Social Media and the “ARC Reactor” Approach to Digital Commerce Strategy

Where does social media fit into your digital commerce strategy? How can you use social effectively to generate more attention for your business, without becoming a social media spammer?

In this episode Chris and Tony reveal:

  • Key ways businesses go off track with their social strategy
  • How to gain prospect insights and content ideas at the click of a button
  • When and how to share links and calls to action
  • Where automation fits well, and why it can be dangerous

Social Media and the ‘ARC Reactor’ Approach to Digital Commerce Strategy

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Tony Clark: This is The Mainframe. Welcome, everyone. We’re getting ready to kick off a brand-new series. We’re calling this the ‘ARC reactor’ approach to strategy. ARC stands for attraction, retention, and conversion, and the reactor is your automation process. This is the ‘What would Tony Stark do?’ approach. How are you doing, Chris?

Chris Garrett: I’m doing great, and I’m looking forward to this. It’s going to be a good series.

Tony Clark: Yeah, these are the type of things that we need to cover in depth, and these are the things where there are a lot of tools and technologies and strategies you can use for each of these areas. We want to make sure that we cover them well. And of course, the ‘ARC reactor’ approach is a good way to keep in mind and remember what we’re doing, and because we’re nerds, we like to put anything in context to nerd-related things when we can.

Chris Garrett: It’s a weird one, because — we were just saying before we started recording — it doesn’t mean you should be a millionaire or a billionaire. Obviously, if you’re a billionaire playboy, we’re not excluding you, and please do get in touch. But this is more the Mark 1 version of the Iron Man suit. He built it in the cave using his wits rather than using his billions and his global economic powerhouse to bring this to life.

Tony Clark: Exactly. When we started talking about using this as an analogy, the ARC reactor is what kept him alive. It’s what powers the suits, and he had to, like you said, use his wits in the cave to put it together. That’s the approach that we’re going to take by talking about, in detail, over the next several episodes — your attraction and what tools you would use and strategies for that, retention, conversion — and then how to automate the whole thing. That becomes the reactor process.

Starting with attraction is important, and today, in this episode, we’re going to talk specifically about social attraction, because that’s where a lot of people not only think they need to begin — it’s a nice starting point for these type of strategies — but people tend to struggle with it sometimes, right?

Key Ways Businesses Go off Track with Their Social Strategy

Chris Garrett: Yeah. People tend to struggle because they don’t know where social fits, or they put all of their energy and resources into social, which is a mistake as well. Or they think it’s about pushing and driving traffic. If we go back to our ARC, attraction is not about driving traffic. So that’s a big mistake, and if you think about the ARC reactor in the film and in the comics, it was keeping a piece of shrapnel away from his heart using magnetism. It’s a super-powerful magnet. It was attracting. He has repulsors that are in his palms, and he uses them to fly. That pushes away, but the attraction is what we’re talking about.

It’s attracting people to you. It’s not driving traffic. You’re not driving cattle. You’re not a cowboy. What you’re doing is trying to make something attractive so that people want to get to know you and get to know your content.

That’s the first big mistake people make — thinking it should be about driving and pushing and just becoming an annoyance and interrupting people. That’s not the right way to go about this, because if all you’re doing is outbound messaging, then it’s a big mistake. It’s actually going to slow your growth.

Tony Clark: The magnet’s a great analogy, because what you’re trying to do is attract in a way that naturally draws people in further. And then we’re going to talk a little bit about engagement, as well, because social should be an entire strategy. When you talk about attraction, it’s not about just getting people there. That’s just the first step. It’s also about understanding what’s going on in the environment and in your industry. It’s about understanding how to engage that community. This is what attraction is all about.

Think about a guy and a girl or two guys or two girls, depending on your preference, how they’re attracted. There’s an overall sense of drawing together versus when you think of how we tend to attract where there’s traffic, trying to draw it in by forcing people through spammy headlines or clickbait. That is not a solid attraction strategy for the long term, right?

Chris Garrett: Yeah, and that’s the thing. We’re talking about long term, so there are things that you can do so that it can get a shot to spike, but it’s at the expense of your reputation. Using Tony’s human relationships analogy, a lot of people, it’s almost like they see somebody attractive, and they go straight in and say, “Would you like to come home with me?” instead of building up that interest and getting the person’s attention through their interests and breaking the ice and warming up and getting to know them a little bit, and then it leading somewhere.

It’s practically like a caveman that beat somebody over their head and then dragged them back to the cave. We’ve got to really think about how this is going to work in a long-term way that’s going to build your reputation.

Tony Clark: Exactly, because that’s the whole point of this. It is a relationship you’re trying to develop. That is the point of the attraction. How do we use social to do that, to attract people in our community in the right way?

