Can We All Say Goodbye to the Age of Social Media Theory Please?

by Marcus Sheridan

Jason Crawford and Josh Block speak at CMW

Without even a hint of “theory,” Jason Crawford (left) and Josh Block (middle) discuss their company’s transformation at Content Marketing World.

When I was asked by someone last week if keynoting Content Marketing World was my greatest professional accomplishment to date, I answered without hesitation:

“NO.”

Rather, what I was able to show in my presentation at Content Marketing World was my greatest accomplishment. Allow me to explain.

The Marketing Vision that is “Insourcing”

A little over a year ago, as I started getting more and more involved with teaching companies about the power of creating a culture of teachers with every employee (I call this “Insourcing”) , I heard more than once that my vision of said culture simply wasn’t viable—some of which came from respected people in the marketing space.

Notwithstanding the doubters, I knew the vision made sense, and if I could see it, nothing else really mattered.

It was during this time that Krista Kotrla of Block Imaging called me for help and as I explained in this article, after teaching their entire organization, there was complete buy-in from the staff with regards to content marketing. To date, over 40 employees have participated in producing content for the company blog—articles, eBooks, videos, you name it. In short, what they’ve accomplished over the course of 365 days (literally, today is day 365 since our first meeting) is astounding.

Oh, and for a serendipitous anniversary gift, I literally got this email from Krista an hour ago, which she received earlier today from an employee of Block (read it, because it’s awesome):

Guys,

Had a refreshing and revolutionary experience yesterday. It was like Marcus wrote it in a script of how it’s supposed to happen. Lead comes in from someone in New Zealand. I follow up with one email then he calls me. He’s been working with someone he didn’t trust, went to Google then downloaded and read our entire buyers guide, educated himself. He already was convinced I was the expert and he wanted to work with me by the time I picked up the phone, I didn’t have to sell myself at all. The funnel worked exactly like it is supposed to. With very little effort, we just narrowed down the models that will work for his budget and I will be sending out a quote tomorrow. He has the funds, knows what he needs, knows what refurbished means etc. Unless something crazy happens I expect to have the deal signed early next week. The snowball is cresting the hill – to use Marcus’s analogy.

Best Regards,

Chris Sharrock

Product Manager X-ray, Cath-Angio, C-arms

BLOCK IMAGING INTERNATIONAL, INC.

Although sharing this email may appear self-aggrandizing, please understand that such is not my goal. Rather, it’s further proof this stuff works. And when done right, it really works.

In other words, letters like this aren’t theory. They’re not a 20,000 feet aerial view of what marketing in 2012 and beyond “should” be.

And for me, as a guy that’s now working with unique companies all over the globe, it’s my only goal.

I want results. I want to see them. Then I want to show them. That’s my shtick going forward.

My Greatest Accomplishment

And it’s exactly what I did at Content Marketing World when I brought up Jason Crawford and Josh Block of Block Imaging on stage with me so audience members could see tangible, real, and touching results of content marketing done right.

Even better, the guys of Block weren’t the only clients who came to Content Marketing World. Steve Sheinkopf of Yale Appliance and Matt Stock of US Waterproofing were there as well.

More than once, we all sat together and over food and laughter discussed our strategies, failures, triumphs, and future plans. Our many conversations about content marketing centered around real results. Everything kept coming back to the bottom line. Potentially frivolous numbers like “tweets” or “shares” or “likes” were never even mentioned within the group.

Instead of being a “consultant”, I’ve now become tremendous friends with the people of Yale Appliance, Block Imaging, and US Waterproofing.

At one point, as I was sitting among them and listening to each interact, I couldn’t help but smile that these clients-turned-close friends were now bonding with and teaching one another. To say it was rewarding would be an understatement. And ultimately, the impact that content marketing (done right) has had on these businesses, and the bond that I’ve now established with each of these good people, is my greatest accomplishment in this field to date.

