Party On: How to Think about Social Media Marketing

NOTE: This is a draft excerpt from my forthcoming Social Media Marketing Workbook. Please read it with that in mind, and send any comments to me via my Website

Most books on social media marketing (or SMM for short) either focus on the high, high level of hype, hype, hype or focus on the low, low, low level of micro technical details. It’s either Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR – or it’s Social Media for Dummies, LinkedIn for Dummies, or Teach Yourself Facebook in Ten Minutes.

You’re either up in the sky, or lost in the weeds.

This book is different: it focuses on the middle, productive ground – part theory, and part practice. It gives you a framework for how to “think” about social media marketing as well as concrete advice on how to “do” social media marketing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms.

Throughout, it provides worksheets, videos, Todos and deliverables, to help you create a step-by-step social media marketing plan as well as a step-by-step Twitter plan, Facebook plan, YouTube plan, etc. Used in combination with the Social Media Toolbook ( , which identifies hundreds of free tools for social media marketing all in one convenient place, small business owners and marketers finally have a practical, hands-on method for practical social media marketing.

This first chapter is about how to think about social media marketing. What is social media marketing? Why are you doing it? What should you do, step-by-step, to succeed?

Let’s get started!

To Do List:

  • » Understand that Social Media Marketing is Like Throwing a Party
  • » Recognize the Social Media Marketing Illusion
  • » Identify Relevant Discovery Paths
  • » Establish Goals and KPIs
  • » Remember the Big Picture
  • » Deliverable: a “Big Picture” Social Media Marketing Plan


» Understand that Social Media Marketing is Like Throwing a Party

Have you ever attended a party? You know, received an invitation, showed up, said hello and various meets and greets to other guests, ate the yummy yummy food, drank the liquor (or the diet soda), hobnobbed with other guests, ate some more food, danced the night away, thanked the hosts, and left?

How to Think about Social Media Marketing - Party On

Attending a party is all about showing up, enjoying the entertainment and food, and leaving.


Have you ever used Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? You know, logged in, checked out some funny accounts, read some posts, posted back and forth with friends and family, checked your updates, and then logged out?

That’s attending a party. That’s using social media.


Using social media is all about logging in, enjoying what’s new and exciting, and logging out.


Throwing a party, however, is something entirely different from attending a party. Similarly, marketing via social media is something entirely different from using social media.

This chapter explores the basics of social media marketing: of throwing the “social media party” vs. just showing up. That word marketing is very important: we’re exploring how to use social media to enhance our brand, grow the visibility of our company, product or service, or even (gasp!) use social media to sell more stuff.

Party on: become a

great party-thrower


Social media marketing is the art and science of throwing “great parties” on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and the like in such a way that people not only show up to enjoy the party but also are primed to buy your product or service.

Let’s explore this analogy further: how is social media marketing like throwing a party?

Here are three ways:


Invitations. A great party needs great guests, and the first step to getting guests is to identify an attendee list, and send out invitations. Who will be invited? How will we invite them – will it be by phone call, email, postal mail, etc.? For your social media marketing, you’ll need to identify your target audience(s) and brainstorm how to get them to “show up” on your social media page via tactics like sending out emails, cross-posting your Facebook to your Twitter, or your LinkedIn to your blog, advertising, or even using “real world” face-to-face invitations like “Hey, follow us on Twitter to get coupons and insider deals.”

Social media marketing requires having a promotion strategy.

Entertainment. Will your party have a band, a magician, a comedian, or just music? What is your entertainment strategy? What kind of food will you serve: Mexican, Chinese, Tapas, or something else? Similarly for your social media marketing: why will people “hang out” on your Facebook page or YouTube channel? Will it be to learn something? Will it be because it’s fun or funny?

Social media marketing requires having a content marketing strategy, a way to systematically produce yummy yummy content (blog posts, infographics, images, videos) that people will enjoy enough to “hang out” on your social media page or channel.

