Should you have a social media marketing patron?

In one of many conversations yesterday at Social Media Marketing World, I was asked, “How does someone new get started building a following?” While there’s no cut and dried answer that makes it easy, one of the accelerators you can use to jump start a program is to leverage a patron, an idea

What is a patron? In this context, a patron is someone who’s willing to “sponsor” your social identity into a circle of influence and trust. This can be something as simple as someone retweeting your content on a consistent basis to their audience, or something as complex as having an advisor coach you through the beginning of building your audience.

Do you need a patron? No, of course not. You can accomplish audience-building entirely on your own by combining paid social media with organic content, and leveraging all of the marketing methods that we know and love. Patrons just accelerate the process by brokering relationships and making connections faster.


How do you find a patron? If you’re considering that avenue, look at your social graph, the people you’re connected to. Who is already talking about the things you want to talk about? Who has an audience that’s like the one you want? Who is reachable? Here’s one potential method: While social media influence scores are terrible KPIs and should never be used to measure the success of a program, they are a useful hint for the level of difficulty you might have in reaching someone.


If you’re starting out and you’ve got a score of 1, the 1-10 bracket is probably the first group of people you can do outreach to, to build your base. As your network grows, reach up into the next bracket. For example, if your score is 15, look to reach out to people in the 20-29 bracket. Connect with them, share their stuff, provide them value first, and after you’ve established a relationship, make whatever ask you’re planning on making.

To Mark Schaefer’s recent point, no one is holding you down, but there are lots of people who can lift you up if you’re smart and targeted in your approach.

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Opportunity cost and assisted conversions

In the last post, I emphasized picking your marketing strengths and putting your focus behind a chosen few methods. This is leveraging opportunity cost, the cost of doing one thing and not doing something else.

Every choice in life has an opportunity cost:

When you eat at restaurant X, you’re not eating at restaurant Y or at home.

When you watch television, the time you spend watching TV is time you could have spent on something else.

When you focus on SEO as an inbound marketing method, the time you spend optimizing your site is time you could have been sending email or tweeting.

Thus, by choosing strong marketing methods that work for you over weak methods that don’t work for you, you’re minimizing opportunity cost. You’re investing what time you have in the things that work best.

Is it really that cut and dried? Just pick a few marketing methods and go? No. There is more to the story about what works best.

In order to understand what’s really working, we must acknowledge the way people make decisions. Except for small, risk-free transactions, people need some level of consideration. Eavesdrop on a couple deciding where to go for dinner and you’ll know all you need to know about how lengthy the consideration process can be.

How do you pick your strengths, given how complex the consideration process can be? This is the magic of Google Analytics’ assisted conversions.

Assisted conversions, if you’re unfamiliar, are touchpoints in the conversion process that help a conversion, but aren’t the last thing that someone did. Someone viewing a tweet may not convert right then, but may convert a few days later. In an analytics tool that understands assisted conversions, the tweet will be given partial credit for the conversion, even though it wasn’t the tipping point.

Look carefully in Assisted Conversions, using Source/Medium as your primary view, and you’ll see a more nuanced view of how people convert:


One of the simple tricks I like to do is to add up assisted conversions and last touch conversions in a spreadsheet. I’ll make a column called Total Conversions to get the biggest possible picture of what’s converting:


I’ve got a more complete view of what my marketing strengths are by total conversions. Now I can make informed choices about opportunity cost and what’s truly working.

Picking what you’re strong at and making opportunity cost choices is the right way to go; just be sure you’re using all of the available information possible.

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Being louder isn’t the answer


When you want to hit a target, do you walk up to it with a large hammer and hit it? Or do you nock an arrow and pierce it with a well-aimed shot?

When you want to amplify the flavor of a dish, do you add more of every ingredient? Or do you find a particular spice, a specific flavor, and add just more of that?

When you want to be heard in a loud room, do you simply shout louder? Or do you whistle, tap a glass, or even sing one musical note?

All three of these are examples of how to apply force in a focused way to generate an effective result. As the digital space gets noisier, more crowded, and more complex, your ability to scale, to be everywhere, diminishes commensurately.

To be heard, to be seen, to be sensed, you must find a point to put your strength behind. Is Facebook your thing? Go all in on it, and give less and less to the things that aren’t your strength.

Try this simple test. Open your Google Analytics. Find your traffic acquisition by Source/Medium (Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium):

all traffic source medium.jpg

Look at the top 10 things generating traffic to your site, assuming that traffic is a significant goal. Consider all of the things you do every day that aren’t on this list. What’s the opportunity cost of doing those things versus doing more of the things above that are clearly working?

Play to your strengths. The alternative is to dabble, exert a little focus everywhere, and get nowhere.

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