How to Get Ordinary People to Be Extraordinary

The biggest misconception you can make in business – or life – is that the people around you are somehow limited in ways that make it impossible for them to rise past a certain level. If you perceive this to be true, the limitation lies in you, not them. While there is no magic formula for helping people move past their limitations, I’d like to suggest a strategy that has worked in the past:

Add meaning in addition to money

We all need money, and some people are endlessly motivated by getting more money. But for most people, the promise of money is not enough to bring out their very best. People won’t work twice as hard to increase their salary by 3.7%. People won’t soar past their “limitations” to earn $1,957 instead of $1,899.

But if you give someone the chance to both support their family and change the world for the better, amazing things happen. Suddenly, working late feels good. You are part of something bigger than yourself. Instead of simply selling another widget, you are doing what you were born to do.

There are many ways to add meaning…

Make a meaningful connection to a social good

On an ongoing basis, you could give one or two percent of your company’s revenues to build schools in Africa or to support underprivileged students in towns close to each of your offices. If you do this, don’t treat the money as abstract numbers. Encourage employees to visit these schools and bring back photos and anecdotes about the differences your support is making in the lives of others.

Give one day each quarter as an awesome volunteer force

Giving away money can make a big difference, but it sometimes fails to give the donor much satisfaction. Send $75 to Megacharity and you may never understand what difference your donation made versus their $325 million budget. But if four times a year everyone in your office spends a day building a house for Habitat for Humanity or volunteering at the local food bank, you will be able to look into the eyes of the people you are helping.

Reinvent your industry

Not all meaning comes from social good. Being a pioneer can feel just as good. Our world is rife with opportunities to replace outdated business models with much more responsive and flexible approaches. I imagine that all the people involved in these projects long felt grateful that they helped to: put the first man on the moon, invent the first personal computer, create the first profitable e-commerce site in their industry, or even bring a fresh new retail store to their town’s Main Street.

Instead of waiting for some dynamic startup to disrupt your industry, why not band your colleagues together and disrupt your own industry?

  • Completely eliminate the practices that drive your customers crazy.
  • Dramatically reduce the complexity customers face.
  • Cut prices by 90 percent (or more). Yes, it’s sometimes possible.
  • Make stupid objects smart.
  • Be utterly transparent, showing both customers and employees how you make money and how your entire firm is performing.
  • Make loyalty dramatically easier than disloyalty.

Radical goals are what inspire people to rise past their limitations. They add meaning to an endeavor.

Best of all, reinvent your industry to include social good

If you go to the trouble of radically re-thinking how your company and industry works, why not also consider ways that you can both make money and help others? Build altruism into the very fabric of your culture. Embrace the opposite of self-promotion; if you help other people reach their goals, your reputation will grow based on your deeds rather than your words. Replace greed with generosity; the more you help others, the more people will embrace your services and you will do well by doing good.

Many of us know in our bones that our way of life is not sustainable. I mean this on many levels… “I can’t keep driving 45 minutes each day in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 30 more years”… “I can’t keep marketing sugar water as though it is the key to happiness”… “I can’t keep pretending that money is enough to make me happy”… “I can’t accept that my entire career will never be more than sucking up to managers so I can get a 2.3% raise.”

We all have different conceptions of what is meaningful. Figure out what is meaningful to the people around you, and you will discover the path to making extraordinary things happen. Check on Slideshare fore 20 more ideas to get your imagination flowing.

Written by Bruce Kasanoff. Bruce helps companies harness the potential of altruism to power business growth and career success. Learn more at He is the author of How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk, a simple little book about doing well by doing good. To always see Bruce’s articles on LinkedIn, please click the FOLLOW button above or below. Twitter = @BruceKasanoff. This story originally appeared on LinkedIn.


What to Do When Social Media Is Not Working For Your Business

Is social media not working for you?

Are you struggling to form a social media connection with your audience?

Have you found that the recommended “getting started” tips and tricks for social campaigns just haven’t resonated with your followers?

The truth is, while there are plenty of audiences that respond well to social media marketing attempts, there are others that don’t for a number of different reasons.