Hosting. As the host of your party, you’ll “hang out” at the party, but while the guests are busy enjoying themselves, you’ll be busy, meeting and greeting, making sure everything is running smoothly, and doing other behind-the-scenes tasks. Similarly, in your social media marketing, you’ll be busy coordinating content, interacting with guests and even policing the party to “kick out” rude or obnoxious guests.

Social media marketing requires behind-the-scenes management, often on a day-to-day basis, to ensure that everything is running smoothly up to and including dealing with “rude” guests.



Social media marketing is

throwing a party


Oh, and one more thing. Let’s assume, for example, you’re going to throw your wife an amazing 40th birthday party. Before that party, you’ll probably start attending other parties with a critical eye – noting what you like, and what you don’t like, what you want to imitate, and even reaching out to the magicians, bands, and bartenders to find out what they cost and possibly hire them for your own party.

You’ll “inventory” other parties and make a list of likes and dislikes, ideas and do-not-dos, and use that information to systematically plan your own party.

As a social media marketer, therefore, you should “attend” the parties of other brands online. Identify brands you like (REI, Whole Foods, Father Robert Barron), “follow” or “like” them, and keep a critical eye on what they’re doing. Inventory your likes and dislikes, and reverse engineer what other marketers are up to. And in your industry, do the same: follow companies in your own industry, again with the goal of “reverse engineering” their social media marketing strategy, successes, and failures.

For your first Todo, identify some brands you admire and “follow” them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest etc. Start making a list of what you like, or dislike, based on reverse engineering their online marketing strategy. Become a good user of social media, but with an eye to the marketing strategy “behind the scenes.”

» Recognize the Social Media Marketing Illusion

Successful social media is based on illusion, just like successful parties are based on illusion.

How so?

Let’s think for a second about an amazing party. Think back to a holiday party you attended, a great birthday or graduation party, or even a corporate event. Was it fun? Did it seem magical? It probably did.

Now, if you’ve ever had the (mis)fortune of planning such an event – what was that like? Was it fun? Was it magical? Yes and no, but it was also probably a lot of work, “in the background,” to make sure that the party ran smoothly.

Great parties have an element of illusion in them: they seem effortless, while in reality (behind the scenes) an incredible amount of strategy, planning, and hard work goes on. Similarly, great social media marketing efforts (think Whole Foods on social media, or REI on social media), create an illusion. They (only) “seem” spontaneous, they (only) “seem” effortless. But in the background a ton of work is going on to promote, manage, and grow these “social media parties.”

Social Media is an IllussionIllusion is common to great parties and great social media marketing

With respect to social media marketing, this illusion often creates a weird problem for you vis-a-vis upper management or the boss. Upper management or your boss might mistakenly believe that “social media is easy,” and/or “social media is free.” You, as the marketer, might have to educate your boss that it only “looks” easy, or “seems” free. Social media marketing requires a ton of strategy, hard work, and (gasp!) even money or sweat equity to make it happen. Among your early tasks at social media marketing may be to explain the “social media marketing” illusion to your boss. It only seems easy. It only seems free.

For your second Todo, organize a meeting with your boss and/or marketing team. Discuss all the things that have to get done to be successful at social media marketing, ranging from conducting an inventory of competitor efforts, to setting up basic accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., to creating content to share on social media (images, photos, blog posts, infographics, videos), to monitoring social media channels on an on-going basis, and finally to measuring your successes. Educate the team that although it might not take a lot of money, social media marketing does take significant amount of work!

We’re planning an awesome party here, people. It’s going to take a ton of work, it’s going to be a ton of fun, and it’s going to be incredibly successful!

Now, don’t get discouraged. Please don’t get discouraged. As marketers, we are so fortunate to live in an amazing time with incredible new opportunities to reach our target customers.


  • Is social media free? Yes (and no).
  • Is it effortless? No.
  • Is it worth it? Yes, yes, yes!


