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Netflix calls him “edgy.” That’s, um… a bit of an understatement.
I’ve been watching a lot of Kevin Hart lately – he makes me laugh so much it hurts – but his humor is filled with mature language and themes. It’s definitely not programming I want my kids or, heck, even my in-laws, to overhear. But I have to say… that kind of side-splitting laughter is exactly what I needed right now. You may not appreciate Hart’s style of humor, but I highly recommend that you include some stand-up comedy in your watching repertoire each week to help reinforce your mental health with some externally-induced laughter.
Interestingly, I started watching Kevin Hart for two reasons. First, the topic of stand-up and comedians like Hart and David Chapelle came up in a conversation with Stephanie Liu. She had remarked how much she not only enjoys their humor, but also their approach to testing new material on live audiences in clubs, much like her or I might test new ideas for content in a social media story before committing to a full-blown live video or blog post. The second reason was simply that TikTok started serving up Kevin Hart videos to me unasked.
Perhaps the convo with Stephanie happened on TikTok, or maybe the algorithm saw that I liked other comics and people doing voiceovers of comics, and decided to see if I’d like some Kevin Hart material. Whatever the reason, TikTok came to understand that I like comedy and I found Kevin Hart funny, so the gates opened and every day, more and more videos of Hart and others were served up in my TikTok feed.
Now, I know you probably aren’t one of the over 100 million people logging into TikTok every day, so let me break down real quick how the app works and why it’s so popular.
Similar to Vine, TikTok only accepts video posts that automatically loop. But unlike Vine, the videos are longer (up to 1 minute currently) and are in portrait format to maximize current smart phone sizes, resulting in videos that are able to convey quite a bit more. But what really makes TikTok shine compared to every other social platform is the algorithm.
All of the major social networks have algorithms that determine what content is surfaced in your feed. Whether your feed is based on content from people you already follow (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram), or recommendations based on past activity (like YouTube, Pinterest), the algorithm decides which posts in what order will be shown to you initially. Now, of course, if you choose to search for something or go to a particular channel, that’s different. But if you open your Facebook app on your phone right now, you’re going to see a series of posts in your feed from friends or businesses. Some might be recent, others might be hours old – it all depends on what Facebook’s algorithm thinks you’d want to see the most.
We talked about _The Social Dilemma a few weeks back and they had a clever visualization of guys in a control room pushing buttons to toss ads or notifications in front of you to get your attention and keep it. While the algorithms are actually just computer programs, that’s essentially what they’re designed to do. Get your attention, then hold onto it for as long as possible.
Now TikTok’s algorithm and, really, the entire initial app experience, is based around the idea of recommendations based on past activity just like YouTube and Pinterest. When you first open TikTok, it immediately starts playing the video the algorithm thinks you’ll enjoy the absolute most – and it’s probably from someone you’ve never heard of. Like any algorithm, this one needs to be trained, so if this is your first time ever opening TikTok, be patient. Do a few searches, swipe through some videos, and like the videos and kinds of videos that seem to appeal to you.
Right now, TikTok knows that I really enjoy comedy, particularly people lip synching real comics, as well as strange cooking videos (like grilling in the woods over a fire) and crazy couple pranks. Yeah, you read that right… couples, who are crazy, playing pranks on each other. Don’t judge me.
So TikTok has learned some of my likes and preferences and makes sure that each and every time I open the app and experience the platform, that experience is completely new and yet designed entirely for my benefit.
Here, let me ask you… have you ever opened Facebook and seen the exact same post from someone you know, that you’ve already seen before?! What’s the point in that? Sure, maybe someone else commented on the post or there was some other “activity” but that’s really not very useful to me. It’s not new, and it’s definitely not designed to pique my interest.
Another comparison is YouTube where, if I open the app today, it’s going to show me videos that I haven’t seen before, but are almost exactly like videos that I’ve seen before. For instance, my daughters and I have watched a lot of clips from Penn & Teller’s Fool Us program, so if I open the app right now, right at the top there’s another clip from Fool Us. It’s new, for sure, yet, not exactly original. TikTok is going to autoplay for me something in the same vein of what I’ve seen and enjoyed previously, but is entirely new.
In marketing, we sometimes refer to this experience as Surprise & Delight.
And funny enough, while it might seem intuitive or even obvious that brands should give customers more of what they want, not everyone agrees this is the best approach. Henry Ford once famously claimed that if he would have built what people wanted back then, he would have designed a faster horse rather than invented the automobile.
Which just goes to show you how useless pithy statements are for building a business.
