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This Is Why So Many Are Scared to Death...

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One of our clients sent an overwhelmingly passionate plea the other day. We're helping her develop and sharpen her blogging and social networking strategy and she wrote, "Can't I do just a little selling on my blog? Maybe some product images in the margin? A little. Plleeaaasee?"

I thought this was a bit humorous, but I knew exactly how she was feeling. The minute someone tells you NOT to do something, it's flipmode style. You then become hell-bent on doing the very thing you think you're not supposed to do. It's like a tick or something. Adam and Eve had the same deal.
My response to our client was, I believe, appropriate:
"Of course you can have ads for your products on your blog! Put two or three. The whole idea is not to be a sales eunuch, but rather shift to understanding and appreciating a more conversational sale." (Well, that's not the WHOLE idea, but baby steps with the clients, eh?)
I'm of the mindset that it's OK to put links to products in your blog posts every now and again, obviously as long as it makes sense contextually. I suggest that our clients ask themselves: "If I mention this product, is it supremely helpful, or am I just advertising?"
And then, shazam, I made the connection...THIS is why so many people are scared to death of social media. THIS. THIS. THIS.
Pixel by pixel, social media is separating true thought leaders - people with something truly genuine and insightful to say - from the phony vacuous parrots because part of the social media "success formula" is being comfortable enough to let your thought leadership (read: your ideas) sell FOR you. (Thankfully, our client can run circles around everyone in her industry with her ideas - she just needs the right encouragement, like anyone else.)
This is why most brands would rather buy ads on Facebook. They're scared to death of the eerie glow of an empty creativity container and they're slowly realizing that, all this time...all this time of the 50's, 60's, 70' 80's and 90's...they've been relying HEAVILY on ads. And, now that ads are no longer good enough, the two questions that's got them keepin' the lights on like Motel 6 is:
Can we stand on our ideas? Do we even HAVE ideas worth sharing? Help. Does anyone see us?

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Lena L. West is an award-winning social media consultant, blogger, speaker, journalist and technologist.

She is also the CEO & Chief Social Media Strategist at xynoMedia, a social media strategy and development firm.

She also blogs for Entrepreneur Magazine on her TechForward blog , she guest blogs on the Lipsticking blog every Monday and writes the Social
Tech blog
for Fast Company.

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  • by Jay Gaines Tue Dec 16, 2008 via blog

    Hi Lena, I couldn't agree more with your post. The key word you used is "ideas." The way I think about bloggers is broadly in two camps - those who mostly share knowledge and those who share ideas. There's big difference between them. I've followed several marketing bloggers who share knowledge in areas where I lacked experience. This was extremely valuable . . . for a while, but I inevitably grew out of them. The ones I stick with and value most are always those who have interesting ideas to offer. I find they are more rare than knowledge sharers because it takes not just creativity, but courage to share ideas.

  • by Toby Tue Dec 16, 2008 via blog

    Right on, Lena! Right now things are looking up for the idea people! :)

  • by Adam Needles Tue Dec 16, 2008 via blog

    Great insight. This is why the CPG world is terrified of social media. They are the ultimate control freaks. They're one of the only industries where the top-dog of each business unit is the 'brand manager.' Imagine not having the ability to 'manage' your brand so closely? But then as markters we have to remind ourselves that brands exist as a customer-company creation. A brand that no one buys is not a brand; customers co-create brands and help them live. Without the customer, there is no brand. That's why we have to be comfortable with them having more ability to put brands into their own words and to interact more credibly and authentically with brands. It IS a major leap for some marketers, though. Agreed.

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Dec 16, 2008 via blog

    Adam, you touched on something that may be the root of this problem. The term, "brand" in the CPG advertising world has always meant the product line itself. Coke brand vs. Pepsi is an example. Yet, today, a brand has evolved into an entire experience or promise made to the end user. Without the participation of internal and external customers, there is no brand.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Tue Dec 16, 2008 via blog

    Lena, outstanding insights in your post. Thanks.

  • by Lena L. West Wed Dec 17, 2008 via blog

    @Jay: You're absolutely right. It's about becoming your audience's "human Google". People don't want stats thrown at them all the time. Sure they need proof, but they also need to know what all those number, charts and lines MEAN to them. Good social media-ites know how to deliver this information. @Adam: Wow, those are YOUR words, not mine :) I don't think there's a debate here as to what a brand is, but I absolutely agree that what leads to social media effectiveness is helping companies put their brands and their brand experience into their own words. @Elaine: 'Zactly! @Neil & Toby: Thank you! Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone!

