Leaves on the Ground: Social Media Marketing

I was out running through the neighborhood the other day at my usual old guy pace, (i.e. SLOW) when it occurred to me that the leaves from the trees that were scattered on the ground are just like companies’ Social Media Marketing effort.

Your customer’s social media feed is so saturated with posts, that unless your share is so unique it just blends in with all the other leaves on the ground.

It’s a congested pile and it all looks the same.  Everyone is in such an overcommitted rush these days, it takes an awful lot for someone to stop what they are doing and pick up your “leaf” and check it out.

So, what is going to make it stand out?  

The golden rule for this is to know what type of posts your customers enjoy already. The top types are blogs, videos, ebooks, pictures or infographics & podcasts.  Do you create any of those?

If you want to get more attention from your current or even your future customers, here are some ideas that you might find useful:

Mobile First

Your content needs to be created so it works on a cell phone as the primary method of interaction.  This, of course, means your website.  Your ordering platform.  Your blog.  Everything.  

I’d don’t know about you, but most of the stuff I read is on my phone or shared with me in a hyperlink in a text from one of my pals.  Sure, I’ll bet there is some cantankerous old dude out there that still uses a flip phone that can’t access anything, but as time marches on your customer base is steadily skewing younger and more tech friendly.  I know people who have phones that are about as big as a skateboard just so they can watch videos and read articles.

Mobile ready goes for suppliers in our industry too.  Want to win more customers?  Make it easier to order from the shop floor or customer’s office by streamlining the process.  

The reason Uber blasted off so well with consumers is they took the pain away of not only hailing a cab, but paying for it too.  People can instantly see when someone can pick them up and how much it’s going to cost to get to where they need to go.  When you get there, all you do is get out of the car.  The payment portion is already handled, as the user set that up when they created their account.

In our industry are we building that simplicity?  What if you could order 12 more black medium hoodies or another gallon of metallic gold ink that way?   Click.  Link.  Boom.

Imagine how much frustration you could save if you happened to have a press down due to a mechanical problem and there was an instant solution.  You could snap a picture of the part needed with your cell phone, and an app could recognize what it was and show you the pertinent information.  Hit a button and it’s on the way.  

For your customer base, what if you built that same sort of problem or challenge solving tool?  Do you think you’d snag a good bit of market share?  What would it take to do that?

Now think about the social media content that you are pushing out to your audience.  Is it geared to be seen on someone’s phone?  Is it actionable?    

If not, maybe your lack of response make it just look like all of those other leaves on the ground.  Just a lot of clutter.

Can They Tell It’s From You?

In other words, how is your branding?  Stylistically, do all of your posts across your content have that same look and feel?  Don’t forget there are many types of screen sizes and resolutions.  Have you checked to see how they might appear?

Time invested creating a style guide isn’t a waste I promise you.  It is the professional way to create authenticity.  This obviously may mean using your logo, but it could also mean just how you compose your image, colors you use, filters or textures.  Be sure to include what not to do too.

When you think about how Nike or Columbia or Patagonia or SanMar or Cutter and Buck or Gildan or Bella + Canvas or Alternative Apparel or PolyOne, or Ryonet any other company that boasts robust imagery, use of text and good marketing…what can you learn?  

Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Pay attention.  You are surrounded by stellar examples of marketing every day.  Check out their social media feeds.  Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.  Now look back at how you do things.  Are you posting clear and concise messaging that shows off your creative chops?

Your brand is the shape, color and texture of the leaf.  Can anyone tell yours from the rest of the pile?  If you removed your logo, would anyone guess it was from you?

“Hey, check this out!”

Another great marketing idea that you should try to grab is what’s called “Influencer Marketing”.  This is basically the idea of celebrities endorsing products.  But who has a gazillion dollars to get a movie star or sports hero to talk about your shop?  Not many companies.  

So what do you have that you can use as an opportunity?

Your own customers.  Nothing says “these guys are awesome” than your customers posting or sharing your work.   A 2015 Nielsen study showed that 82% of consumers rely on people they know above all else.

Smiling, happy customers always resonate.  Got some of those?  Hopefully so.

People naturally will flock to companies that other people have used before.  That’s the influence that you want to show.  


So what do you specialize in?  Schools?  Rock bands?  Corporate apparel?  Resorts?  Bars and restaurants?  Sports?  Beer-guzzling biker dudes?  

Whatever it is, imagine the power you’ll show when your customers are bragging about their order they just picked up!  How much influence do you think a video describing your great customer service during the ordering process or how you turned their scribble on a napkin (show it) into this fantastic t-shirt art (show it), would have?

Any creative effort put into this endeavor would go a long way.  Especially if you make it easy.  

