How to create a cult following on social media without selling your soul


Image: julia tim/ shutterstock

Few things are as heretical in branding as telling No to the question of monetization. After all, moneys the level, right?

Well, yes and no.

Obviously, adopting a just-do-awesome-stuff-and-the-money-will-follow approach is dangerous. Equally dangerous, nonetheless, is the monetize-everything-you-and-your-business-do mentality. Why? Because people dislike it, especially on social media.

In other terms, with most brands theres a pain unplug between the words social and social media. That disconnect is the reason a mere 5 percent of all branded content accounts for 90 percent of engagement. And its the same underlying reason that built Worlds Worst Person Decides to Go into Marketing one of The Onions most popular headlines.

Whats the answer?

Two tips-off: the first, theological, and the second, about an unlikely savior cookies.

Dont sell your being

As humans, were all naturally self-centered. Biologically, its about survival. And in business, its the same. Thankfully, self-centeredness drives a host of wonderful outcomes like development, invention, and success itself.

Unfortunately, theres a dark side. As The Guardian reported last year in I, narcissist vanity, social media, and the human condition 😛 TAGEND

Numerous studies claim to have built direct links between the increase in narcissistic personality disorder( NPD) and the ubiquity of social media. Behaviours such as attempting to attract more followers, wanting to tell followers about their own lives, and the need to programme a positive image at all times have been described by researchers as examples of exhibiting narcissistic personality traits on social media.

This individual narcissism easily bleeds its way into business. On the marketing front, verification bias our predisposition to filter and interpret knowledge in ways that demonstrate what we already believe leads to all kinds of me-centered pitfalls like imaginary audiences, discounting proof, and overgeneralizing best practices. On social media, commandments like Thou shalt not hog the conversation and Thou shalt not be indifferent to the voice of thy customer show just how prevailing the problem is.

The real issue, nonetheless, comes down understanding, dividing, and prioritizing branded content from genuinely social content. The former, as Robert Rose describes it, middles on the value of your brand as the hero . Such content isnt bad and should, of course, be a part of your social-media mix. But merely a part.

Genuinely social content is content that makes your audience the hero . It augments me-centered posts with content thats meant to revel, teach, celebrate, and entertain not sell .

One antidote to this dilemma is user-generated content( UGC ). Pura Vida Bracelets, for example as well as a host of other millennial brands have built UGC a cornerstone of their social media by actively trying out and promoting their audiences own positions and shares 😛 TAGEND

Image: Aaron Orendorff

The bottom-line results of UGC are powerful. Yotpos The Future of User-Generated Content analyzed over 500 million online shoppers and found that people who viewed UGC on were 161 percent more likely to purchase than people who didnt.

Nonetheless, its a dangerous game. Even with the best of intentions, any of us can end up selling our social-media being. We take what should be the social side the human, relational, people-centric side and stimulating it overtly about us.

So how do we save ourselves? The answer comes from an unlikely source.

Dont sell cookies

Like most great notions, Sol Orwell stumbled into #cookielife on collision.

As the founder of a nutritional research site with 2 million monthly visitors and a humankind whose claims to notoriety include chronicling the loss of 50 pounds in Mens Health, mentoring at two1 2 alongside 4-Hour Body writer Tim Ferriss, and has become a digital consultant to Arnold Schwarzenegger cookies dont sound like an obvious choice.

Its a weird tale, Orwell told me after we connected, but it started at the end of 2015 when I told some pals I was gonna bringing the best damn cookies theyd ever tasted in their lives to a meetup. That commentary turned into a challenge, and current challenges into a social-media cult. Over the last year, Orwells received hundreds of unsolicited cookie endowments at seminars, events, and through the mail.

Image: Aaron orendorff

In many ways, #cookielife is an extension of the same non-soul-selling ethos that governs Orwells networking itself: It doesnt have a hidden agenda. Its only this ridiculous thing, and people recollect ridiculousness.

But dont be clowned, ridiculous doesnt mean disorganized. To prove this, Orwell continues an Evernote list of everyone whos sent or promised to send him cookies, which he works through every couple of weeks.

Sol Orwells cookie listing contacts.

Image: Aaron Orendorff

In addition, over the last few months, #cookielife has been picked up by a host of news outlets: most notably, Inc ., Entrepreneur, and BroBible( all results of Orwells intentional online connects ). In January, the first annual Chocolate Chip Cookie Off was held. Subsequentlies, he dropped a 2,700 -word blog post How I get 27 professional chef& bakers to attain cookies that outlined the research stage, social-media imagery, his email outreach and follow-up scheme, as well as a postmortem detailing every little flaw or mistake we committed so that next time is 10x smoother 😛 TAGEND

Image: Sol Orwell/ Facebook

In all of that, one point stands out: With #cookielife and my other food feasts, Ive resisted all recommendations to make a website, an Instagram account, or even an official brand . The #cookielife was never about any of that. It wasnt even about me. Its about people having fun. Selling cookies would kill everything.

Well stated. But the issues to remains: Can #cookielife be engineered by brands?

Orwell tells utterly.

Its not about get emotional and oversharing; its more about allows users and your business weird thing, your make, your adoration, what makes you smile not despite but because of its ridiculousness to shine. Naturally, thats easier for personal brands. But big brands can create the same effects: believe Lego, Harley Davidson, Apple, LaCroix, Dollar Shave Club, CrossFit, and more.

When it comes to social media, most enterprises are quick to sell their spirits in exchange for a few more clicks and short-term profitability. What merges Orwell and all the instances only listing is not great products but great stories and a relentless focus to make it about the person or persons they serve not themselves .

Thats how you build a cult. And thats how you save your soul.

Aaron Orendorff is the founder of iconiContent and a regular benefactor at Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider and more. Connect with him about content marketing( and bunnies) on Facebook or Twitter .

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