I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how social media shouldn’t be looked at overnight, how it’s anything but a direct path towards the sale. It’s a message made by most every “social strategist” but, despite us all shouting the point, most businesses simply still look to take things back to fans, clicks and sales… the so called “ROI.” So today I thought I’d share a quick story to remind us how “viral” really works. Think about what you can track along the way.
Back in my teens my aunt took me to a “dude ranch” in Montana. She’s more the nice meal, great view, paved roads type; I’m more mountain climber / camper / survive-anywhere-because-it’s-fun adventure and this seemed somewhere in the middle. It was a great fit for both of us [plug: horeseback riding, yellowstone trips, great community, awesome food], so much so that she took my sisters there in future years and the memory has stuck in my head ever since.
Fast forward more than 15 years and a client, all too aware of my outdoor obsession, was chatting with me about my favorite places to go where he might want to take his teenage kids. He knows my background, I know his ideal “outdoor” reality, so while I haven’t uttered “Lone Mountain” (the name of that resort) in a decade, it came right to mind. After a quick check that the place was still standing and along the lines of what I recalled (they’ve stepped things up since my trip), I passed it along. A week later and he’s booked a trip for his family… 4+ reservations, tickets and weeklong stays.
There’s no Yelp review you’ll find from me on Lone Mountain. No like of their Facebook page, or following of their Twitter profile, Instagram, etc (well, there is now). My name would barely appear in their records (if at all) and their marketing analytics are certainly not going to turn up much more than my unconverted Google search from me and a direct visit leading to a sale from him… Pretty useless to optimize on, to invest because of. Yet, without my remark there would never have been a chance of the sale.
Sure, thanks to social and web technologies there are things we know now: obvious indicators that come out of the posts companies make and the link sharing people do. But, those are the minority of the actions, the overt participation, and not the real authentic referral that’s discovered only by asking.
Social, viral, word of mouth, or whatever you call it, sharing is about being in the right place at the right time. We all have a story about sharing an experience, not with a link or a coupon code but as a friend, making a suggestion, that’s trusted and believed. An experience that’s such a fit it spawns interest nothing else can compare to. Track what you can but know the importance of what you can’t.