In this article you’ll find out how to recognize the variables that could result in an audience-marketer mismatch and how to work around them.

Why Your Social Media is Not Working?

If you feel like you’ve tried everything to connect with your audience, but it’s just not working, you’re probably looking to social media experts for advice. Maybe you’ve followed that advice, but your audience still isn’t responding. What’s going on?

istock social media image

Not all social networks match your audience. Image source: iStockPhoto

Well, it may not be the advice or implementation that’s your problem. The problem may be your choice of social platform, your industry’s expectations or even your audience’s comfort level with social media.

To find out, I suggest looking closely at age and demographic matches, the size of your audience, industry standards and your audience’s interest in engaging online. In this article I’ll discuss each of these and how they can affect your social engagement, then offer advice on how you can work on those issues.

Know Whom You’re Talking To

A recent Pew Internet study revealed that 73% of online adults use a social networking site of some kind, but only 42% use multiple social media sites.

The following chart demonstrates how these percentages break down.

pew internet study results on adults social website use

A Pew Internet study reveals the percentage of online adults using different social websites.

Considering the data from the study, let’s talk about how it can apply to you.

Imagine your audience is primarily made up of middle-aged women who, according to the study, are four times as likely as men to be Pinterest users.

If you’re focusing your social marketing efforts on Facebook because of its high adoption rate but not seeing engagement, it could be because your primary audience is spending its time on Pinterest.

It may be time to reevaluate who your target customer is. When you know your audience and their social platform of choice, it’s much easier to engage them.

Understand That Size May Be a Factor

Another reason you may not be making a strong connection with your customers could be related to the size of your audience on a given social channel.

This infographic from Mediabistro shows interests across Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

mediabistro social media infographic

Not all interests are represented equally on all social networks.

If you’re selling a high-dollar product, you’re more likely to have a very small and specific audience. As a result, sending out broad messages via social media may not be the best way to connect with them.

Consider Your Industry’s Culture

In some cases, a company may not see high engagement simply because of industry culture. Perhaps the overall industry is behind the times technologically. That could be because either their customers or the industry as a whole aren’t familiar with social media or comfortable using it.

If you’re in a very personalized industry (e.g., the funeral profession), getting your clients to engage on social sites may be a challenge simply because they don’t think to look for you online unless it’s to look up your phone number. In those cases, it’s unlikely they’ll reach out via social media.

Not all businesses exist in industries that naturally lend themselves to online engagement.

jones-wynn funeral home facebook update

Some industries have a harder time engaging with their Facebook fans.

As an example, take the partnership my company recently had with Self Storage Finders. They’re a service that helps consumers identify and evaluate different storage providers in their area.

While this type of service is valuable to the customers who use it, those clients don’t necessarily think about discussing their storage experiences on social sites.

While these variables and their impact on engagement are frustrating, it’s not impossible to market to difficult audiences.

The following three tips should help you adapt social media marketing recommendations and best practices to suit the needs of your specific (if challenging) audience.

Keep in mind, though, that your social media marketing strategy may necessarily follow a different path than it would if your audience were more amenable to social conversations.

Know Where To Be

Conventional social wisdom says that all businesses need to maintain a Facebook and Twitter profile. I have a different point of view. I believe that creating social identities and then essentially abandoning them because of lack of engagement does more harm than good to a business.

What did you discover when you reevaluated your audience? You may have discovered that the most active community engagement portals in your industry aren’t social sites at all—they’re forums and “old-school” message boards.

If that’s the case, you have to set conventional wisdom aside and focus your efforts on the arenas where they’ll be noticed in the first place!

See What Sticks

You’ve looked at your audience, you know where they are and you’ve set up shop there. Now let’s suppose you’re getting ready to start a social promotion for an audience you’re pretty sure is going to be difficult to engage.

There are plenty of different templates out there for possible social posts. I recommend trying as many as you can. I call this the spaghetti-flinging approachbecause it’s as if you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

paid facebook ads

Paid ads can grab the attention of your target market.