Chris Garrett: The first thing is that we don’t even think about traffic as the first thing. So we’re flipping, in a way, a lot of what other people do. We’re turning it on its head. What you should actually start with is listening. We were given two ears and one mouth, and we should actually work in that ratio, so you should be listening twice as much as you’re speaking. That’s going to be difficult for lots of people.

Tony Clark: Yeah. One of the things that social media is a great opportunity for is for listening, and some of the tools that we’re going to talk about will allow you to track those conversations, because that’s really what this is about.

When we’re talking about listening, this is no different than being in a conversation at a party. If you’ve ever met somebody and you’ve gotten this sense when you’ve left them that they are great conversationalist, it’s not because they did a lot of talking, it’s because they did a lot of listening. But they were using that to engage, and the same thing needs to happen using your social media tools.

Chris Garrett: Like Tony says, a great conversationalist isn’t just waiting for their opportunity to speak. It may seem like that on this podcast sometimes, but if you’re actually having a conversation, you’re picking up on what they’ve said. You might do some active listening, which is putting what they’ve said in to your own words to make sure you’ve understood it and then relaying it back with an answer or to follow on the conversation.

You’ll see a lot of social media people, all they’re doing is looking for an opportunity to drop links. And it’s not just about dropping links, dropping links, dropping links. It’s not about getting somebody’s attention just so you can give them a call to action.

Tony Clark: When we’re talking about the tools that you’re using, what type of tools do you particularly like, Chris, for doing this piece of it, the listening part of it?

How to Gain Prospect Insights and Content Ideas at the Click of a Button

Chris Garrett: I’m really old-school, and I use Twitter itself as my main social listening tool, and I’ll tell you how I use it. I mentioned this on a webinar the other day, and a couple of people said, “You know what, Chris, that is going to transform how I’m using social,” so it’s a really easy and simple and common sense tip that hardly anybody does.

If you’ve got TweetDeck or any of the other tools that’s got a column, you can do this as a column, but if you just go to, put in the phrase ‘Anybody know’ – ‘Anybody’ space ‘know’ — and then another space, and then your keyword. So in my case, it might be ‘WordPress’ and just do a search. That search is going to bring out all the people who have got a problem with your topic. The first result today for me is, “Does anybody with WordPress know how to create a simple archive page?” Then you go down that list.

Every single one of those questions is a need that somebody has or a problem that they have, and very often, they’ve already looked in Google and not found the answers because they didn’t know how to form it into words. They didn’t know how to ask Google to get the result, or the results that came back have confused them or not been good. When you search Google, sometimes you get conflicting results. There’s a lot of results, but they’re conflicting.

They’re looking for a human being to answer. Now, obviously, we do call it ‘the lazy web’ sometimes. Sometimes, they’ll go straight to social. Every single one of those Tweets, every one of those responses, it’s going to be somebody looking for an answer, and you can actually go in to that and say, “Hey, do this, and if you need more info, I’ve got a link here. Let me know if you still got problems,” because they’re looking for answers. Or you can just use it as content creation ideas, but that is a really rich source of information.

So again, you can make that a column in TweetDeck, and you can have it running all the time for inspiration, but the thing it does is it lets you know what people are trying to do and where they’re getting stuck.

When and How to Share Links and Calls to Action

Tony Clark: That’s a great, great tip, because what you’re looking for, and we’ve talked about this a lot in this podcast, is solving real-world problems, finding the pain points that people are struggling with. And here’s a way to engage through social media by listening to the problems people are having.

You provide the answer they’re looking for, and in 140 characters, you’re not going to be able to provide a ton, but you’re establishing your authority and that you’re there to help. And then when you point to a resource you have, whether it be an article or an ebook or even a resource that’s not necessarily something you’ve created, you’ve now taken an opportunity to engage or to attract that person in a way that allows them to understand that you know what you’re talking about in your subject area. You’re willing to help, and you’re the type of person who they can go to and count on for good, solid information.

That will help that attraction become more solid and move on to the next part of your attraction strategy of engagement.

Chris Garrett: You should also be looking for your brand names and your own name just in case. We actually have that settled with our help desk software. If people are struggling with anything to do with any of our products, we get to know about it so we can help them out.

But in terms of, at the start, looking for research, Twitter, as I said, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, they can also be a really rich source of inspiration and empathy so that you can get insight into what people want to do, what they’re struggling with, what they want to get away from. That means that the next steps of attraction and retention are going to be so much more strengthened because you’re going to know how to talk to people.

Tony Clark: Exactly, and finding the right tools that fit the need for this is something that you need to think about, because a lot of times, people spend too much time trying to find the right tool for the job. So there’s a lot of opportunity to use the existing native things.

Like you said, you can use Twitter directly, or you can use another social media tool. Buffer has these capabilities built-in where you can track stuff. We have people that are doing it with the Rainmaker Platform.