  • Create a branded “Instagram Selfie-Booth” in your shop for customers to snap a picture holding up a sample from their order.  Make it fun!  
  • Hold a contest or just give customers some benefit for posting on your Facebook feed or linking to your Instagram or Twitter account with a hashtag that you create.  #yourshopname.

It’s easy to score major points with your marketing “leaf” when someone else picks it up and hands it off as a trusted friend.  That’s the power of Influencer Marketing.

Live Streaming

Speaking of power, let’s not forget the wave that is upon us now which is live streaming on Facebook or using Periscope, which is Twitter’s live streaming app.  Words are great.  Pictures are 1000x better.  Video is king.  Live video is the ruler of the universe.  For now anyway.

It’s not for the timid.  There could be a mistake.  There will be problems.  People will tune in maybe just to see you sweat or mess up.

And that’s ok.  Because not only are they watching, but other people are too.  Your fans.  Your soon to be fans.  Plus, the friends of all these people if they like, share or comment on the feed.

Are you brave enough to do this?  What would you share anyway?  Are you one of those people that won’t try it because you can’t make it perfect from the outset?

Come on!  Put your big pants on and try something new.  Give them something they can use.

First, identify your customer’s number one problem or pain point.  What is it?  Then, you simply orchestrate the filming of you solving that challenge.  You do this everyday anyway…just not on camera.

Maybe it’s delivering an order in your custom branded truck, with a happy customer (see Influencer Marketing above).  Maybe it’s printing over the zipper on some hoodies.  Maybe it’s doing puff embroidery on some hats.  Maybe it’s digitally printing some custom infant onesies.  Maybe it’s printing shirts after the big win for the team.  What if you showed the steps involved in blinging out that soccer mom V neck tee?

Whatever you do, make sure it is conceived well and makes you look like a star.  You might want to practice a few times.  Look at the results with fresh eyes and imagine your customer is viewing the results.  What are they seeing?  Can they see your logo?  Is your shop a mess?  Are the employees wearing branded apparel (our equivalent of a chef tasting his own food) in the background?  How is the sound?

Of course, the brother of live streaming is recorded video content.  It’s the same idea really, but just not “live”.  I guess that takes some of the highwire act off of the table, but also the sense of urgency to watch it.

Live streaming is the leaf that is blowing around by the wind wanting someone to catch it.  There is a sense of urgency, danger and unpredictability that makes you want to check it out.  

Of course, be sure to set this up if you can when your audience is available to watch.  It doesn’t do you much good to set up a great live feed opportunity at the wrong time.  Can’t swing that time crunch?  Film a video and post when you it fits your audience’s viewing habits.

Develop Better Content

If you really want to be noticed, spend some time developing better content.  If all the leaves on the ground are red, this makes yours gold so it naturally stands out.  Search engines love great content if it is created and tagged properly.  A well thought out headline will work wonders too.

For social media marketing, content is king.  There aren’t many rules, but if you think about these three things you will have a good starting point:

  1. Everyday Content – this is essentially answering questions that your customers may be asking.  How is this printed, or what’s the difference between a raster versus a vector file?  It’s the easiest place to start as you’ll bump into this stuff all the time.  As soon as any of your customers call in and requests you to explain something about your business…bingo, new content idea to share.  Don’t have the time to write a blog article or film the process right now?  Make a list and keep it handy for when you do.  Want to know what people type into search engines for anything?  Click this link and ask the old man.
  2. Authority Content – this sets you apart from everyone else.  It’s show and tell, but on a grander scale.  Create this type of content with a focus on being “evergreen”…meaning you can repost that video or blog article at the same time next year.  This is more advanced sharing, and typically includes some story telling and more in-depth content.  The more information you share in your content, the better it will be received, liked, shared or commented on.  Want to be labeled as the “expert” in an area?  Show people why and demonstrate how.  This requires more effort.  Create a video or an infographic.  Blog articles work great for this too.
  3. Viral Content – this is the hardest to do, as it’s the magic from the genie bottle.  This isn’t just answering questions but sharing insights or something humanly relatable that gets more attention than any other similar content piece.  You may need some help.  The mastery of this content is that it provokes the human emotion that makes the user want to share it with their friends.  This catches on and is shared again.  And again.  And again.  And again.

So your post about how you just delivered that order won’t go viral probably.  But it will get viewed.  People will know that one aspect of your business, although they won’t share it with their friends.

Something outrageously funny or heartwarming might.  People connect with their emotions and love to share.  “Check this out – I know these guys, they are great!”…and boom.  Mic drop as your post goes viral.  

