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Social Media Marketing: Are You Playing To The Cheap Seats Or Preaching To The Choir?


Marketing through social media is a minefield of potential slip ups and disasters, but when it is done right, it can be the most useful publicity tool that a business will ever have. In fact, if you can believe it, even the disasters can do wonders for your brand. The biggest disaster on social media, however, is not that of attracting unwanted attention (within reason), rather it is attracting no attention at all. You could be the Chopin of witty social media, but that doesn’t matter if nobody is listening to the piece that you are playing.

So how do you get people to listen?

We can talk this subject to death, but the truth is that there are no hard and fast techniques that guarantee a strong social media following. However, that does not mean that there are not tried and tested angles that work better than others. And it certainly does not mean that you are safe from falling into bad habits and ineffective online marketing.

One phrase that is thrown around a lot is “playing to the cheap seats”. That is, giving a wide variety of people fun, enjoyable, yet relevant content that they can share —shareable memes, witty tweets, top ten lists, etc. This is the sort of stuff that generates a lot of buzz around a particular brand without having to take too much time or energy to do it. Take the example of Oreo. The cookie company gained a lot of attention for its hilarious and swift response to the blackout at this year’s Super Bowl. This buzz reached a wide audience where lovers or haters of Oreo could still have a fun. They soon followed this up with a successful social media campaign directed more towards their social followers, where they had people send in pictures and asked Oreo to #cookieit or #cremeit.

This campaign was incredibly successful, because it gave a large amount of people something that they could enjoy seeing online. It was something original, and at the same time, still relevant to Oreo. So what’s the difference between “playing to the cheap seats” and “preaching to the choir.” Well, in short, playing to the cheap seats is playing to a vast audience with general yet relevant content, while preaching to the choir, on the other hand, is talking directly to a specific or “specialized” niche within your community.

Allow me to clarify. What Oreo did correctly was they appealed to people who already loved their product, while also endearing themselves to others who (I am sure there are some out there) have never tried an Oreo cookie before (aka the cheap seats), while following up to their faithful followers (aka the choir).

Keep in mind, to grow big and have influence, it would be wise to reach out to a large audience who will appreciate your content without having to be experts in the field. At the same time, it is recommended to take care of your “choir” or specialized community by generating specific content that your more narrow audience will be able to enjoy at the same time.

However, as mentioned, there is a “right way” to do this, that is, use social media to connect with your customers, your “choir.” Take the example of a company like home automation company Vivint. Reviews, complaints, comments, and questions all come filtering through Vivint’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. But the company has built up a solid reputation and good name for themselves, simply through spending time responding and dealing with question and concerns of their customers.

So then, should you play to the cheap seats? Or preach to the choir? Well, if you want to do it right, the best answer should be this: Both.

Lindsey Patterson, a freelance writer who specializes in technology and the latest social trends, specifically involving social media. She is currently a social media advisor to Vivint.
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