The best way to market through social media?

On Wednesday I’ll be speaking to a group of marketing students at Napier University. They want to discuss how marketing is being done through social media.

In our training workshops we quote a misconception about social media. “A lot of people think it’s another channel for marketing. It isn’t”. And then we explain the importance of “a conversation” and a fundamental shift in the way you interact with customers and get your message across.

It strikes me that as soon as you think of social media as a form of marketing, you’re doing it wrong. Social media at its best is an attitude, an ethos, a way of life right through the core of the company – like the writing through a stick of rock, where you’re engaging with your customers on instinct.

Of course, you have aims and objectives. But good social media keeps these hidden. The consumer should never be able to see your intentions, your marketing fingerprints shouldn’t be visible.

Apple is a great example. They opened a new store at Braehead recently. Most companies would have promoted this heavily and discounted on price. They didn’t. I received an e-mail from Apple telling me the store was opening. The mainstream media covered this. On the day Apple employees at the store held a ceilidh in full view of everyone before the doors opened.

What did they do on social media?


What did the crowds who turned up do on social media?

Everything. They wrote blogs, tweeted, shared pictures and video and discussed the whole experience.

It strikes me that most businesses’ marketing objectives for the opening of a new store would look like this…

i) Get the person to come to the store

ii) Get them to buy something

I reckon Apple’s objective would have been something like this…

i) Get the person to tell someone else about the store opening

Who’s doing the better job of marketing?

Even if the traditional company achieves big footfall and shifts what cost has this been achieved? There’s the costs of the campaign leading up to launch, then the cost of discounting.

The Apple approach doesn’t cost anything. It gets more people into the store and more people paying full price for the products.

The ceilidh and chanting the Apple employees took part in before the opening of their Braehead store wasn’t the intense “team bonding” session I originally through it was. Instead, it’s extremely subtle marketing. It’s not about what they’re’s carefully designed to make me, as a consumer do something for them. In this case, the blog I wrote and the video I shot of all the staff coming out to meet the customers.

It’s me telling other people about the store opening via social media and I was convinced I was doing this because I wanted to.

Now I realise Apple made me want to.

And I’ve got another piece of insight because of my role as Gadget Guru on STV’s “The Hour”. We’d contacted Apple’s PR team several times over the years asking for product demos we could use on the show – iPods, iPhones, iPads etc. They never played ball. I thought maybe our show wasn’t big enough for them but it turns out they hardly ever let anyone preview their products. I thought they’d forgotten all about us but just before the Apple store opened at Braehead I received an e-mail from their PR team.

Would the STV cameras like to attend the opening of the new store “and speak to the crowds who’ve turned out about why they’ve queued through the night and how excited they are”?

Doesn’t that speak volumes about this company’s approach?! Anyone else would have promised behind the scenes access, an interview with the management, maybe even an exclusive free gift. Not Apple. All they’ll do is let the media speak to some of their biggest fans! And although STV stayed away on the day, several other outlets did turn up and that’s exactly the coverage they got.


No other business is like Apple. But we can learn from them. And this demonstrates that if a business has got things right at its core, then they’ll have success on social media without typing a single word.


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