If you’ve chosen to focus your efforts on Facebook, try posting text-based status updates, images, links, polls, paid ads and morePost at different times of day and on different days of the week.

While it’s nice to see engagement at this stage, the true goal of early social posting to difficult audiences should be to gather data.

Remember, you can’t trust the industry pundits to tell you what will work best for every audience, so use your own metrics and gather your own data.

Look For Your Loudest Fans

As you post more updates, you’ll likely find the members of your community who are more highly engaged than othersMake sure these people aren’t your employees, close friends or relatives!

When you’ve found your most active fans, pay attention to the exact types of content they’re engaging with. Use this data to refine your posting techniques to include content that’s likely to appeal to these users.

Take a look at the following screenshot from the Self Storage Finders Facebook page before we started working with them. This particular update didn’t resonate with audience members, so it had no engagement whatsoever.

self storage finders facebook text update

An early Self Storage Finders Facebook update falls flat with followers.

When we started working with them, we began experimenting with different types of posts and content and we noticed that fans reacted well to cartoon images.

Below you can see how catering to fans’ favorite type of post results in more likes, all because we were willing to experiment and base future posts on actual audience data.

self storage finders facebook text update with image

Extensive testing revealed that Self Storage Finders’ Facebook fans respond well to cartoons.

Know When to Cut Your Losses

Unfortunately, there are audiences out there that simply don’t respond to social media marketing. But that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel.

Take another look at the data you gathered from your audience analysis and post experimentsCompare it to your established metrics and install analytics tools that will provide additional data to help you figure out whether your social marketing is working.

Let’s say you determine that including man-hours, image subscriptions and other investments, you put roughly $500 per month into your social campaigns. What does your data tell you? Are your social channels sending you visitors that result in more than $500 per month in sales?

That example is a simplification of social marketing’s value, of course. It’s true that social media can lead to extensive brand awareness that may indirectly lead to sales. But if you consistently see that your profits are falling short of your investments, it may be time to either refocus your strategy or pull the plug on your social efforts entirely.

The Bottom Line

If you’re not getting traction with your social media marketing, take a break from researching broad advice that promises a quick fix. Reevaluate your efforts:meet your customers where they are, consider the size of your audience and set your expectations accordingly.

Not every business will have success with social media marketing no matter how hard they try, but it’s worth the time to experiment with different tactics and gather data before calling it quits.

What do you think? Have you ever found yourself marketing to a difficult audience? If so, what social media marketing tips do you have to add for those in this situation? Leave your experience and advice in the comments.

 Written by Eric SiuEric is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain. He also interviews entrepreneurs on business and personal growth tips on his blog, Growth Everywhere. This post is originally appeared on

Images from iStockPhoto.

Five ways to kick-start your business’s social media presence

More than 12 million Australians use Facebook. Twitter, on the other hand, has around two million active Australian users.

Meanwhile, as many as four out of five Australian professionals use the networking site LinkedIn to advertise their skills and connect with like-minded people.

Social media presents an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to amplify their content and interact with their target market. But with limited time and resources, small business owners are often afraid of starting – or even maintaining – a social media presence. While 65% of Australians use social media, only 30% of small businesses have jumped on the bandwagon.

SmartCompany spoke to a number of experts for their advice on how businesses can make the most out of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

1. Have realistic expectations 

Trevor Young, the founder of Expermedia, says it’s never too late to get your business onto social media. However, he says business owners need to have specific goals in mind.

“It’s about having the right attitude and having a positive mind,” he said. “Business owners need to have realistic expectations about what can and cannot be done. And critically, social media isn’t a sales bulletin.”

Young says social media isn’t necessarily something that yields instant results, just like any other investment. However, if you do put the time and effort into building trust and meaningful relationships between your brand and audience, that will eventually generate sales.

Dionne Kasian-Lew, a social media strategist, agrees.

“Social media is about the long-term,” she said. “There are lots of immediate returns you can get from, say, Google AdWords – but social media is about building relationships. You need to invest the time and energy.”

Young says one way to get the most out of social media is to come up with a plan, just like you would for any other aspect of your business. That way your expectations are clear and you can refine them if necessary.

