media marketing and sales prospecting.
Twain’s Timeless Approach to Relating to Customers
In 1885, Twain and his nephew Charles L. Webster published, via their fledgling publishing house, a two-volume biography of the former President and General, Ulysses S. Grant. To sell the book, Twain created a template that marketers would use for the next 150 years. His target market was Union Army veterans and their families; his marketing territory was the Union North. Twain hired 10,000 sales agents, all War veterans, taught them his sales script, and had them wear their Grand Army of the Republic badges. The emotional connection between veterans and potential buyers is stil iconic: 350,000 book sets were sold at prices ranging from $3.50 to $12 (binding prices varied). It’s estimated that total sales for the book reached $1.5 million. Grant’s widow received nearly $450,000 in royalties.
In the 2010 book The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media by Curtis and Giamanco the authors state: “Beginning with Mark Twain’s effort to sell the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, two important contributions to sales as we know it emerged. First Twain understood one of the most critical elements in the psychology of sales: People buy from people that they know, like, and trust.”
Being Positive is a Path to Social Media Connection Success
Most of us are familiar with the “know, like, trust” adage; sales gurus have been laying claim to the saying for years. In the past fifteen years, know-like-trust has become the foundation for every Social Media marketing strategy. But with so many competing voices online, it has become increasingly difficult to gain the attention of our target markets. Making an emotional connection with our audience is now imperative to get our posts a “like” and a “share.” Indeed, Facebook has recently adopted a method of emotionally measuring the effectiveness of posts, and has included that measurement in their newsfeed algorithm. Facebook gives more weight to an emotional “reaction” (represented by the icons “love,” “ha ha,” “wow,” “sad,” and “angry,”) than to the standard “thumbs-up like.”
Dealers regularly tell me that their Facebook posts are being ignored; they will post what they think is a compelling offer or link, but get only a few likes and maybe one comment (despite having thousands of followers). What can they do, they ask, to improve their response rate? My answer is always the same: “It’s not about you; it’s about your customer.” Unless someone is actively seeking to buy what you are offering, they don’t give a fig about you or your offer. Why would they feel compelled to “like” your post, or share it with their friends?
Post to Social Media with an Intent to Connect – Not to Sell
Sharing on Facebook – or any other Social Media – is often about improving one’s social or financial status. I realize that this may sound a bit ungracious, but I believe it to be true. People want to be seen as being benevolent, or perceptive, or funny – all in support of the image they want to project. They want to be seen in a positive light by those who view their posts; in other words, they use “shares,” “likes” and “reactions” to boost their social status.
So, dealers, why would someone share a “20% off sale” post? How is sharing such a post going to boost a follower’s social status? It won’t. Of course, there are times when a “BIG SALE” post is appropriate, but expect to have to pay to advertise your event; your readers will rarely share it. If you want readers to share your posts (and perhaps have them go viral?) then you have to start with a post that will make them look good when they do share it.
Rely on Analytics and Strategy, Not Luck
In a July 2013 white paper, the video marketing company Unruly.co reports on their analysis of which Super Bowl 50 television ads were shared the most, and offered insights as to what made the most-shared ads so effective. Although the study is centered on video, the principles espoused apply to other types of social sharing as well. The insights are summarized by Dr. Karen Nelson-Field of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science: “Predicting a social (video) hit is no longer about luck. (Videos) that elicit high intensity, positive emotions are three times more likely to be shared than videos that elicit low intensity, negative emotions. It means CMOs can now confidently predict the effectiveness of their content marketing investment.”
In her slideshare.com presentation “The Science of Sharing for Authors”, Christine Klosser presents a formula for developing sharable content that fits nicely with the Unruly study:
- Begin with a positive image that appeals to your target market. This is what Twain did when he hired Union veterans and had them wear their Grand Army of the Republic badges; the visual connection leads to interpretation of the prospect as “we share the same values.” Advertisers have used this method for decades. Attach your message to an image indicating shared values; for example, a vintage item in a tableaux setting, as might be found in a Norman Rockwell drawing. Also effective might be pictures of childhood activities such as hobbies or sports; anything that causes a viewer to respond “me, too” is appropriate.
- Choose a quote that expresses commonly shared values. Using an editing program like Irfanview (free, and my personal favorite, http://www.irfanview.com), type the quote onto the image (instructions at https://youtu.be/SFh83UFRfGM).
- The combination of still image and quote is often called a meme. If you place the meme on your website and share it on your Facebook page, your web address will follow your meme as it is shared. Though you may not sell anything on the strength of this effort, “knowing” you is the first step in the sales process.
Where to find Social Media images
Be sure to use an image that is either public domain or has creative commons licensing.
Most image galleries will allow you to search by “creative commons.” Here are a few places to start:
2. Google’s advanced image search [http://bit.ly/2vbCjga] Scroll to the bottom of the page to “usage rights”
3. unsplash.com. All unsplash images are free for use.
4. Where to find quotes: brainyquote.com; keepinspiring.me; values.com
With practice, you will develop a knack for knowing which of your posts might be successfully shared. Then, perhaps, you will be like Twain, and have 10,000 “sales agents” sharing your post; because the values espoused in your meme makes them look good to their peers.
Previously published in Antique Trader Magazine