Slow Cooker Sundays and Social Media Strategy

Every Sunday for the last three years, millions of people watch a man prepare a slow cooker meal while talking about the telecom industry.

It’s compelling. It’s sloppy. It’s brilliant.

Excuse Me, What?

John Legere is the CEO of T-Mobile, which is the third largest wireless carrier in the U.S. (behind Verizon and AT&T). He is a pretty interesting character. He would be pretty easy to spot in a crowd considering he always wears T-Mobile’s bright magenta.

He’s super active on social media and he interacts with people regularly, or at least someone does on his behalf (but I seriously think it’s probably him).

Every once in a while, a sponsored social media post from T-Mobile will appear in my Facebook feed, and every time I see it, I am impressed.

It isn’t a re-purposed TV ad made for social media. It isn’t an impressive discount on wireless service. It isn’t a celebrity pitching a new phone.

It’s a Facebook Live of T-Mobile CEO John Legere preparing a slow cooker meal in a kitchen while giving updates about T-Mobile, their competitors, and the telecom industry as a whole.

It is absolutely brilliant, and I smile every time I see it.

“But,” you may be wondering, “Why on earth does it make sense for the CEO of a major U.S. wireless carrier to spend his incredibly valuable time preparing a slow cooker meal on Facebook Live?”

That is a fair question. Let me explain why it is a brilliant strategy.

Rise Above the Noise

One of the biggest misunderstandings about marketing on social media is that it should basically be treated like a billboard or a radio advertisement.

A lot of people think social media is just another avenue through which to offer sales or discounts or some other kind of “deal” that will make people purchase a product or sign up for a service.

There is a bit of truth to that. Running paid or organic social media content offering some kind of deal or discount isn’t stupid or anything like that—it just probably isn’t the best and most effective use of social media for marketing purposes.

Why?

Why aren’t deals and steals and coupons the best use of social media?

Because it’s all just noise.

Social media is best used for marketing when companies or organizations or whomever use it to build a relationship with an audience and provide as much value as possible to the audience.

Social media is best used for marketing by creating community and building relationship. It is not best used for making a sale. Other avenues are better for that (like search or email).

John Legere’s Slow Cooker Sunday videos are brilliant because it’s advertising that rises above the noise.

Further, the video is clearly being recorded by someone holding a phone in their hand! The Facebook Live isn’t professionally done to look as clean as possible. That would make it feel more like an ad, and it would be more likely to become noise. By recording the Facebook Live with a shaky hand, Slow Cooker Sundays feels more like an authentic, impromptu, intimate piece of content instead of a polished TV ad. This all makes it more interesting.

The idea of a multi-millionaire CEO slow cooking sweet potato casserole on Sunday afternoon on Facebook Live is outlandish, and it is because it is outlandish that it gets my attention!

Once I watch some of these videos, T-Mobile can re-market to me on Facebook or other platforms because I watched the video. They can re-target me with more hard-sell promotional content.

“Now that he’s watched some of a Slow Cooker Sunday video, he’s more likely to consider T-Mobile,” is the logic, and it’s true! It’s unlikely that I switch off Verizon anytime soon because the deal we have is reasonable for our needs, but if ever did consider a switch, I would consider T-Mobile before I would consider AT&T, and it’s because I feel more affinity with them now that I’ve seen their CEO be goofy and have some fun.

Honestly, it just comes down to this:

The success of a social media strategy largely hinges on one metric: engagement.

Interesting content is more likely to generate engagement than uninteresting content.

A CEO prepping food for a crockpot is more interesting than a graphic with some discounts on it.

Therefore, a CEO manning a slow cooker is better social media content than a promo graphic.

Add in the fact that the guy recording Legere cook is holding the phone with his hand, and the video feels authentic, unpolished, and more intimate.

It really is brilliant. It’s brilliant because it’s different.

A Word on Social Media Strategy

One of the most common obstacles I come across when talking with people about social media strategy is this: marketers care about selling so much that they often forsake building community.

I’ve seen it all over the place. This isn’t a dig at LifeWay, trust me, but I am sure we are guilty of it too. It’s natural.

But, this is why I love social media: it isn’t supposed to feel like marketing.

I didn’t get a degree in marketing. I don’t care about conversion rates or sales numbers or anything like that. It all bores me. I know it is all important, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t get into the social media world because I like marketing.

I got into the social media world because I love people, and I love creating content that’s helpful and interesting to them.

Social media marketing is best done when the needs of the audience are considered more important than the needs of the company.