Social media, content marketing, and all this stuff we talk about are potentially amazing for any business—but only if done in such a way that leads to a stronger financial foundation for which to build the company upon.

The Age of “Social Media Reality”

Based on the tweets, emails, and comments I’ve been blessed to receive from audience members who attended the Inbound Conference and Content Marketing World, it appears to me the days of “social media theory” are coming to an end. People are ready to see real results, with real sales numbers, and real strategies for achieving success. And if this industry is going to ever reach its potential, theory needs to take a back seat to reality.

This is exactly why my message to audiences seems to resonate and this is also why I’m planning on pushing things to another level over these next 12 months—with a new crop of companies willing to embrace this culture of marketing and do what it takes to dominate the digital realm and experience the fruit of their incredible labors.

To say I’m a little giddy would be an understatement ;-)

Your Turn

OK, I’ve more than said my piece, now I’d like to hear yours. Would you agree people are growing less patient with theory? Do you feel the age of “social media theory” will instead soon become the age of “social media reality?” Jump in folks, this is a topic we can all certainly relate to.

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Krista Kotrla September 13, 2012 at

LOL… Dang you’re fast!!! And you are right on of course. Theory worked for awhile but the results are SO much more awesome! I am really thankful to be part of an organization and team of wonderful people livin’ it… well, rockin’ it really. Thanks for all of your help and support making it a reality for us.

And the best part is we still have a long way to go. Just the beginning folks.

p.s. Happy Culture of Content Marketing Anniversary!! (Instead of the traditional gift of paper how appropriate to get that awesome email from Chris?!?)

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Rob Skidmore September 13, 2012 at

Hey Krista

Thanks for being awesome. I am glad we got to hear your story.

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

OH KK, you do make me smile :-)

It’s funny, because I was literally writing the article when your email came. Talk about being in-sync, that’s the way it works! :-)

Hope you’re well!!

Marcus

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Rob Skidmore September 13, 2012 at

Marcus as usual you are spot on.

I, for one, am sick of hearing theory and I am excited to put things into practice and see results. I think the big reason your keynote was so successful is because it made those theories concrete. I loved the example where you showed that one specific article generated exactly this much in sales. How’s that for ROI, Right?!

Like you I am beyond excited. I feel like I’m am jumping into a marketing culture that is just hitting it’s stride. I can’t wait to see where this new reality takes us.

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Love you passion Rob. We need more of that stuff in this industry. In fact, have you spoken anywhere about social yet? Be it locally or at a conference? If not, you should really get that party started my man. I know you’ve got the goods to make it happen.

Think about it :-)

Marcus

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Rob Skidmore September 15, 2012 at

Thanks Marcus. Your vote of confidence means a lot.

I am working on speaking opportunities. My blog is about up and going and I am starting to build connections. I’ll probably check in with a few questions from time to time if you don’t mind. :-)

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Jeremy Abel September 13, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

Great article, and in the right context I think you are spot on with “theory needs to take a back seat.” There’s definitely a surplus of theory in terms of ‘what’ techniques will “Improve traffic to your website,” “Generate more Likes,” and “Increase Sales in these 10 simple steps.”

Let’s face it- people are much more willing to commit to a strategy that has been tested and proven to work than a strategy that merely “seems like it would work”. In the service industry, selling the invisible is enough of a challenge- people need to take your word as it is. Without the cold hard data (i.e. case studies), it’s as if we’re doubling a client’s skepticism.

Why not make your life and your client’s life easier by backing your product/service with case studies, numbers, and tangible results? And from an inbound perspective, these case studies just add more fuel for your content marketing fire!

There will always be room for theory. Theory allows us to bravely move into new and unfamiliar territory, improve upon past performances, and let the creative, “the sky is the limit” mind-set flow freely. Sometimes we need to push the boundaries to better understand our current limitations (from both a personal and professional perspective).

Yes, I definitely agree with your position Marcus! We’re heading into an era of “show it before you throw it”- in other words- show me the results before you throw out your theory.

