Gaming the System to Boost a Brand
“Should I get over myself?”
This is something I’ve been mulling over for the past week, mostly in terms of the various ways to leverage free tools, platforms and groups to aid promotion of my services, to gain more of a following and engagement from the type of people I’d love to work with. Yet do it in a way that adheres to my own core values.
Questions such as: Am I making my life harder for myself than it needs to be? Am I being too bloody-minded about my values? Should I get involved with purportedly supportive groups of like-minded business owners who face similar challenges – should I take an “easy” route to “success”? Or should I stick to my values because I prefer the challenge of a slow grind to success because in that challenge there is quality over quantity. Should I get over the feeling that some of the tactics used on social media feel like fakery infused with BS?
Before getting into the meat of the article, what I would like from my existing and future network is not just to have thumbs of approval and supportive comments if you agree with my opinions, but also a stimulate a professional and healthy discussion on everything I post. It’s important to have a difference of opinion (but you know, play nice) to learn more effectively from each other. Which is why LinkedIn exists – to connect, network, share, learn, build. Right? We might learn something, even gain new business or respectful differing opinion relationships from it.
There are plenty of people out there doing great work, they’re working hard and are rightfully earning the results they desire, some demonstrably so – they have photos of groups of smiling clients in distant lands and they have recommendations and testimonials which look genuinely real. They work hard both at social media but also on their actual work. Some are doing the “sales” thing behind the scenes by sending hundreds of warm outreach messages, others are door knocking (B2B) and are sending direct mailers with varying degrees of success.
Some people I know, however, are still frustrated with the returns. The economy is a challenging one for sure (Thanks, B-word)
Gaining more status as an influencer, and gaining more deals via medium such as LinkedIn is an ever-increasing challenge.
How can we gain more attention and generate a fuller funnel? (Or Flywheel, but that’s another story)
The “easy” way: Gaming the system
Naturally, people will look for ways to make this process easier (Be like water – Find the path of least resistance). It’s easy to look for ways in which we can gain some of that much loved instant gratification these days, whereas the longer, slower-burn, hard grind tends to be where real success lies (subjectively).
There are a number of ways to “game” the algorithms on LinkedIn (and other platforms) to get more attention with the idea that more attention eventually equates to more sales.
One popular way to aid the increase of attention for individual businesses (eg coaches, consultants, creatives, technical service providers etc), local and international groups of people have formed which purport to mutually support all members. I’ve learned that these are known as “pods” – like peas, or killer whales? Who knows.
As a member of a pod, the idea is that all members support each other’s social media efforts like this:
- Write/share a post on whichever platform you prefer
- Share your post’s link to a WhatsApp/LinkedIn/FB messaging group
- As soon as humanly possible, all other members of the pod click on the link and proceed to at least make an effort to hit the “like” button. Ideally, the other members will make a gargantuan effort to leave a comment. If in doubt as to what to say about the post, simply agreeing or say what a great post it is will suffice – no need to leave any comments that add value to the idea or create a meaningful discussion about the post. Who has time for that?
- When you post something yourself, you can expect tens of others in your group to do the same for you.
- Sit back and bask in the glory of a load of dopamine hits brought on by all those likes and then get frustrated because it hasn’t automagically translated into all the new leads you can handle. (But they promised me unicorns and rainbows!)
- Rinse and repeat because you believe it will work for you like it worked for the leader of the group and their friend – they said it would, so it must, right? Right?? Just have to be patient and keep supporting people with those likes.
On the face of it, this does indeed sound like a naturally positive and supportive way to garner more attention, especially if you are just starting out. Everyone within the pod will mostly be highly enthusiastic and supportive. Lovely.
I’ve been made aware of at least two such pods to join to help generate more business. Apparently, I’m still new even after doing my own thing for 2 years, so any advice is welcome.
Except, to me, it feels “off”. It feels fake. That’s my personal viewpoint – if it works for you, then go ahead and carry on.
There is a risk that such pods become an echo chamber, however.
What has recently tipped me over the edge in my wariness of BS, however, and pushed me to tap out this article was two things:
- An increasing trend for tagging “influencers” – Oleg Vishnepolsky, Gary V and others are apparently the ones to go for. I’ve yet to see anyone tag Richard Branson. Poor Richard, he must feel left out. Don’t worry if they don’t personally know you yet, they soon will. Keep tagging them in everything you post and eventually they’ll take notice and make you famous or give you that once in a lifetime shot at a life-changing opportunity. Whilst you wait for that to happen, their thousands of followers will definitely notice your posts and will absolutely engage with you, generating all the leads you can handle.
