I imagine that when Amy Jo Martin sat down to write about her various experiences in branding, marketing and social media, she had one – and only one — story to tell: her own. She worked in sports marketing before landing with the Phoenix Suns and leading their social media efforts at a time when “social” wasn’t the most apt way to describe how people received the platform.
Amy Jo found resistance, she found neglect, she found ignorance. And to her credit, she didn’t allow her own intuition and business savvy to be compromised by the fears and insults of others. She saw the next wave of business before others did.
She also saw the next wave of her own life, too, the tide that would bring everything – professional and personal – together without pulling something back on its way out. Through that story, she strived to motivate and inspire.
She told that story with “Renegades Write The Rules,” and she told it quite well. Personal inspiration and intellectual innovation is a potent combo, a combo Amy Jo delivers.
What fascinates me, though, is that by sharing her story, Amy Jo produced not one book, but thousands of books. How so?
Some people will find Renegades to be of the “self-help” variety, so positive and inspirational that it’s almost cleansing to read. That’s because Amy Jo’s story IS positive and inspirational, and her tone is such that it’s almost as if she’s trying to reach through the pages (or screen – I purchased it on my iPad) and use her own hands to pull you up by your collar and get you moving. I’ve never met Amy Jo, but I imagine that’s her natural personality, her innate presence and energy.
For me, the real beauty of Renegades is this: No two people will read and interpret it the same. Your job, responsibilities, experience, current circumstances, et al, will all dictate how you comprehend the book and how you attempt to apply its principles. It will be different for everyone.
I didn’t buy Amy Jo’s book to be inspired, per se. I came across it on Twitter (just like you planned it, right, Amy Jo?) and thought the idea was cool – someone started a social media consultancy and has had great success. Oh, cool. How’d they do that? I was just curious. Then I looked at Amy Jo’s website, I checked out her company Digital Royalty, and read about her personal story a little bit. And, well, I’m a documented sucker for people who have the courage and confidence to try things others likely would not.
So in that sense, Amy Jo’s own story was inspiring without her even saying a word about it. I purchased Renegades for her business intellect and to see what I could take from it. Amy Jo outlines specific guidelines in her book, which I will not divulge here. If you’re curious enough to read, you should support her book (the digital version runs for somewhere around $12-13). Plus, like I said, everyone’s takeaways will be different. But I will share five principles I gained from reading Renegades and that I think we can better utilize going forward.
1. Sell your purpose, then your product
One of the “ah ha!” moments for me in Renegades was the realization that people oftentimes buy the intent of your product (“your ‘why,’” as Amy Jo calls it) rather than your product itself. It’s easy – especially in an age of digital business – to forget that human connection is still valued between many buyers. Cold transactions work for the seller – “Is money coming in? OK, we’re good.” – but that’s a shortsighted opinion. You may say, “How can that be in an online business where you’ll never talk to a person or see them? What kind of ‘connection’ is that?”
You don’t need to shake somebody’s hand – that could be impossible. But customers, virtual or otherwise, want to be acknowledged. They want to know you’re listening. They want to know why you care about your product and why you’re in the business you’re in (I admit that it can be difficult to shun the jaded voice that screams, “For your damn money, dude!”) They want to know that there’s something … else besides money motivating you. Amy Jo drives this point home repeatedly in Renegades, and it made me think about “my why” and how that can be better conveyed.
2. Don’t assume you know more than your audience
We have more resources than ever (human and technological), more data than ever, more education than ever. Essentially, we have every reason to believe that we know our customer/audience better than ever before. And I think that’s correct. I think we do. But in the process of being empowered by this information and our experiences and our ideas, it’s easy to forget that the fundamental purpose of every single business everywhere is providing an audience with a service/product that they want.
The best way to find out what someone wants? Ask. This concept is entirely foreign on many levels, because the vast majority of customers, I imagine, have no real idea of the process it takes to supply the product they desire. And, really, they shouldn’t know or care. They just want what they want. It’s oddly enlightening to think, “Hey, I don’t actually have to use anybody’s idea or advice if I don’t believe in it, so why not seek it?” If we did that, I think we’d find that there are some pretty smart consumers and, if even only once in a while, they’d contribute ideas worth pursuing. That’s a win for everybody.
3. Use social channels to engage before using them to sell
I was jotting down notes as I read Renegades, and I condensed a couple pages of texts into this:
Increased brand awareness = increased engagement = increased brand sentiment = increased revenue.
A big challenge Amy Jo discusses in her book is getting executives to see how they can monetize their social media efforts, because it’s not as simple as tracking impressions or other traditional metrics. And what Amy Jo suggests is simple but progressive: Impressions don’t often convert, but influence almost always does. You create influence through building connections and relationships. So engage the audience and gain their trust before worrying about where the money is. What you’ll earn is brand loyalty, and then you’re winning.
4. New platform, new metrics
I liked this just because it reminds me of the sports business I happen to be in. Amy Jo has found that traditional indicators for branding success don’t really do social media justice because they supply surface-level information – they tell you that there is a problem, somewhere. But metrics designed to track social media (i.e. to gauge influence), highlight the problem and can be used in a predictive way to create real value.
For any baseball fan out there – and fans of other sports, too, but maybe on a slightly lesser level – you’ll notice that paragraph perfectly describes your sport. The argument isn’t that one era of information should be totally canned and replaced with new information. The point is we have more personal information that can be used in conjunction with the old style to get us closer to truth, and it’s stubborn, at best, to not embrace it.
5. Pull the curtain back
There is no doubt about this: Companies should have a social media policy – even if it’s as simple as the eight-word policy Amy Jo uses in Renegades – and educate employees on how to best use social tools.
With that said, it’s clear that most brands can be much more aggressive in the social space, and instead of fearing the disastrous potential of social media, you can learn how to use it to police your brand. There’s also a very tangible reason for allowing people to see inside the mansion a little bit more.
As Amy Jo notes in her book, “personal access is the entry point for growing any brand.” When consumers get authentic access, they develop an affinity for a brand and, in turn, brand loyalty. We work and live in an environment of extraordinary technology and tremendous products. We have options, many of them in some instances. As we fight to create a competitive advantage, it’s neat to think that an advantage can be gained through social media without changing one thing about the product. We can improve business simply in the way we interact with fans and allow them associate people and personalities with a brand.
You don’t necessarily need to invite fans into the living room, but there’s no need for iron gates and “Beware of dog” signs anymore.
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