Your Greatest Foe on Social Media – How to Fight Back

Who’s your biggest foe on social media?  Does company A have a bigger social footprint? Is competitor B getting more engagement and sharing?

Actually, if you are in B2B tech marketing, your biggest competitor is not any single company.  To truly understand who’s beating you out, you should recall the famous words: there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. That’s right, fear, or more generally, emotions, can steal your thunder and customer’s attention.

It’s been documented that emotion-rich posts and content are the ones that are most shared.  And consumer marketers have a decided advantage over B2B when it comes to emotion.

The Growth of Social News Sharing

These days more of us are spending more time heads down, looking at our phones and surfing social channels. News and other info come to us, through newsfeeds and social sharing.

Viral cat videos, real news, fake news, vacation pictures and political rants all get mixed into the same soupy mess.  And what rises to the top?  It’s often the stuff that pushes our emotional buttons. We push a button, we share, like, inundate friends and family and signal Facebook that we favor this kind of content.  This leads to more of the same.

The last presidential campaign was a great illustration of this. Much of the fake and real news stories pushed our emotional buttons, e.g. made us angry, surprised or afraid, and drove social sharing.

Fighting Emotions with Emotions

What’s a B2B marketer to do? Should you just accept that you’ll never get people to swoon over your widget launch news – and settle for a smaller audience?

Steve Rubel of Edelman asked publishers about “emotion baiting” at the recent Newswhip Whipsmart conference, which I attended.  It was a great session, you can read more here. The post starts with this excerpt:

“Clickbait could be going “the way of the dodo”, according to Edelman’s Steve Rubel. We explore how expert newsrooms are supercharging their content with emotion instead.”

These days, many brands are publishers too.  They can try injecting emotion into their content and news.  E.g. tech vendors have long used Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to undermine the competition.  FUD battles used to be fought in the media.   The tactic could be applied to content and digital channels.

There’s no reason that you couldn’t tap other emotions, e.g. create videos that make people smile, tell startup stories that inspire and impress.

Bloomberg Gets all Emo

When asked by Rubel if emotion-baiting has a place in business content, Meena Thiruvengadam from Bloomberg said:

“I think it’s about being fair and accurate… and not taking things a step too far to drive virality or shares… There are some things where there are natural emotional elements, like ‘this CEO went from getting fired to creating this amazing business empire’… That speaks to aspiration, inspiration, encouragement, and motivation…  but for something like ‘here are the monthly job numbers’  … that’s going to be much harder… you can only trick your audience so long before they get wise to it. You want to present your content honestly, and what’s good content will speak for itself.”

Tech vendors don’t need to follow the same newsroom standards as Bloomberg, still they should be careful.  You don’t want to be seen as the inauthentic drama king or queen or be tone deaf to your target audience.  E.g., humor might not fly when it comes to things like compliance and legal tech.

Tap other Social Sharing Levers

Another approach is to look at other sharing levers on social media.  It is not all just about emotions.

Content marketing guru Jay Baer wrote a Medium piece on this recently.  He cited research about the types of content that are most effective for vertical markets.  It’s worth a read.  For tech, the data show that long form and listicle articles work well.

What do you think?  Does emotion have a place in your marketing? Did my headline make you fearful – and compel you to read and share (I hope so!)

Thanks for reading and any feedback.

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