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Do Work That Matters For People Who Care, and More Revolutionary Guidance from Seth Godin

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Godin’s rousing, funny, and insightful closing talk touched on the false promise of social media, where it’s true power lies, and how marketers can use it to its full potential by thinking smaller.

“There’s no reason to do anything you’re doing, unless you’re seeking to change someone.”

This sentiment, shared early on in Seth Godin’s closing keynote, “Social Media and the Revolution,” could be taken cynically: changing a behavior for the benefit of a corporation, to sell a product or service that they may or may not need. But with his trademark earnest energy, Godin managed to sell a rapt audience that idea with the best of intentions. Marketers, he says, “tell stories. We make a difference. We make change happen.” And in a lively forty minutes, he shared some inspirational and actionable ways to do this in our everyday work.

Away with Average

The metrics of success on social media are clear. Likes, follows, comments, “engagements,” and so forth. It’s easy to know when you’re doing it “well,” so to speak. But Godin believes that it can be a trap of false progress. Being good at social media isn’t the point, he said. “Getting good isn’t hard. It’s a symptom that you did something else right.”

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The challenge with social media, he went on to say, is that there’s a temptation to get those numbers up, and in the process comes a desire to please as many people as possible. It’s a “race for mass,” that pushes you to try and get everyone on board. But that dilutes your power. “If you make something everyone wants, you have to be average,” he insisted. And to aim for average, in a medium that can so powerfully attract passionate people when used right, seems like a waste of that power.

From Funnels to Microphones

So what should we do with that power instead? Use it to gain permission, Godin said. “Permission is the privilege of marketing to people who want to be marketed to.” And you can’t realistically successfully market to everyone. You can, however, market to some people. “The right people. Your people.” He likened it to the Tinder experience: you can swipe right on every option available to you and hope something sticks, or you can go on dates that lead to a lasting connection. “Why aren’t you dating your prospects?” he mused aloud.

Instead of trying to reach everyone, he shared, we should seek to reach the smallest viable audience and delight them so thoughtfully and fully that they tell the others. That they eliminate the need for a funnel, by flipping it sideways and using it as a megaphone. “You can seek out the people who care,” he offered, “or you can yell at the people in the middle who are ignoring you.” By building a strategy that carefully entices and serves the people who cares, who knows? Maybe they’ll yell at the people in the middle and bring them along for the ride.

“Make Things Better, By Making Better Things.”

Embracing this strategy is challenging. It’s challenging because it flies in the face of what we’ve been taught, and how we’re often managed to work. Godin acknowledges this as part of the problem. Marketers are too often managed, when they should actually be empowered to lead. Leading means navigating through the unknown, acknowledging fear, but not letting that fear hamper the ability to move forward. People who are led are allowed to adjust, to experiment, and to connect with others in pursuit of their shared goals and interests. This permission and empowerment for adjustment and adaptation makes your work better, and often also makes your product better. Godin put it simply: “make things better, by making better things.”

And making better things should also apply to our social media presence. Rather than treating is as the next wave or iteration of TV as a broadcast mechanism, use it as a platform for community. Social media’s potential as a gathering place for passionate communities means our presence there should unite people meaningfully. “People like us, do things like this,” he offered as a mantra for those seeking to remake their online presence. The most effective marketers “figure out who the people like us are, earn their trust and attention, and show them what the things like this are.” These strategies create brand evangelists, empowered to use your product or service in a way that supports who they are – or who they’d like to be.

Put Your Footprints on the Moon

Godin closed with an anecdote about meeting Neil Armstrong at a retreat in New Mexico. As Armstrong spoke about the challenges of the Apollo 11 mission, a full moon rose above the group—as if choreographed to do so. Armstrong looked up and said, “I’ve been there.”

In his remaining moments with the group, Godin encouraged them to conjure that image whenever they felt powerless to make an impact with their work. A group of people sought to do something that had never been done, and had to make countless leaps that had never before been attempted. They led the way to the Moon by doing so. While it might not seem as though the work marketers set out to do can have that level of impact, it can if you reach that high. You can lead in your field, and lead your customers to goals they never imagined possible. “We need you to lead us,” he said as he finished. And it’s difficult to imagine that anyone could leave Godin’s talk, not feeling empowered to reach that high.

Listen to the Leads2Scale episode featuring Seth below:

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Bestselling Author and Entrepreneur, Seth Godin spoke at #SMWNYC. Watch his talk + hundreds of others on SMW Insider.

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