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Overstating the Case for Social Media

June 11th, 2008 by Bob Bly

If you say to me that social media is the most significant marketing development of the 21st century and will become the dominant marketing channel, I can see your argument — though I don’t necessarily agree with it.

But in an interview with DM News (6/9/08, p. 47), Saul Colt, VP of FreshBooks Marketing, goes way too far when he suggests that one single social media site — Twitter — could by itself be the next big thing in marketing.

Colt states: “Twitter is here to stay and in time could be your most valuable marketing tool.”

His reason: “There is a good chance your customers are already there and perhaps talking about you.”

Saul, are you serious?

Do you really think that Twitter specifically — not social media in general — could become the #1 marketing tool of any B2B or B2C marketer?

Does anyone else out there think Twitter is an important, powerful marketing medium? Do you already get business from Twitter?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 at 8:46 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

63 responses about “Overstating the Case for Social Media”

  1. Saul Colt said:

    Hi Bob!

    I am glad my comments got you so engaged (or is it enraged). I still stand by my statement and feel that Twitter “in time could be your most valuable marketing tool”. That does not mean I am suggesting putting all your efforts and energy in the one tool (ask anyone who did that with Second Life how things are going) but rather Twitter needs to be an important part of your Social Media mix.

    Twitter is gaining a religious like following and this is something that I am not seeing elsewhere in the social media space so it makes sense to belly up to the bar and learn the way to make the tool work for you now before it is too late.

    So to answer your question…..YES! I am serious!

    Saul Colt
    Head of Magic

  2. Brett Owens said:

    Hi Saul,

    But in order for Twitter to be an effective marketing tool, doesn’t the majority of your target audience need to be using it? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I still view Twitter as a popular tool with the TechCrunch crowd.

    In our case (we market to lawyers and CPAs), I don’t see Twitter as a viable avenue at this time. Much better to reach them using the “old school” DM methods, IMHO.

    Brett Owens
    Co-Founder and CEO
    Time Tracking Buddy, LLC

  3. Bob Bly said:

    Saul: How would you answer Brett’s question? I have to agree with him, to a point. In my case, I don’t know a single client or colleague of mine who uses Twitter. (I signed up for it the other day and, frankly, don’t get it or see the value of it. Can you explain why and how you use it?)

  4. Saul Colt said:

    Hey Brett,

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the original post is that the title of the story is “How Can I use Web 2.0 tools like Twitter to re-brand my companies identity”.

    This is a story about Web 2.0 tools and Twitter specifically so in this particular case the “old school” methods are not part of the discussion…but I agree there is great value in them!

    Saul Colt
    Head of Magic

  5. Saul Colt said:

    Hi Bob,

    I answer some of your question in the above response and I am in no way retracting my comments but I do feel the need to point out again that this article was about Web 2.0 tools and Twitter specifically.

    Twitter is not the only tool you should use but to not use it would be a mistake and as the months pass more and more people will be there talking about you or perhaps not…but it sure would be great if they were!

    Saul Colt
    Head of Magic

  6. Dianna Huff said:

    I don’t know. From everything I read, Twitter doesn’t seem to be doing well from a technical standpoint. Every time I read someone’s post about Twitter, they are complaining about it being down.

    So I don’t know how it can be the next great thing since sliced bread if it doesn’t work.

  7. Jonathan Fields said:

    Hey Bob, Saul & everyone,

    I am a pretty active twitter user. Totally didn’t get it in the beginning, but it’s turned into a powerful marketing and PR tool for me in a non-traditional way, because it provides more ready and casual access to influencers.

    These influencers can then pass information about you to their followers by “retweeting” information or links posted by you. So, if I post a link about a post or offer and I have people following me who each have thousands of followers, they can repost that link in their timelines for all their followers to see. The speed at which something can go viral on twitter is mindboggling.

    The second thing is that many mainstream print writer and, increasingly, TV and radio producers are on twitter looking for sources and story ideas. Two weeks ago, I ended up in the cover story in Business Week, because I responded to a tweet from a senior writer for quotes.

    Last thing, big biz is getting into the picture and using twitter as a really powerful tool to communicate with customers. I wrote a post about an interaction I had with Jet Blue (just click my sig link above).

    With less than 1 million people using twitter right now, it’s a small community, but it is growing at an astonishing pace and the people who use it regularly have tentacled that reach far beyond confines of the twitterverse.

    Hope that was helpful!

  8. ElizabethAdamsDirect said:

    Hello, Bob …

    The Twubble with Twitter!

    I love it!

    Actually, I’m in the middle of studying all this social stuff right now and coming to some preliminary conclusions little by little.

    If you go too far left of center in an effort to get backlinks from social media like Twitter, you’ll find yourself in gaming-the-system territory.

    If you go too far right of center in an effort to become a presence, you’ll find yourself back in high school trying to win a popularity contest.

    But in the middle …

    Well, it seems to me that what you’ve got there is basically a way of “automating” word-of-mouth referrals. And wouldn’t that be nice to tap into!

    Follow that notion just a little bit further and you have essentially the equivalent of the Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) for demographics beyond your wildest dreams. It just hasn’t been quantified yet.

    As to writing for it …

    I’ve had some requests to write some stuff for some social media with the idea that it will create backlinks for a marketer’s primary blog.

    Although it will certainly accomplish that, what he’s not seeing is that the thing you write to support the blog must also itself be supported with still other things you write and those things must be supported with still other things and so on.

    Without such support — without bookmarks and posts and lenses and modules and so on — the first thing you wrote falls out of favor and off the SERPS.

    HubPages, for example, actually inserts a nofollow tag into your hubpage if your “score” falls below 50 (out of a possible 100). And the only way to avert this fate is to actively “promote” your hubpage with more articles and other social media activity. Which itself has to be promoted!