Yes, you must be strategic about what you work and make sure that it ultimately leads to successful business growth, regardless of what consumers who aren’t studying the marketplace might say. But at the same time, one cannot afford to ignore fun Economics 101 exam answers like “Demand” or “Trends.”
You may not have realized it, but this is a struggle and challenge that faces each and every business. You need to be empathic enough to understand what your customers really need and provide as much of that as possible, while at the same time, have the foresight to know what’s best for your business in the long run.
Here’s a silly example.
I know that many people in my audience, perhaps even you, struggle with creating written content. They tend to understand the need for good content in order to get their site and business ranking well in Google searches with their target audience, but they aren’t sure what to write, aren’t sure how to optimize what they write for Google, and, if we’re all being honest here, they just don’t like to write.
And for business owners like them, I have a solution. I have a Blogging Bootcamp that serves them up ten training videos, along with a workbook and planner and support group, to teach them exactly how to do content marketing that works for their business.
And if I was doing everything my customers wanted, I’d give it to them for free, wouldn’t I? (See, I told you it was a silly example.)
But that’s the truth, ultimately. If I really wanted to surprise and delight my audience, I’d tell them that Blogging Bootcamp is now free, instead of just $97. And they’d flip out, and many would sign up.
Yet that’s hardly good for my business. And in fact, one might argue that it’s not good for the customer either, as folks tend to value things based on how much money they spent. And while $97 is already a ridiculously low price for this kind of training, it’s priced high enough that there’s perceived value there.
So other than giving away the farm for free, how are businesses supposed to listen to customers and provide them with what they want, while still making good business decisions?
First, start with the areas where you’re already giving away something for free: Social Media and Blog Content (yeah, I guess if you aren’t blogging, you know where to get blogging help now, huh?)
Generally, social media and blog posts are designed to educate our audiences on some aspect of our industry. They serve to establish authority, as well as help our target audience learn something new and learn about us in the process.
When was the last time you asked your audience what they want to learn about?
When was the last time you really talked with your customers or fans & followers and discovered the kinds of topics, style of posts, or underlying concerns, they care about the most?
Taking the time to do a survey, put a poll or engaging post out, or even doing customer discovery interviews… that’s a lot of work. Yet it’s incredibly valuable and rewarding.
You might, for instance, learn that a large percentage of your audience actually consumes and prefers podcast content – a format you’d not previously considered. Or you might find that a type of blog post you’ve written a couple of times really resonated with some people who actually represent your ideal customer – so let’s write more of those!
The most likely learnings will be around the ideas, problems, questions and pain points that your audience is most interested in. These will be the topics and themes for which you should focus your social and blog efforts. You’ll still have to tread carefully down that curb as you balance their needs with your own. You want to answer questions and be helpful, but not so thorough as to make your paid offerings unnecessary. You want to address topics of interest, but still remain on brand and make sure that the content you create also serves long-term search benefits.
Second, as you’re talking to customers, think not just about the free content you’re putting out, but also the products or services you’re selling. How should your offerings change in response to what you’re hearing from your target audience?
Again, this is where customer discovery interviews are exceedingly important. Think about it… if we never actually talk to our customers and ask them how they’re doing and what they think about our business and products, then we’re just guessing about everything.
You might miss fantastic opportunities to layer value on top of what you’re already doing that will turn existing customers into raving fans, and that’ll help draw in new business and revenue.
I knew a business once that sold a service priced at a few different levels, and offered an additional service as an add-on to each of those levels. A lot of time and work was invested in creating that add-on service and it was certainly helpful, yet few businesses were willing to pay for it. The business thought perhaps it was a marketing and education issue – that not enough prospects and customers understood the add-on – so more time and work was invested in campaigns about the add-on. And still the sales weren’t happening.
And the business started talking to customers.
The business learned that customers did in fact understand the add-on and that customers on the lower levels of the regular service didn’t need the add-on, and customers on the higher levels kinda felt like it should be included, particularly the way it was configured.
This led to a decision to change how the add-on is priced and packaged in such a way as to make many, many more customers thrilled with the business.
The business found a way to balance the needs and desires of their customers with their own long-term needs and goals.
The key to all of this is having actual conversations with your customers. The more you build relationships and rapport with your community, the more you’ll have your finger on the pulse of what they’re most interested in right now!
And if there’s anything I’ve taken from 2020, it’s the importance of strong relationships.
Influencer marketing, collaboration, communication, relationship building… these are major themes that I will be talking about throughout 2021, so get ready for that!
Meanwhile, let’s make it a great week and finish 2020 strong.
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