There’s nothing wrong with creating Everyday or Authority based content.  And unless you are super talented, Viral content may be a stretch for you anyway.  

The best thing you can do is to share your story.  What makes you different?  Who are you?  Why are you relevant?  What is your creative voice?  

Be brave.  Share your passion.  That’s a leaf that is always interesting to pick up.

11 Points on the Social Media Marketing To Do List

  1. Develop your Brand Guideline.  This is your style guide.  It’s the rules that are detailed to give you a place to start when creating anything.
  2. Ask questions.  What are your needs?  What do you hope to accomplish?  How can social media be used to achieve them?
  3. Set SMART Goals based on those needs.  Remember a SMART goal is defined as a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time centered.  For example, if you want your social media to increase your sales by 20% by the end of the quarter, you’ll have to be able to use data from your sales history to show your previous state, be able to gather data as your campaign is going to measure your present state, and then tweak things along the way to influence your future state.  Write out your goals and work backwards on what you are going to do to achieve them.  Who is creating the posts?  What channels are you using?  What is the best time to share?  How will you know if whatever you are sharing is making a difference?  What happens if what you are doing isn’t working?  What happens if it starts to take off?  Make a detailed plan of attack.  Then, launch that sucker.
  4. Speaking of data mining, you can glean great insights from Google Analytics, YouGov Profiles, SproutSocial, social media sharing sites like Buffer or Hootsuite, and even the content sites themselves such as Facebook or Twitter.  You should know your audience already, but using these tools helps you refine what you are sharing, when to share, even how to write the posts if you are careful enough.
  5. Make a Buyer Profile.  When you think of your customer who comes to mind?  Does she look like a soccer mom or maybe he is an executive type?  Is there an age range, geographic area, type of business, gender, ethnic group, or any other demographic that can be used?  List your top ten customers by sales volume or margin.  Can you describe their attributes like this?  Where on social media are they the most active?   Does your company even follow them?   What do they usually like, share or comment on with social media posts?  Articles?  Video?  Podcasts?  Pictures?  Cat memes?  Want to resonate with your customer base?  Pay attention to what they like to consume and emulate that.  Your customers are already telling you what to post.  
  6. Research your competition’s marketing.  That’s right.  Be a spy.  You’ve always wanted to, and here’s your chance to queue the James Bond theme.  Make sure you follow your competition on their social media channels to get an insight on what they are doing.  Who is following them?  What type of content are they creating that’s getting attention?  There are some good tools for this out there too, like SEMRUSH, or SpyFu.
  7. Build your program.  Use a calendar.  Assign responsibilities.  Who is creating the content?  When is it due?  Set marketing meetings on the calendar to brainstorm ideas.  Work backwards from key dates a few weeks out so your posts aren’t created at the last minute.  Use your established SMART goals.  
  8. Be ok with failure.  A lot of marketing is learning what doesn’t work.  It could be the right content shared at the wrong time.  It could be the wrong content shared at the right time.  Maybe it’s just how you word your headline.  Maybe you have a great blog post, but the picture that goes with it doesn’t entice people to read it.  Look back on your results and see if you see a trend.  Experiment.  Try something else.
  9. Be consistent.  If you want to grow your audience, you need to be regularly doing something.  One of the first things I do when I hear about a new shop or start helping a company is check out their social media.  You aren’t getting much value or exposure if your last post was six months ago.  Especially in an age where anything five minutes ago is old news.  The more content you share, the more people may remember you.  I use the 80%-20% rule.  80% of the content I share is from someone else, but has value to people I’m connected with somehow.  20% of the content is the stuff I create like this blog or an infographic.  You want the top of mind; so when someone needs your services you’ve been there all along on their social media feeds and they think of you first.
  10. Strategy, then budget.  When prioritizing what to do for social media, it’s best to think about what you are trying to achieve, on what channels, with some realistic SMART goals attached to it.  Create that, then figure out the dollar amount you’ll need to spend to achieve those goals.  This may mean sectioning off some time for an employee to create the posts, design the image, or film the video.  It may mean how much are you willing to spend for pay per click or even to boost the posts on social media channels to push it out to a bigger audience.  It can get complicated quick, so if you are just starting out, start small until you know what’s working.
  11. Talk to your customers.  What are their opinions?  Ask if you can share the work you are producing for them, or if they would like to participate in your program’s content.  

If you are creating some new and exciting marketing ideas for your shop, please share the links in the comments section!  Better yet, share this post in your social media feed and let’s get this industry humming with some crowd-sourced marketing help!

There are a lot of businesses that are developing some fantastic ideas and we can all learn from each other.


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin


Leave your comment

Talk to Marshall and get his help.
Learn More
View All Ebooks

Related Posts