- Seeing two seemingly separate individuals post almost exactly the same content as each other. One tagging Oleg. Both were altruistically offering free coaching services as part of a group of coaches to anyone who wanted it under the idea that not everyone can afford coaching who might want it. The text started with a spoof of modern “snake oil” claims about some rare tree sap. One of my peers and I called them out on their actual intent for offering this (I also asked “Why tag Oleg? Was he personally involved?” to which the answer was that no, he wasn’t and the author was just doing it for visibility. At least they were honest about it.)
Think about the intent here.
Understand the life of a self-employed coach
There are thousands of coaches out there in the UK alone. Here’s a picture to help you understand the situation:
As a coach with a fairly niche offering* I have offered the occasional light pro bono sessions to help people with their sales efforts, which helps me to gain some understanding about what my clients want, what works and what doesn’t. It also helps me to R&D new services before “launching” them to the wider audiences.
(*I do sales coaching. I’m also an NLP practitioner and have years of customer service related roles as well. Even some project management experience. I have sold to/in Canada, US and UK. Can speak very basic Mandarin Chinese. Possibly not entirely unique, so I’m also going with my natural charm and personality.)
I have never offered entirely free services where I am not getting something from it myself (usually R&D or market researched related information) – not because I don’t agree with offering freebies to those who can’t afford it, but how can you be sure they can’t afford it? After all, who’s been told by a prospect, “I have no money for that”/”I don’t have that much of a budget”?
Unless I offer a substantially lesser service to the free takers than to paying clients, then surely my paying clients will be asking “Wait. Why am I paying for this?” Which as a peer pointed out, devalues my services to £0 ph. If I’m offering a lesser service, then that becomes a waste of time for the recipient and impacts on my reputation.
If I were as successful as say Gary V or Tony Robbins, I wouldn’t need to personally post to social media every day. If you see regular posts by them every day, don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t have a team of people helping with it.
So I question the true intent behind the offer of free coaching from a pod of coaches no matter how good they are.
Personally, if I were to collaborate with other coaches or service providers, which I have discussed (even with a Brand Identity Designer to utilise my psychological conversational and interview skills with their clients and staff to help build better visuals for their brands), I’d still look into setting up a website detailing the offerings, especially with free coaching because this is highly unusual. Using a basic WordPress theme as an example, it wouldn’t take too much effort or time to set up. As a “buyer”, I’d like to know how the group offering works, who’s involved, how good are they, what and how much coaching can I get, what if I don’t like the coach, etc etc. I’d create an email like [email protected] rather than [email protected] (not actual email addresses afaik). Even if I’m not paying for a service, I still want to know whether the person I’m getting coaching from isn’t going to be a waste of the time it will “cost” me. Without that, it feels unprofessional and like the coaches involves don’t want to be upfront and transparent about the intended process.
Thus, these paths of least resistance feels just a little bit like they should have a sign of “Warning: BS Ahead”.
As for tagging Oleg – he’s the CTO of the Daily Mail Online. Because of what the DM stands for in the UK, would you want to be associated with anyone from a publication which has incited such divisive and vitriolic hate in recent years? If you insist on influencer marketing, why not pick someone cool who works at/owns an organisation that stands for something good in the world #stopfundinghate
Having spoken to a number of friends locally and online, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this.
The grind: Slow burn, human relationship building and perceptions of integrity
In Marketing and Sales, there is a mentality of “make it as easy as possible for your prospects to buy from you”. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of work going on in the background to make it easy to buy.
Personally, I’d much rather take the harder road to grind out my ideal audience, to organically grow it and attract like-minded people without taking any “shortcuts” as I feel it maintains a sense of personal reward and accomplishment (with humour along the way). It’s not easy at all. Posting, commenting and engaging in human conversations free of BS in public and in private messages/calls/meetings makes me feel like I’m building genuine relationships with my network. It’s a much slower burn, but I feel like I’m sticking to my values which I hold dear.
I detest it (with a mental rolling of eyes and an internal sigh) when self-styled LinkedIn ninjas, Facebook marketing gurus and website SEO/lead-gen overlords try to use their clickbaity sales and marketing language of scarcity and fear of missing out tactics on me – I work with the psychology of communication in sales and marketing; I’m an NLP Practitioner; I’ve worked in a number of sales-related roles in professional sales teams or with professional marketing people: I know the tricks a mile off. Do not patronise me. It doesn’t work. Treat me like an intelligent human and you may have a chance of getting me to invest time, effort and/or money with you.
Oh and answer the questions I have about your services and content transparently – no-one likes being ignored. Especially potential buyers.
Please, leave me your thoughts and views on this below.
If you like my attitude or prefer a private conversation about any of this send me a message.
Also look at what I do to help business owners and sales teams sell more, more confidently, more efficiently on the rest of my site here
(Images courtesy of Pixabay for CC0 Creative Commons use)
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