As always, a very insightful article on a topic that severely needed to be covered- keep it flowing Marcus!

Jeremy

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Ryan Aspy September 13, 2012 at

Jeremy – Very nice comment. You stole some of my thunder, so I’m going to piggy back off what you contributed. You’re absolutely right that there will always be room for theory, and you will never get some people off of theory. It’s actually very necessary because it’s what begins to allow us to move the discipline forward. However, it can’t stand on its own. Because – as you also touched on – we can talk about theory all day long and it can sound great. But when it comes to a potential client actually writing a check they want reasonable assurance that it’s going to bring a return.

Theorists will never be in short supply. College and University halls are crawling with them (and I’m not anti-higher education, it has an important role). Hence the cliche ‘those who can do, those who can’t teach.’ That’s a big distinguishing point for Marcus right now. He’s done it AND he can teach it.

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Agreed Ryan. I don’t want people to think I believe theory has no place. It does. Heck, I’ve had plenty of it here on TSL.

At the same time, I think there always needs to be a focus of thought. And today, that focus needs to be on “getting it done.”

Thanks man,

Marcus

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Jeremy, I really like how you put this as in many ways you said what I was trying to say here but didn’t say it as well as what you’ve said here.

Keep being dang amazing brother :-)

Marcus

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Rebecca Livermore September 13, 2012 at

It definitely makes sense that people are impatient with theory, particularly when money is involved. How long do you want to spend money, with nothing more than a hope that it will work?

This is why it’s so important for people who have had success to be willing to share their stories, along with some hard figures, so that those just starting out have the courage to do the necessary work in order to see results.

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

That’s exactly it Rebecca– stories combined with hard figures. We need more of that. Tons more. But as we do, eventually the majority of eyes will be opened and the industry will begin a new era.

Thanks bud :-)

Marcus

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Ryan Hanley September 14, 2012 at

Marcus,

I’m very happy to hear that your clients are starting to experience success…

For me… For my insurance business… Social Media and Content Marketing haven’t been theory for a while.

Content Marketing Works.

It simply does.

There is no argument that it doesn’t work only that it “might” not work yet there are thousands of examples of it working amazingly well.

So theory…

Social Media Theory is so 2009.

Thanks buddy

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Dude, you’re so far ahead in your industry it’s not even funny ;-)

BTW, when you spoke recently, did you record it? I’d love to give it a look.

Marcus

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Ryan Hanley September 15, 2012 at

This last one no unfortunately but I am getting footage from a presentation I did in August which I would be glad to pass a long a clip to you.

Thanks buddy!

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paul wolfe September 14, 2012 at

Marcus

I had an idea reading the post that something in your post sparked off.

Yesterday I read a book called the Little Book Of Talent – which is about learning, fostering talent and expertise and so on. It’s a book of tips.

One of the tips is that to really ‘deep learn’ something you should go teach it.
And the example given were Montesori school and a Baseball Academy. At both of these institutions the students are not segregated by age – instead the teaching and learning is done in much more open manner. And the older kids serve as both teachers and role models to the younger kids.

I think it *might* be freaking awesome if you had your own Sales Lion convention where all your clients get together and do something similar. Swap war stories. Swap strategies that didn’t work. Swap strategies that did work.

And so on.

Anyhows, just an idea I thought you might be interested in!

paul

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Dorothy Steel September 14, 2012 at

I love the idea of a Sales Lion conference so so much!! :)

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Dorothy, thanks for saying that. Believe it or not, I’ve had that subject on my mind for about two years. In time, once the brand and base is largest enough, I will be doing a conference that is completely different than anything on the marketing today. It won’t be for everyone, but it will be me :-)

Marcus

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Paul, first, let me say thank you for this. Seriously, you have no idea how much it means to me, mainly because it’s a vision I’ve had in my had for over two years but have never actually spoken about it to anyone.

Yes, I want to create an “experience” at some point for readers and clients that is unlike any conference in the world today.