Social media marketing takes a lot of hard work, and it can be incredible. Don’t get discouraged!

Know the Question and Find the Answer

Oh, and once you start to view social media marketing as a systematic process, a great thing will happen: you’ll formulate concrete, specific questions. And, once you know a question you can find the answer.

Once you realize, for example, that Facebook allows cover photos, and that great Facebook marketers swap theirs out from time to time, you can create the “questions” of how do you create a cover photo for Facebook, what are the dimensions, etc.


If you know the question, you can find the answer.


As you begin your social media marketing efforts, once you “know a question,” simply go to Google to “find the answer.” For example, simply Google “What are the dimensions of a Facebook cover photo” to end up on the Facebook help site or other websites that will tell you the answer. You now realize a) you need a series of compelling Facebook cover photos for your page, b) there are specific dimensions and policies required by Facebook, and c) either you or someone on your team has the “task” of making this happen on a regular basis.


» Identify Relevant Discovery Paths

Before we plunge into Facebook, Twitter, and the gang, it’s worthwhile to sit back and ponder the big questions of marketing. What do you sell? Who wants it and why? And, very directly: how do customers find you?

This last one might seem like a simple question, but a great social marketer has a very specific understanding of the paths by which customers find her product, service, or company. This understanding then guides –


How much should you focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? How much should you focus on AdWords? How much on Facebook? Or Twitter? Should you buy ads on Television, or (gasp!) send out unsolicited email (spam)? Is Pinterest worth the effort?


Once you brainstorm how customers find you, you will have a fundamental understanding of how to construct a systematic social media marketing plan.

Fortunately, there are only five paths of customer discovery. Only five. Every way that someone finds a product or service can be categorized by the following five discovery paths.


Search. The search path occurs when the customer is “searching” for a company, product, or service. For example, a customer is hungry. He types into Google or Yelp, “pizza.” He browses available restaurants, chooses one, and shows up to get pizza. He searched for pizza. He found pizza. He made a decision. The search path is the province of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), largely on Google but also on sites such as Yelp that work via “keywords” to help customers find stuff that they want.

Review / Recommend / Trust. The review / recommend /trust path is based on “trust indicators.” In it, the customer already has created a list of vendors he or she might use, but he is researching “whom to trust.” In this path, he might use the “reviews” and/or “stars” on Yelp or Google as “trust indicators” to predict which pizza restaurant is good (or bad). Reviews and stars are the most common trust indicators in social media marketing, but having a robust Facebook page, with many followers and interesting posts can also be a “trust indicator.” Having an expert-looking profile on LinkedIn can be a “trust indicator” for a CPA or an architect. A recommendation from a friend or colleague also plays into reviews and trust.

eWOM / Share / Viral. Wow! That pizza was great! Let me take a selfie of me chowing down on the pizza, and post it to Instagram. Look friends: it’s me, chowing down on pizza, having fun, livin’ the life, while you’re back in the dorm studying. Or, hey, Facebook friends, do you know of a great place to host a kid’s birthday party? You do (electronic word of mouth). Or, wow, here is a cat video of cats at the pizza restaurant puzzled by the self-serve soda fountain. It’s “gone viral” on YouTube and has sixteen trillion views! The share path occurs when a customer loves the product, service, or experience enough to “share” it on social media – be that via electronic word of mouth, a share on his or her Facebook page, a “selfie” on Instagram, or a viral video on YouTube.

Interrupt. The interrupt path is the bad boy of online marketing. Interrupt marketing occurs when you want to watch a YouTube video but before you can watch it five, four, three, two, one, you have to view an annoying ad. Or, when you get a spam email on “amazing Viagra.” Interrupt is largely used in advertising, and largely used to “push” products that people aren’t proactively looking for.