“You need to ask yourself: can I use this platform to reach and further enhance the relationship I have with my audience?”

2. Don’t talk about yourself the whole time

Social media can be intimidating for business owners because it’s often perceived as something new and required specialised knowledge.

Young says that, in part, this is true because what has worked previously for traditional advertising doesn’t work for social media. Rather than talk about yourself as you would in a television commercial, social media requires businesses to be exactly that: social.

“It’s counterintuitive to the way we’ve been taught to market our brand,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t do the things that still work. All it does is amplify your enthusiasm and expertise.”

Social media was originally built for individuals to interact with other people. Young says this is where SMEs have a key advantage over larger corporations. It’s much easier to come across as human on social media if you’re known for being a small team rather than a large, faceless organisation.

Kasian-Lew likens social media to a dinner party: you are more likely to want to remember engage with someone who has something interesting to say rather than just talks about themself the whole time.

Cat Matson, chief executive of HEARIS, agrees. She says it’s important business owners remember social media isn’t a one-way conversation, but a multi-way one.

“As soon as you start engaging with people they expect a conversation,” she said. “Other people will jump in.”

3. Know your audience

All of the social media experts SmartCompany spoke to stressed the importance of businesses understanding their online audience.

For Kasian-Lew, social media is premised on trust and people having meaningful interactions online. Once businesses tap into that level of trust, their audience will start talking about their products and services all on their own.

“The recommendation of your friend is going to mean a lot more to you than someone’s external view,” she said. “Those conversations mean something because they translate into meaning and behaviours.”

Young says small businesses have an advantage on social media because they are likely to specialise in a certain area and therefore know who their audience is already.

“Your expertise, knowledge and experiences – these are powerful things to share on social media,” he said. “You’ll never lose by being real and helpful and fun. Think about the people who already know and like you and let them tell your story.”

Matson says she uses social media because there isn’t enough time in the world to sit down and have a coffee and chat with every interesting person she meets. In that sense, businesses should see social media as an opportunity to connect with engaged individuals.

“The brilliance in social media is the networking opportunities,” she said. “If you choose to endorse, support or comment, they’ll do the same for you and you’ll get greater momentum than if you chose to operate in a silo.”

4. Don’t treat all social media platforms the same

Choosing which social media platform to utilise can be difficult. Kasian-Lew says there is no “cut-and-paste answer”.

“Twitter is great if you want customer care, Facebook is great for products. It depends who you are and where your audience is.”

Choosing just one or two social media platforms rather than spreading yourself too thin can be a good idea for business owners. Good content can often be repurposed, saving you both time and money.

However, it’s crucial business owners understand that different platforms have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, copying and pasting a tweet into a Facebook status is not playing to Facebook’s strengths. Unlike Twitter, Facebook does not have a character limit and images are more important.

Matson says the most successful businesses understand that when it comes to social media, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the way to go. She says your business is going to look lazy if you’ve posted the exact same message on more than one platform.

“Each platform has a different nuance or vernacular if you like. What you do on Pinterest is extraordinarily different to what you do on Facebook.”

5. Give your team members autonomy

Matson says she often sees businesses becoming “stuck” while they wait for the perfect social media strategy. While it is important to come up with a detailed, original plan – you have to “just get in there and see what happens” at some point. One way to do this is for business owners to give staff members the responsibility of managing social media.

“I’m puzzled by the reluctance to allow staff to speak on behalf of the company,” she said. “Your staff have been hired and you must trust them on some level to engage with your customers.”

Giving staff members access to social media accounts is a good way to ensure the business is not neglecting its online audience. And if there are any mistakes or slip-ups, the key is to apologise and carry on because everyone makes mistakes from time-to-time.

“In the age of social media people accept we are human. When we engage with a social channel we are engaging with real people in a fast moving environment.”

Written by Broede Carmody. Broede is a SmartCompany reporter who has a passion for covering work health and safety. He studies journalism at RMIT. Follow him on Twitter: @BroedeCarmody. Visit Smartcompany where the first version of this excerpt is originally appeared.