My opinion is we already have a lot of great learning conferences out there, but I want to do something much more than that. In my mind, it would have a mix of mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional sessions– all interactive, and all as “real” as it gets. And the only requirement as a speaker would not be that you’re a “blogger” or “though leader”, but rather that you can tell a real-story about some you really did that was really exceptional and inspiring. (Real enough for you?? ;-) )

Anyway, I’ll stop now because otherwise none of it will sound cool when the day actually comes.

Thanks again my friend,

Marcus

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Jared Broussard September 14, 2012 at

“Facts Tell, Real Day Stories SELL” my friends. And it is these real day stories that make people like Marcus stand out from the crowd. It is truly where the rubber hits the road. Thanks Marcus!!

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Jared, you’re incredibly kind to say that man, and I appreciate it. And like I said above, these stories are just going to keep coming :-)

Thanks again bud,

Marcus

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Don Stanley September 14, 2012 at

Dude, this is seriously one of the most awesome blog posts you’ve ever written! I absolutely LOVE it. It’s about execution.

And I love you have the vision and strength to ignore the doubters who say you aren’t creating a viable model for yourself and your clients. You know in your heart, mind and spirit you are doing a beautiful thing and you are helping both your clients and their customers in many, many ways. The proof is in the pudding. Your models works! As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Well done is better than well said”. Well done my man.

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Don, thrills me that you appreciate this my man, and anytime someone can integrate a Ben Franklin quote in a comment, they get an A++++ ! :-)

Thanks again bud,

Marcus

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Dorothy Steel September 14, 2012 at

Thanks Marcus for continuing to rock content marketing and continuing to share these great stories. I’m still fighting to sell the concept in some circles but your constant, real world business success stories are getting harder and harder for people to argue with :)

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

That’s exactly it Dorothy. My goal is to get a client (and therefore success story) in as many unique industries as possible. So expect more to come! ;-)

Marcus

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Eve September 14, 2012 at

In my book, facts speak everytime, theory is just hot air. I’m a newbie so have done a lot of research so far and have found millions of “theories” of ‘what’ you have to do (or not do)to get or mprove traffic to your website.

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

There is certainly a lot online with theory. Heck, I’ve had my own share of it Eve. I just feel that we all need to shift our focus to physically showing the results of all these past “theories” in action.

Thanks so much for stopping by Eve!

Marcus

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Leon Noone September 14, 2012 at

G’Day Marcus,
Way back in 1975, I attended a training conference in Sydney. One of the keynote speakers was from a college in the midwest. I can’t remember his name. But I still remember something he said: “The best theory is practical.”

On December 29, 2010 I wrote a blog post, “Staff Training: Reduce The Theory Improve The On Job Result.” You’d have a copy of that somewhere!

Einstein said something to the effect that if you can’t explain it clearly, you don’t understand it well enough. But he was talking about teaching.

The fact is that you don’t have to understand how or why something works in order to operate the “something” successfully.

You’ for instance, seem to be a dab hand with a keyboard. Know how it works?

Have Fun

Regards
Leon

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Oh Leon, you’re a good man with a way with words that is incredibly you my friend.

Thanks for the thoughts, as always. :)

Marcus

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Jason Crawford September 15, 2012 at

Marcus,
Thank you for making this so real and attainable for people! This all comes down to people living better lives because they embrace the opportunities right in front of them. You have changed our business and you did it with deep passion for what’s most important in life…the deeper “why”. You rock.

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Marcus Sheridan September 15, 2012 at

Appreciate that brother, and can’t thank you enough for what you all have done over the last year, and what you’ll continue to do in the future. What an honor it was for me to cross paths with Block Imaging! :-)

Marcus

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Mike Tietje September 15, 2012 at

Marcus,

First off, I am a proud member of the Sales Lion Pride! I have consumed the e-book, devoured every blog post and soaked in every podcast. To put it simply, I love your stuff.

