Social Media and the Art of Playing Pool


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When you play pool, the balls occasionally align so that you have a clean shot from the cue ball to your target ball, right into a pocket. Unfortunately, these shots are all too rare. More typically, you have to figure the angles, the best way to hit the cue ball to avoid obstacles or bounce off a cushion to get your target ball to go where you want it to go.

So, too, with social media.

Sometimes, we are lucky, and it is a straight shot between our posts, tweets, and blogs to someone with a perceived need. We get a prospect.

More typically, however, social media platforms are an exercise in patience, persistence – and understanding exactly where your target audience is and, equally important, understanding what you should be trying to achieve.

There is too much talk about “engagement,” as though getting someone to respond to your Facebook page, your LinkedIn discussion, or your tweet automatically transforms them into a qualified prospect. There is too much emphasis on “likes,” “connects,” and “follows,” as if sheer numbers alone will ultimately yield sales.

There is, however, far too little discussion of precision in social media marketing or what realistic goals for social media marketing are.

Social media platforms, particularly in the B2B space, are, by and large, not lead generation tools. Or, at the very least, there are extremely inefficient lead generation tools. They are a means of building brand awareness and reinforcing your message.

Social media are effective strategic tools, not tactical ones. They should be part of your long-term strategy, not part of your day to day hunt for the next sale.

The proficient pool player always tries to make a shot that will not only allow him to score but, simultaneously, set him up for the next shot. In other words, he thinks strategically.

The strategic marketer works to create a message that goes beyond today’s product and supports the company tomorrow. A strategic marketer employs patience and persistence to create a coherent and cohesive – and, hopefully, pervasive – image of the brand and why people should choose that brand, that company. In other words, he sets up the next shot.

Social media provide business and marketers with multiple excellent platforms to support their strategic goals. But trying to turn a strategic resource into a tactical tool is counter-productive – and enormously time-consuming and, ultimately, disappointing.

Let’s learn from the artful pool player. Let’s look past the need for today’s leads to tomorrow’s positioning. Let’s use social media as a strategic laboratory to find our best ways around the obstacles in the marketplace. Let’s not count on that elusive, rare, straight shot from contact to engagement to prospect to customer that is the hype behind social media marketing.

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


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