    Still, there’s a whiff of change on the wind that would seem to indicate that if you produce “meaty, focused writing with a point, opinion, purpose, and attitude that speaks to users and makes them ‘vote’ for or link to it,” the day is coming when the search engines themselves will reward you for that:

    “The internet writing market is oversaturated; you can get content anywhere for any price, even decently written content; writing on the web is fully commoditized and has created an environment of perfect competition that is great for buyers and dismal for writers.

    “For content writers, this means standing out from everyone else is getting more difficult; luckily, standing out to major search engines like Google is becoming easier. As Aaron Wall (of mentions, search algorithms will become increasingly sophisticated and start using visitor feedback as a quality signal; thus high quality content will become increasingly rewarded and poor content will cease to be profitable.

    “Thus, the key in producing effective content will depend on how many people like it and how quickly it spreads virally. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean grammatically perfect, incredible prose; it means meaty, focused writing with a point, opinion, purpose, and attitude that speaks to users and makes them ‘vote’ for or link to it. This also means the use of social media will become increasingly important to how well content does on the search engines.

    “This is good news for writers who value quality and have long been frustrated at the proliferation of bad writing on the web. While this in no way means that poor content will stop being profitable, it does mean that a) higher quality content will become more rewarded than poor content and b) the more user’s give value (e.g. via links, diggs, mentions) to an article in the near future, the better it will rank in the search engines.”SocialMediaSystems

    Regards, Elizabeth …



  9. Juho Tunkelo said:

    How about this. Try it, think about it, apply it to your business. Then voice an opinion. In that order. 🙂

    If you’re working with entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of them around on Twitter. If you’re selling anything, it’s a great way to follow up with people in real time.

    Just for kicks, here’s a dozen or so other specific marketing uses for Twitter:

  10. Saul Colt said:

    I am glad to see some others getting involved in this thread!

    I don’t want to give away all my secrets when it comes to using Twitter but I will say we use it the following ways:

    Listening to our customers
    talking to our customers
    holding contests
    announcing new blog posts
    and our most favorite….telling our customers thatcwe love them.

    I would show you an example but I am on my iPhone and can’t cut and paste anything 🙁

    Saul Colt
    Head of Magic

  11. Bob Bly said:

    Juho: Well, I signed up for Twitter and can’t for the life of me figure out how it could possibly apply to my business. Can you give a Twitter newbie some advice for getting started with it?

    Saul, Jonathan: OK, I have one client who provides mortgage refinancing to homeowners with good credit scores in Montana. How would I use Twitter to market their service?

  12. Bob Bly said:

    Charity: Once the 12-25 year olds have jobs, won’t they have to put these toys away and concentrate on real work?

  13. Jonathan Fields said:

    Re your mortgage client in Montana, a couple of thoughts…

    Micro-blogging can have an impact as a standalone effort, but I really see it as a far more powerful relationship building and distribution tool when combined with a broader social media effort, minimally, with blogging.

    What might this look like?

    Step 1 – Have them blog about personal finance/refinancing strategies in the current climate. Once a week is fine, as long as it’s packed with really good info or set up as an Ask The Banker The Truth About Financing Your Home blog.

    Step 2 – The blog is the foundation of their social media strategy, there home base. Plus, it will show the big personal finance blogger that they are interested in giving to the community and joining in the conversation, which will be really important for later steps. Bloggers and microbloggers don’t like people or entities who use social media purely as a tool for promotion.

    Step 3 – Access to influencers strategy – Find out who the top 25 personal finance bloggers are, subscribe to their blogs and comment. Find out which ones are on twitter and follow them. Become known to them and offer value, engage them in conversation. Over time, there’s a good chance they’ll begin to evangelize your value to their followers and subscribers.

    Step 4 – Direct to customer strategy – Search and summize for mentions of the words mortgage, montana, refinance, etc. Standard keyword stuff. Find out who mentioned them and what the context was. Follow those people where appropriate. Respond to their mentions where appropriate. Do this every day. Subscribe to every ffed you can find with relevant info and share high-value snippets and links with followers. Use your twitter feed to (a) share breaking industry news, (b) share blog posts, (c) ask questions, (d) announce special twitter-only/blog only offers. These are just a few ideas, but you get the point.

    Will this be as effective or yield as immediate returns as a direct response package or IM campaign? Dunno. It pays the greatest dividends when the market is not very narrowly defined by geographic limitations. So, a national mortgage company, could be more rewarding.

    These are just a handful of ideas off the top of my head, but I hope they show the relationship-building potential of micro-blogging, especially in the context of a broader social media effort.

    So, what do you think?

  14. ElizabethAdamsDirect said:

    Free Twitter Tutorial on Viddler

  15. Bob Bly said:

    Jonathan: great suggestions in theory, but truth be told, I can’t imagine actually recommending this to my client. My top 3 recommendations are TV commercials, radio spots, and direct mail. Billboards and newspaper ads can also work.

  16. Saul Colt said:

    Hey Bob,

    Sorry I didnt respond yesterday but I was tied up in a conference.

    I could give you my ideas on how to work your Mortgage client into Twitter but instead am going to show you how others are currently using it…as found from a quick serch on “mortgage”
    and my favorite

    One thing to keep in mind is that Twitter is free so there shouldn’t be any fear to get active on it.

    Saul Colt
    Head of Magic

  17. Jonathan Fields said:

    Truth be told…neither can I.

    As I mentioned, social media has it’s place and it works better for certain services, products and ventures, especially those with a worldwide, online emphasis.

    If you were to try something like this with the particular client you mentioned, no doubt it would be a bolt-on to the more direct type of campaign you mentioned.

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