We started a company in the residential window industry about 5 months ago and have been trying like crazy to get our content marketing game face on. We are not where I want us to be yet but we have already seen some results and are sold on doing the content marketing thing. It’s actually pretty fun. :)

Having been in the Marine Corps for the past 8 years, all I can say to this blog post is Amen! I have preached this everyday for the past 5 months. Execution, execution, execution. It seems to me like you are leading the way for this real life, practical-as-can-be, no excuses content marketing. Even my old-school, 52 year old father has jumped on the band wagon and written his first ever blog post for the company.

Sorry for the length of this comment. This is the first comment I’ve ever left on any blog. I just feel very strongly about the message on this post. Keep doing what you are doing brother. You are changing lives and leading the way. And we appreciate it.

Mike
Apollo Glass LLC

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Marcus Sheridan September 19, 2012 at

Mike, you have no idea how happy comments like this make me sir.

Just keep up with that enthusiasm and you’re going to go some amazing places. I really mean that.

Best!

Marcus

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Matthew Stock September 16, 2012 at

I’m not so sure we are quickly moving beyond the age of social theory based on what I saw at Content Marketing World. They need businessmen, not professors.

That good lookin dude on the right of you with the untucked shirt…now that guy knows his stuff!

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Marcus Sheridan September 19, 2012 at

That guy to the right of me is a super-freak ;-)

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Alan | Life's Too Good September 18, 2012 at

Hey Marcus,

this is a great and interesting post,

I have to admit to sometimes finding social media tiresome, if I look at any social media stream, it doesn’t take me long to start feeling a little cynical of some of the stuff that’s put out there.

Used for genuine connections it’s great of course but most people over-do it. Maybe myself included though I try not to.

I think an interesting concept when it comes to social media is that of momentum – genuine interaction that becomes self-perpetuating as people see it for the genuine interaction it is, as opposed to blatant promotion, just selling or automating the sharing of famous quotes.

On that point, I do wonder also about the difference between individuals, small companies and large companies – presumably the bigger the company the quicker that momentum via social media can be generated?

e.g. if there’s just an individual trying to promote his business, that gives a completely different perception to an army of people trying to promote the same business – even if the individual does it the right way…

just a thought…

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Marcus Sheridan September 19, 2012 at

All good thoughts Alan. It’s a unique world we’re all in. A new one. And good grief is it changing fast.

What’s crazy is were only in phase 1 of social…without about 99 still to go ;-)

thanks bud,

Marcus

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Mitch Mitchell September 20, 2012 at

I almost feel like the dumb guy because I’ve never heard the term “social media theory” before reading this article; ouch!

So, since I’ve never heard of it, I’m not totally sure how to respond except to say this. I’ve always talked to people by showing them what has already worked for others . Since that’s not theory I guess I was talking practical applications all along, and those that actually worked and continue to work for many businesses. Sure, not every business has had the greatest of success using social media, but many have, and many more will.

As Forrest Gump stated, “And that’s all I got to say about that.”

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Marcus Sheridan September 21, 2012 at

I think the reason you may not have heard the phrase much Mitch is because it’s most prevalent at conferences as attendees are Hearing a speaker and then asking the question: how does this apply to me?

But, you speak in terms of application Mitch, that’s for sure!

Marcus

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Josh Block September 29, 2012 at

Marcus -

Great article and so true! After attending just a couple content/social conferences, I can just feel the dissonance. Though I’ve not personally felt the disconnect with folks in marketing throughout my career, after attending I can most certainly see why there is one!! Creativity and technology are helpful and important but customers are looking for value and businesses are looking for return on investment!

Thanks for all you’ve done to change the game for our team and company. I can’t wait to hear about other companies who take the plunge and change the game internally and externally. It’s not easy but neither is having a workplace with silos and blame for lack of success or, alright I’ll just say it, living under a bridge.

Get on trucking brother,

Josh

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Marcus Sheridan October 1, 2012 at

Brother, what can I say? The pleasure is all mine and all I can ask is that you keep it up. :-)

Marcus

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