Browse. The browse path is a little similar to the interrupt path. In it, you’re looking for something, reading something, or watching something, and alongside comes something else. For example, you go to YouTube to look up “how to tie a tie,” and in the suggested videos at the end is a video for Dollar Shave Club. Or you see Dollar Shave Club videos suggested at the right of the screen. You’re not proactively looking for Dollar Shave Club, but you see their information as you “browse” for related content on sites like YouTube, Facebook, or blogs.

First and foremost, social media marketing excels at the share path. Getting customers to share your product or service is, in many ways, the Holy Grail of social media marketing. But the Search path, the eWOM / Trust / Recommend path, and the Browse path are all also important.

For your third Todo, download the Big Picture Marketing worksheet. For the worksheet, go to (enter the code ‘social’ to register if you have not already done so), and click on the link to the “Big Picture Marketing.”

In this worksheet, you’ll write a “business value proposition” explaining what you sell, and who are the target customers. You’ll also identify the most relevant “discovery paths” by which potential customers find your products. That in turn, will get you to start thinking about which media are the most relevant to your online marketing efforts.


» Establish Goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Marketing is about measurement. Are we helping our brand image? Are we encouraging sales? How do we know where we are succeeding, and where there is more work to be done? Why are we spending all this blood, sweat, and tears on social media marketing anyway?

Social Media Marketing GuiltIn today’s overhyped social media environment, many marketers feel like they “must” be on Twitter, or they “must” have a presence on Pinterest. All of the social media companies – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp – have a vested interest in overhyping the importance of their platform, and using fear to compel marketers to “not miss out” by massively jumping on the latest and greatest social platform. Social media guilt, however, is to be avoided: if you define a clear business value proposition, know where your customers are, and establish clear goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), you’ll be able to focus on those social platforms that really help you and ignore the ones that are just hype.


Avoid social media guilt: you can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything

Let’s identify some common goals for effective social media marketing. The boss might have an ultimate “hard” goal of getting sales leads or selling stuff online. Those are definitely important, but as marketers, we might look to intermediary or “soft goals” such as nurturing a positive brand image online or growing our online reviews.

Generally speaking, social media excels at the “soft goals” of growing brand awareness, nurturing customer conversations, encouraging reviews and the like and is not so good at immediate, direct goals like lead captures or sales.

In any case, having high-level yet soft goals is essential to being able to create a systematic, social media marketing strategy as well as a “drilldown” strategy for an individual social medium, whether that be Twitter or LinkedIn, Instagram or YouTube.

Here are common goals for social media marketing:


eWOM (electronic Word of Mouth). Every brand wants people to talk about it in a positive way, and today a lot of that conversation occurs on social media. If we’re a local pizza restaurant, we want people “talking” about us on Yelp, on Facebook, on Twitter as a great place to get pizza, eat Italian food, cater a wedding, or host a birthday party for little Jimmy. As marketers, a common goal for social media is to grow and nurture positive eWOM, which might be positive conversations on Facebook, positive reviews on Yelp or Google+ local, relationships between us and customers and among customers, and the sharing of our brand across media.

Customer Continuum. A prospect becomes a customer, a customer becomes a fan, and a fan becomes an evangelist. For example, I’m hungry. I search for “great pizza” in Palo Alto, California, and I find your pizza restaurant. I try your pizza, thereby becoming a customer. It’s good, and I’m a fan: if someone asks me, I’ll recommend Jason’s Palo Alto Pizza. And finally, I love your pizza so much, I wrote a positive review on Yelp, I created a YouTube video of me eating your pizza, and I have a new blog on Tumblr about your pizza. As marketers, we want to encourage customers to move to the right on the customer continuum: from prospect to customer, customer to fan, and fan to evangelist. We are also aware of (and seek to mitigate) the “customer from hell” who can hate a brand so much that she writes a negative review on Yelp, or creates a viral YouTube about your terrible pizza (reputation management).