There’s this way of using these keyword alerts or keyword searches within your tool of choice to keep track of what people are talking about so that you can listen actively and help as you come up with ideas and strategies to help out the people in the areas they’re looking for.

Chris Garrett: Using our accessory in Rainmaker, you can actually put some of this stuff as a feed, and then you’ll be out to just have it there on your feed reader so it’s all in one place. And one of the nice things about the Rainmaker feed reader is once you’ve got a feed, you can turn that in to a post. So you can actually use some of that inspiration directly to turn it into a post or turn it into a newsletter, and then you’re compressing your workflow somewhat.

Tony Clark: Exactly. It’s keeping it all right there because that inspiration helps come up with content that will attract as well, so that’s using social to drive to content. That’s how you use that as a traffic strategy as well, right?

Chris Garrett: Exactly. Let’s get in to how we then turn around and create traffic and engagement.

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Chris Garrett: Okay, so we were just talking about the social listening, and as I said before, you have to really listen before you start talking. But at some point, we need start talking, so what are you going to do?

We always say that social is an engagement and distribution system. It’s not the start and end of your online life, and it’s a big mistake people get into, when they think that it is the whole thing, especially when you look at things like posting articles to LinkedIn when you have a Facebook page. It can become an entire online presence, and that’s dangerous. We’re going to talk more about digital sharecropping in the future, but just note, that is not your website. That is not your online presence. It is an outpost. It’s a distribution system. It is a way of connecting with your network.

But you need to bring them home, so the first thing is you need to have a home base. What is that going to do? How is that going to fit in?

Tony, you’re a lot less active in social than me. Why is that? Why have you really focused in other places?

Tony Clark: Laziness. I use social differently because of my role in the company, because I tend to be the behind-the-scenes guy, and I like getting our operations up and rolling. I like doing the conversion and retention strategies behind the scenes. I don’t actively engage. I don’t have to.

I joke all the time that I created my first blog as a way to attract a partner that I could go on a business with, and once Brian and I started working together in 2007, I stopped blogging. I never blogged again for that reason, because it’s just not something I necessarily want to do.

But the idea of using social as the starting point for listening but then moving in to traffic, I think is a very important strategy, and I’ll tell you why. If you have an overall home base that is really using things like cornerstone content that we’ve talked about in detail — and we’ll talk about that more when we get in to the retention piece of it and when we talk about attraction that’s not specifically social — what you’re doing is driving traffic to something that will draw people in. That’s where social becomes an asset.

One of the things that we struggle with sometimes when you’re starting off a new venture or a new project is getting that content together that will allow people to use that social to draw them in. And people use social different ways. Chris said that, for example, I’m not as active in social, but I tend to use social, especially Twitter, as a way to talk about ancillary things, other subjects that I find interesting. Because one of the big things that I’ve always done — and Brian and I have talked about this at LinkedIn, and things like Teaching Sells — is the intersection of two ideas that you wouldn’t necessarily put together.

I do a lot of reading in my off time on things that aren’t necessarily related specifically to our industry and what we do, and I like to post those in social media because it starts to attract a different type of audience. And one of the things we’ve done with our own accounts is doing the same type of thing, because we’re using social media as a way to engage and draw traffic, and you’re doing it in ways that isn’t necessarily speaking to the echo chamber.

Chris Garrett: The funny thing about using social in this nonstandard way is, if you think about it, Tony used social media to attract a business partner. He didn’t need millions of people paying attention to his social. He just needed a few of the right people, and actually one person, to take note, and it worked out well for them.

I use social mostly as a coffee break, and some days, I have a lot of coffee. The way it’s worked for me is it’s strengthened my network. It’s kept my network warm, and it’s kept me in touch with all the cool people I’ve met over the years, and it keeps them aware of what I’m up to. My network has been the number one — probably number one, two, and three reason — for my creative days. That’s a really important part of it that you should not neglect.

Does that mean when I put out a Tweet I get a lot of people clicking through? Actually, that’s gone down over the years, but I’d say the value I’ve got from my network is still very strong. The reason my clicks have gone down is because I don’t create as much content.

In social media, what you’re going to be doing is you’re going to curating other people’s work. So you could be Retweeting, or you could be sharing. But you need to be putting out genuinely unique content as well, and you need to pay attention to who your audience is. Your audience of peers is going to be probably thought leadership. Your audience of prospects needs to be answering questions that they have. And it’s going to be solving problems for them, and then you could get the traffic.

Once you have that free traffic and you know what works and the kind of headlines that work, the calls to action that work, then you can actually pay some money. You can boost that, accelerate it, with paid advertising. You know who to target, and you know what kind of messages work well for them, and you know where to take them. So all of the stuff we’ve talked about until now in the podcast all comes to bear, because you need good headlines, and you need good landing pages, but you need that insight. You need to be listening all the time.