Social media is best done as a means of service, not as a means of selling.

Social media managers are really better considered “community managers.” They help facilitate community and discussion. They aren’t standing on a street corner with a bullhorn selling newspapers. They’re having people over for dinner and hosting discussion and perhaps providing some entertainment.

Social media managers need to represent their audiences in meetings within their company as much as they need to represent their company amidst their audience. Why? Because they’re listening to the wants and needs of their audience more than the executives are.

In order for a social media manager to best serve his company, he needs to think like an audience member and make the company prove why it should be paid any attention.

It is imperative that social media managers not get romantic about their company and subconsciously assume they will have their audience’s attention. Social media managers must fiercely evaluate the company’s social media content through the eyes of the target audience in order to make sure it is worth anyone’s attention.

The moment a company thinks its audience is coming to its social media platforms because they are wildly interested in the trinkets it is selling, it has lost. Attention cannot be assumed; it must be earned.

People don’t follow brands on social media because they want to be sold. People follow brands on social media because they want to build relationships with other people interested in the brand or with the actual people who make up the brand.

Sure, down the road the affinity and relationship that social media managers build will hopefully turn into better sales numbers for the company. But that isn’t the primary goal of the social media manager when he or she creates content every week.

T-Mobile understands this. Their CEO records video of himself cooking every Sunday because it helps build a relationship. It facilitates community and affinity. Not because those people are going to pause the video and go change their phone carrier.

Social media managers must not be terrorized by the tyranny of the urgent.

Social media strategy done right sees social media as a long game. It requires patience. It requires caring about an audience because of who they are, not just because of what they might buy from you.

Social media strategy done right requires compassion. It requires putting our audiences before our sales goals.

And I have a feeling that’s why so many people deploy bad social media strategies.

We’re more interested in what our audiences can do for us than what we can do for them.

We artificially inflate follower counts because we don’t care about building a tight-knit community as much as we care about building a hollow brand.

Bad social media strategy finds its roots in selfishness.

Good social media strategy is fueled by a focus on others.

Open Tabs 1/12/16

How Oreos Got 40 Million Likes on Facebook—Joel Comm

When it comes to cookies, there’s only one choice–at least on Facebook. (Off Facebook, I’ll take whatever cookie I can get.) Nabisco’s Oreo brand has won Facebook. It’s creamed the opposition, dunked them until they crumble, and, well, you get the picture. Pepperidge Farms’ Milano, which according to one poll is America’s second-favorite store-bought cookie, had a Facebook following of just over 470,000 at the end of 2015. Oreo, the country’s number-one cookie choice, had amassed a Facebook audience of nearly 42 million.

That’s a tremendous difference and it’s not as though Milano isn’t trying. Pepperidge Farms typically posts between 12 and 14 pieces of content every month in a bid to win views and boost engagement, so the company’s social media team isn’t sitting in the canteen munching cookies all day. And yet their rivals at Nabisco are clearly doing better–nearly a hundred times better, in fact. So what are they doing that the Milano makers aren’t?

The Self-Reliant Generation—David Brooks

Last month Fox News released a poll showing Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders in Iowa by 14 points. But the amazing part of the poll was the generation gap. Among likely caucusgoers under 45, Sanders was crushing Clinton 56 to 34 percent. Among the older voters, Clinton was leading 59 to 24.

When you look at numbers like that you get the impression that this millennial generation, having endured the financial crash and stagnant wages, is ready to lead a big leftward push.

Indeed, a Harvard Institute of Politics poll of Americans 18 to 29 found that 56 percent want a Democrat to win the White House while only 36 percent favor a Republican. The leftward shift is striking even within the G.O.P. According to the Pew Research Center, young Republicans are much more moderate than older Republicans. Among millennials who lean Republican, only 31 percent have consistently conservative views. About 51 percent have a mixture of liberal and conservative views.

Parenting in America—Pew Research Center

Contemporary debates about parenthood often focus on parenting philosophies: Are kids better off with helicopter parents or a free-range approach? What’s more beneficial in the long run, the high expectations of a tiger mom or the nurturing environment where every child is a winner? Is overscheduling going to damage a child or help the child get into a good college? While these debates may resonate with some parents, they often overlook the more basic, fundamental challenges many parents face – particularly those with lower incomes. A broad, demographically based look at the landscape of American families reveals stark parenting divides linked less to philosophies or values and more to economic circumstances and changing family structure.

KINDLE DEAL: Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls ($2.99)