Trust Indicators. We want pizza. We look at reviews. We use reviews to decide which pizza restaurant is probably good. We want to go to a theme park. We look at their Facebook page. We choose the one that looks active, that looks like people are having fun. Trust indicators are all about mental “short cuts” that customers make to identify possible vendors, services, or products. A common goal of social media marketing, therefore, is to nurture positive trust indicators about our brand online: reviews, especially but not only.

One Touch to Many. You visit the pizza restaurant, one time. As a marketer, I want to convert that “one touch” to “many.” I want you to follow us on Twitter, so I can Tweet special deals, promotions, what’s cooking, and stay “top of mind,” so that when you’re hungry again, you think, Jason’s Palo Alto Pizza. Using social media to convert one touch to many and stay top of mind is an excellent goal.

Promotion, promotion, promotion. Social sharing – getting customers to market your brand – is probably the most common social media goal. I want you to Instagram you and your kids having a great pizza party! I want you to share our amazing corporate catering event with your Facebook friends. Encouraging social sharing / eWOM / viral marketing is a huge, huge goal for SMM.


Social Media Marketing excels at the “soft goals” listed above. Note, in particular the desired “virtuous circle” of social media.

The more positive reviews I have on Yelp, the most customers I get, the most customers I get, the more positive reviews. The more followers on Twitter I get, the more chances I have to get them to share my discounts, the most discounts they share, the more followers I get. The more people like / share / comment on my Facebook page, the better my Edgerank (a measurement of how engaging one’s content is), the better my Edgerank, the more people see my content, the more people see my content, the more shares I get on Facebook, the better my Edgerank.


Nurture a virtuous circle


Nurturing a virtuous circle is a major, major goal of an effective social media marketing system. And finally, don’t forget, that in most cases we want all of these “soft goals” to turn into “hard goals”: a positive brand image to lead to more sales, and a stronger bottom line.

For your fourth Todo, download the Marketing Goals Worksheet. For the worksheet, go to (enter the code ‘social’ to register if you have not already done so), and click on the link to the “Marketing Goals Worksheet.”

In this worksheet, you’ll identify your “hard” goals, whether you have something “free” to offer, and your “soft” goals on social media. Ultimately, these big picture goals will be translated into much more specific goals, germane to a social medium such as YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook.


» Establish a Content Marketing System

Bring on the chips! Carry out the diet coke! Turn on the band! A great party needs great food and great entertainment: these are the “fuel” of the successful party. Similarly, great social media marketing needs the “fuel” of content: interesting (funny, shocking, outrageous, sentimental) blog posts, images, photographs, infographics and instructographics, memes and even videos that will make it worthwhile to “subscribe” to your social channel (like / follow / circle) and keep coming back for more.

To succeed at social media marketing you must succeed at content marketing. You gotta gotta gotta create a system for identifying and creating interesting content to share via your social networks. Among the most commonly shared items are:


Images. Photographs and images are the bread-and-butter of Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter.

Memes. From grumpy cat to success kid, memes make the funny and memorable, sticky and shareable on social media.

Infographics and Instructographics. From how to tie a tie to sixteen ways you can help stop Global warming, people love to read and share pictures that tell a story, hopefully with facts.

Blog Posts. An oldie but goodie: an informative, witty, funny, informational, or fact-filled post about a topic that matters to your customers.

Slide Shows. From Slideshare to just posting your PowerPoints online, a hybrid visual and textual cornucopia of social sharing fun.

Videos. If a picture tells a thousand words, a video can tell ten thousand. YouTube is a social medium in its own right, but the videos themselves are content that can be enjoyed and shared.


In sum, you’ll need fuel to power your social media marketing. This fuel comes in two main varieties: other people’s content, and your own content. The advantage of the former is that it is easy to get, while the advantage of the latter is that because it’s yours, you control the message. The disadvantage of other people’s content is that you do not control the message (and it thereby promotes them to some extent), while the disadvantage of your own content is that its takes time and effort to produce.

