Forget social. Focus on media.

I tried to get a former client back this year. They fired us awhile back. We deserved it. 

They have a visibility problem. Their search rankings are terrible and when they are mentioned on social media channels (especially YouTube) they aren’t the beneficiary of any of that traffic. So I sent them a list of 10 things that I thought they could do both online and offline. I even offered for us to do the work on their behalf (hell, I may have said we’d do it for free just to prove a point).

I thought we might get them back for a minute but then I got this email:

“I'm just not the guy to get with Tumblr, The Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and folks blogging. I sort of loathe all of that. I’m more of a one-on-one guy. My marketing plan is me getting in front of people and showing them our cool site and [portfolio]. It’s been working great, and seems to be bringing in the business we need. Short of that we send out an email newsletter once in a while. But I think those things are white noise in this cluttered Attention Deficit Disorder world we live in.

    …You will never see me reading a blog or sending some blogger information about [our company]. I will never have a Facebook account, and I’ve closed the one we used to have for [the company]. I truly believe it’s time to get back to the basics of communication. One person standing in front of another and talking. It’s what I’m best at. And it’s what I like most. So I’m a lost cause to your great ideas. I’m old school, and I’m planning on staying old school.”

If I had the energy or grit or something I would have pushed back on this but I had other stuff going on and it was hot out, so I just sent a polite “Thanks for your candor, I can really respect your position” email. I’m pretty sure I meant it at the time.

But in retrospect I don’t respect his position at all.

First, let’s ignore for a second that blogs and podcasts have quite honestly changed my life and my worldview on more than one occasion and to just toss them out the window with Twitter is ridiculous. And let’s ignore that blogs and podcasts aren’t even close to a fringe media outlet at this point and we’ll ignore that they are obviously the present and foreseeable future of news media.

My former client is shooting himself in the foot on 3 fronts:

1. A fundamental denial of the “cluttered Attention Deficit Disorder world we live in” or, what I like to call reality. There is a new media landscape and by refusing to understand this landscape as an individual, he is refusing to participate in it as a brand. And this is a problem because his company sells a service that is used in moving media. How can you spot new opportunities to grow your business if you’re ignoring the fastest growing part of your market? YouTube and other channels are natural environments for your product and by pretenting that they don’t exist you deprive yourself of the ability to take any kind of a lead. Never mind that you do your clients a disservice by refusing to understand the changes that affect their distribution.

2. He’s missing the “social” part of social media. He’s doing one thing correctly which is that he’s getting himself, his brand and his work in front of actual human beings and that can’t be discounted. But his dismissal of social media means that he is missing out on a simple and easy way to cement and grow those relationships. He thinks social media is all about “likes” and that its this casual, shallow way for teenagers and morons to communicate with each other while hiding. And often it is. 

But he’s a self-professed “one-on-one guy” and Facebook alone would allow him to amplify those relationships. When have you ever asked someone that you just met, “When is your birthday?” You don’t do it because its weird and it would be off-putting since the person would know you’re up to something and they’d get awkward about it. But Facebook automatically wants you to know when someone’s birthday is coming up because they want you to engage with other people on the site. You could just add a “Happy Birthday” to their Timeline like everyone else but you could also use this information to do what other people won’t do—like call the person up the week before and say “Hey, I want to buy you a piece of cake for your birthday. Are you free on Thursday for lunch?” (actually, I’m going to start doing this). You couple this with LinkedIn and you have a basic CRM and research tool that would allow to build on face-to-face contact. 

The point of the IRL meeting is to show a genuine interest in the people you’re meeting with. Its a way of saying “I really value you what you do and its so important that an email is not enough.” So if you have easy access to information that they want to share with you why wouldn’t you take advantage of it? What would you rather hear when meeting someone on a Monday morning after a particularly trying weekend—“Hey Jamie, good to see you. How’s things?” or “Jamie, before we get into business I just want to say how sorry I am to hear that you had to put your dog down. How are the kids taking it?”. One is small talk, the other is you giving a shit about your friends. 

And there’s the social aspect when it comes to fans. If I search for his business on YouTube and Tumblr I honestly get a bit jealous because there are people who are passionate about what his company does. These people are talking about his company and their work with no prompting whatsoever from anyone else. If he turned on the TV right now, and the local news gave his company 15 seconds of attention, he’d call them up and thank them for it while also trying to get that relationship to the next level. Well, there are people all over the web talking, giving him more than 15 seconds of attention and all it would take is a few comments along the lines of “Wow, thanks for the compliment. Its great to know that our work is so loved.” to amplify that goodwill.

3. He’s missing the media part. Too focused on the social (“Likes” and “Loves”, etc) and not enough on the holy-shit-someone-built-tools-that-allow-you-to-get-attention-for-free part. Right now, his business could take advantage of Soundcloud, YouTube, Vimeo and Tumblr for publishing work as well as a number of industry-blogs. Their presence on these channels would dramatically change search results as well as give an impression that his company is everywhere. And you want people to think you’re everywhere because then you start to seem larger-than-life, your cachet improves, and if you really seem like you’re everywhere then off-line media will notice.

If someone came to you and said “Here’s a TV station. Do whatever you want with it.”, you wouldn’t respond with “I don’t watch TV” you’d take advantage of the opportunity to make things and get attention. The new marketing is precisely that. “So, here’s a TV channel. We’ve also got a radio station for you. Oh, would you like a news channel, too? We’ve got plenty.” I mean, if you were to take anything from this article, make it this: fuck social and focus on the media. Focus on the free media. Focus on the fact that most of it sucks and even you are only average you’re still in a better position than most businesses. Focus on the fact that if you’re amazing (and my former client’s business is amazing) then you can really move the dial.

Like I said, I don’t have the energy to argue with him. Great clients are often demanding and opinionated which can be a force for doing quality work but not so fun if you’re trying to change an opinion. But maybe you or someone you know is struggling with these opinions. Maybe you can let me inside your brain to say “Stop acting like you’re a hundred years old and get with the program. Stop making excuses and take advantage of opportunities you would have killed for 10 years ago.”