  • by mack collier Wed Dec 17, 2008 via blog

    I think ideas are part of it, but I mainly think companies are uncomfortable with social media because they aren't comfortable communicating with their customers. They don't know how to do it! That's why when you tell them what a blog is, and how it would work, they panic. A 'Facebook ad' makes more sense, because they understand what an 'ad' is. They understand the idea of beaming messages at people. But the idea of giving their customers the ability to take that message, and leave FEEDBACK on it via a blog's comments? Oh....THAT is scary! And here's something else...many companies believe that if they don't see customers leaving negative comments online, then they didn't really happen. Another big objection you will hear from companies toward blogging is 'why in the world would we give our customers the ability to leave negative comments on OUR site?' And I think this is another reason why clients want to push ads on their blogs and promote themselves. Because they 'get' that. Pushing out one-way messages is what they are used to, and comfortable with. It's an uphill battle, but thankfully there are more and more examples of companies that decided to put their fears aside and forge ahead with using social media to connect with their customers. These companies are reaping the rewards of their bravery, while competitors continue to play catch-up.

  • by Jason Baer Wed Dec 17, 2008 via blog

    Wow. "being comfortable enough to let your thought leadership (read: your ideas) sell FOR you." One of my favorite lines of the year. Well done!

  • by Lena L. West Wed Dec 17, 2008 via blog

    @Mack - 'Zactly! What we tell our clients is, "if you think people have nothing negative to say about your brand, think again. They're ALREADY saying stuff about you - heck people say greasy things about KNOW they're talking about YOU! Don't you want to know what is being said?" @Jason: Thanks!

  • by Richard Becker Wed Dec 17, 2008 via blog

    Lena, This is an exceptional post. It dares companies to consider what they are doing and why. Let them post about their products or thoughts about the industry and allow their customers and peers provide some feedback that, whether or not people agree, strengthens what they provide. Of course, there is more than one way to enter social media. But if they have a strong sense of their intent and its backed up by strategic thinking, then there is no reason to allow fear to play a factor in their business model. Great post. All my best, Rich

  • by Beth Harte Thu Dec 18, 2008 via blog

    "Pixel by pixel, social media is separating true thought leaders - people with something truly genuine and insightful to say - from the phony vacuous parrots because part of the social media "success formula" is being comfortable enough to let your thought leadership (read: your ideas) sell FOR you." BINGO! Thanks for pointing this out Lena. And I'll take Adam's thought one step's not just CPG, it's any product or service (B2B or B2C). Brands are no longer the design, collateral or messaging put around them, it's the brand experience. And if marketers don't harness the engagement around their brands and understand the experience their brand elicits, I fear a lot of brands will start to die off.

  • by chris tidman Sat Dec 20, 2008 via blog

    There are three types of communication: confrontational, didactic, sharing. The entire world has worked well before the internet using the first two types of communication, but with the social network the sharing of information has become prevalent. Student and teacher, buyer and seller, leader and follower have to be on the same level. Universities came into being when people came together to share their knowledge. We now have millions of 'universities' and billions of students trading information. When you revert to the two primary forms of communication you lose your student/customer because he is there for 'his' benefit. Charge for the service and he is not interested because he can go down the street and get it for free.

  • by emma Mon Dec 22, 2008 via blog

    Lena - thanks so much for this post. I've been spending a lot of time trolling blogs lately as I set mine up, and the one thing that turns me off faster than anything else is a barage of ads. When a site has only a few ads, it's just more inviting. And if the site has taken the time to tailor the ads to the subject matter addressed in the site - even better. But if every ad is just promoting the blogger's/company's own products, then I feel duped. I think my response isn't so unusual. And particularly as eventually how we will all be viewing sites is going to migrate to smaller and smaller windows (ie. mobile access, etc), having to scroll through off-target ads results in the opposite kind of experience from what most people want to create.

  • by Justa Browsa Thu Mar 19, 2009 via blog

    Lena, the trackback link to your site has an extra http so it's not resolving.

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