To be an effective social sharer, you need both: other people’s content and your own content.

Your goal is to position yourself (your company, your CEO, your brand) as a “useful expert,” the “goto” person or brand that people come to to find interesting and useful stuff in your market ecosystem. My own brand, for example, at is all about sharing interesting, fun, and useful stuff on social media, AdWords, and SEO. That’s why I have over 7,000 followers on Google+: because I’m useful.

Other People’s Content

Fortunately, there are tools to help you systematically identify and share other people’s content. (All are listed in the Social Media Toolbook, content marketing section). Here are some of my favorites:


Buzzsumo ( – Buzzsumo is a ‘buzz’ monitoring tool for social media. Input a website (domain) and/or a topic and see what people are sharing across Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media. Great for link-building (because what people link to is what they share), and also for social media.

Topsy ( – Real-time Twitter search engine. You can also search the web and videos. VERY important: you can input a URL, e.g., or, and see how frequently that URL and its sub URLs have been tweeted. Great way to see your social shares as well as discover what’s trending on the blogosphere for more effective blogging.

Feedly ( – Feedly is a newsreader integrated with Google+ or Facebook. It’s useful for social media because you can follow important blogs or other content and share it with your followers. It can also spur great blog ideas.

Easely ( – Use thousands of templates and design objects to easily create infographics for your blog. A competitor is Piktochart (

Meme Generator ( – Memes are shareable photos, usually with text. But how do you create them? Why, use


In terms of other people’s content, you want to first identify the “themes” of social media about which you want to talk. An expert in tax issues, for example, might monitor California tax law, small business, and individual tax shelter issues. He can then systematically monitor them via a tool such as Feedly, and use Feedly to easily share other people’s content across his social networks. A Palo Alto pizza restaurant might monitor content on the San Francisco Bay Area as well as pizza / italian food, and ideas for wedding catering and birthday parties. By being a “helpful sharer” of this information, the pizza restaurant can stay “top of mind” by providing useful content to people planning corporate events, weddings, and birthday parties as well as looking for fun things to do in the Bay Area.

Your Own Content

For your own content, the steps are to first brainstorm a useful content idea (e.g., an infographic on common ways for small business owners to save on taxes, or sixteen ways weddings can go terribly wrong), second to create it in whatever format you want (image, infographic, blog post, video), and third to share it across your relevant social networks. For managing your posts across social networks, I highly recommend Hootsuite (, which is a cloud-based social media management tool.

For your final Todo, download and complete the Content Marketing Worksheet. For the worksheet, go to (enter the code ‘social’ to register if you have not already done so), and click on the link to the “Content Marketing Worksheet.”

For a great list of the top ten tools for content marketing, please visit

» Remember the Big Picture

At this point, you’ve begun your social media marketing journey. You’ve understood that social media marketing is about “throwing” the party more than “attending the party.” You’ve realized you need to start “paying attention” with regard to what other marketers are doing on social media, with an eye to “reverse engineering” their marketing strategy so that you have ideas of what you like, and do not like, in terms of social media. You’ve started to brainstorm “discovery paths” and “goals” for your SMM efforts.

And you’ve realized that once you’ve identified your goals, identified relevant social media, set up your social accounts, the really hard work will be a) promoting your social media channels, and b) creating the kind of content that makes them want to “like you,” keep coming back for more, and share your message with their friends, family, and/or business colleagues.

You’ve understood that promotion and content creation are the big on-going tasks of successful social media marketing.


» Deliverable: Outline a Social Media Marketing Plan

Now that we’ve come to the end of Chapter 1, your first deliverable has arrived. Go to (enter the code ‘social’ to register if you have not already done so), and click on the link to the “Social Media Marketing Plan.” By filling out this plan, you and your team will establish a vision of what you want to achieve via social media marketing.

Now it’s time to drill into individual media, starting with the 800 lb. gorilla of social media, Facebook. Let’s get started!

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.