Tony Clark: Right, and that’s really the traffic strategy, but also, the other part of that we’ve been talking about and what I use social more for, is the engagement. Because like you said, you use it as a coffee break. I use it as similar. I sometimes think of it as if I’m at this amazing conference or this amazing network event where I have all these different people on a variety of different walks of life with different viewpoints. And I get to engage with them through what they’re reading, what they’re talking about.

So that engagement piece is a way to think of it as a giant networking event, but in a positive way. You know a lot of times, it’s not just handing out your card. That’s the thing. If we’re talking about this in meatspace, when you go to some kind of a function — think of a chamber function where everybody just comes up, and they spill their drink on your shoe, and they shove a card in your face. That’s not a good engagement.

Then you have the type of people who have these great conversations and want to know more about you and tell great anecdotes, not just about their work, but about things that interest them. Those are the type of people you engage with and ultimately want to do business with, because people like to do business with people they like.

In the social world of engagement, it needs to be that same approach. Think of it as a giant networking event where you can really engage with people on a variety of different levels. It doesn’t all have to be work- or industry-related. It can be a way to just be a person, to talk to people about things that you find interesting and fascinating. And you’ll find that that does a better job of engaging at the social level so that you can then drive through to other attraction strategies that we’ll go into, and then ultimately your retention and conversion.

Chris Garrett: Very often, people would much rather talk to you about anything else other than business. We’ve said this before — it’s a really good way of connecting as a human being. So Tony and I, we talk about all kinds of nerdy things, and that is partly a way of allowing people to see that we’re three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood humans instead of just talking business all the time.

And it’s another part of the listening and another part of the engagement to listen out for the things that they’re passionate about. What are they passionate about and how can you connect with them? Because really, it’s not who you want in your network, it’s who wants you in their network. And to do that, you need to have something of value, and you’ve got to be interesting, and the way to get more interesting is to be more interested. Find out what they are talking about, what are they doing, what do they want to achieve, and how will you fit in to that world? You could be more engaging, and you’re going to be more valuable.

Tony Clark: Exactly. Trying to find those areas where you can connect is a good way to strengthen that relationship, right?

Chris Garrett: Yup, and keep turning up as a really awesome human being, and they’re going to notice that.

Where Automation Fits Well, And Why It Can Be Dangerous

Chris Garrett: We’ve talked a lot about bringing people back. The way you can automate this is you can do the engagement in person. So you need to be responding, and you need to be replying, and you need to be talking.

But you can automate the stuff that is the call-to-action stuff. You can use Buffer, or you can use the Rainmaker tools, or you can use a tool like Edgar to have a schedule of posts that go out, spread out over time.

The problem I have because of my coffee break strategy is that I have bursts of activity, and then it goes silent. Using the tools and automating them will allow you to spread it out over time: different time zones, different activity spikes. And you’ll be out to send out these messages, which is something valuable and engaging with a good call to action, and bring people back to either solid content or a landing page with a call to action. And that’s how you can use social to build your list.

Tony Clark: Exactly, and the other piece of this is that you’re sprinkling these automated pieces in, so it’s not the main chunk. Everybody has seen feeds where it’s nothing but automated junk, and eventually you unfollow those people.

Chris’s strategy is the perfect way to balance true engagement and being a person and understanding what people are really interested in and meeting them there, and then providing your own content in a way that can strengthen that relationship. You don’t want to do it as a way to force-feed, and that’s what people tend to do. That’s why sometimes the automation approach to social gets a bad rap — because it’s being used incorrectly.

Chris Garrett: When anything happens — like this week, there’s been a tragedy in the United States — make sure you turn some of the automation off, because you have to be sensitive to how people are feeling. You need to have an ‘off’ button to go in and delete some of these automated Tweets, especially if the headlines is a bit close to what’s going on. You can’t take your eyes off the road.

Automation is to help you free up your space and time. It’s not driverless, but if you do it sensitively, it works really well, and you will get business results from it. It’s going to help you, long term, build your reputation and your network, and it’s also going to drive audience and list-building, which is a perfect combination.

Tony Clark: All right, Chris, so what are the main takeaways of this area of using social as part of your attraction strategy?

Chris Garrett: It starts with listening. Remember: two ears, one mouth. Find out what your audience and your network really wants help with. How can you be valuable and helpful and generous in that network? And then move those interests, those goals, those needs, those problems into attraction by answering those questions. You can answer in person, or you can answer with content, but bring people back.

Once you have their attention, then you need to be responding. You need to be talking and communicating, and you need to be responsive. That is going to form your engagement, but overall, you need to go from insight into bringing people back home, because you don’t want to live in social media. You want it to be an outpost that attracts people into your network and then in to your site.

Tony Clark: Social is one part of the attraction strategy, so in the next episode, we’ll talk about the other parts of attraction. Then later on in the series, we’ll get into retention and conversion, and then the reactor piece, which is the automation.