Think conversation, not campaign. If you really want to start understanding your audience, you need to know what drives them and what their buying behaviors are. You can’t do this by sharing kitten memes or quotes, and you certainly can’t do this by only allowing for one-way conversation. Says Brooke Ballard (@madSMscientist), in-the-trenches digital marketer and owner at B Squared Media.

brooke ballard

The Q&A with Brooke Ballard, aka Mad Social Media Scientist, is finally here. Learn how she transforms social campaign into conversation to achieve better marketing results for her clients.

Who is Brooke Ballard? In her own words…  I’m a Texas transplant living in NYC. I still say y’all and can’t shake my southern manners. I’ve always chosen the path less traveled, and most recently that path has led me to entrepreneurship. Through my honors thesis study I learned the “secret” to social media and online marketing. And after putting my theories to practice for a little over a year, I decided to build a business, B Squared Media, around what I know. We currently work with many million and billion-dollar B2B brands, as well as some B2C brands whose mission is to give back to society.

What are the common social media pitfalls?

The #1 most common (fatal) mistake I see with companies is planning to fail. What I mean by that is that they don’t have a formal strategy or plan for their social media efforts, and without one their messaging will probably not be heard over the noise. Constantly sharing memes is not a strategy. Talking about yourself won’t work. Selling aggressively is laughable. Coming up with some sort of viable plan for both relationship building and building your lists is the way to go.dude_Brooke

Other common social media pitfalls are:

  • Spelling and grammar errors (this is probably a close 2nd!)
  • Linking social media sites to “save” time
  • Signing up for sites and then never posting there
  • Using every social media network
  • Not knowing the difference between tone and voice
  • Thinking campaign instead of conversation (not interacting with your communities)
  • Not humanizing your brand
  • Jargon speak
  • Not sharing value

How to build a following on social networks?

We find companies have the ‘shiny object syndrome’ and want to be on every platform. We encourage them to get focused, and choose only three platforms to start. Messaging gets diluted or redundant when you’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Foursquare, Google+, etc..

It’s also important to choose the networks that compliment your business. If you’re B2B, that may be LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’re selling a visual product or service, Instagram and Pinterest are good places to start.

Identify where your brand best fits first, and then take a look at where your target users spend their time. This will ensure you’re able to grow a decent following on your chosen platforms.

We also don’t get mired in the numbers. Vanity metrics are where amateurs focus – relationships and conversions are where your focus should be.


How to turn a passive follower into an engaged community member?

Our tag line says it best: Think Conversation, Not Campaign. If you really want to start understanding your audience, you need to know what drives them and what their buying behaviors are. You can’t do this by sharing kitten memes or quotes, and you certainly can’t do this by only allowing for one-way conversation.

It’s kind of like dating. You have to “woo” your target customers with good content. You have to prove you’re more valuable than the next guy/girl. And you must show them you care.

Two-way conversation also means responding to negative comments. You’d be surprised at how many companies stick their head in the sand by ignoring or deleting less-than-stellar feedback. 

An Oracle report found that 79% of those that complained about customer service (online) had their complaints ignored.

Those complaints — as well as the good stuff — are your ticket to finding out exactly what consumers want from you … firsthand!

How to use psychographic research for social media success?

Psychographics — beliefs, opinions, feelings, values — can only be extracted through conversation. Scratch that. Psychographics can only be extracted when both parties are vulnerable, trustworthy, and accepting. If you, or your brand, is not those things then you will probably have a hard time getting people to share self disclosures with you – even if the conversation is flowing.

Imagine, though, being able to take the feelings of your community and put them to work for your brand. When you know things like values and opinions, you can make direct correlations with buying patterns.


Psychographics answer the question every marketer is trying to answer: “What do my buyers want?” So have more conversations. Woo your audience. Be dateable. Eventually you’ll be able to ask psychographics-type questions and get answers.

How to achieve a return on social media conversation?

ROI = Return on Investment and ROC = Return on Conversation.

With social media, I don’t think you can get to a ROI without a ROC. 

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My undergrad honors thesis work looked at ROCs and posed this simple question: “Can deeper interactions (garnering psychographics) and relationship building happen online (specifically on Facebook), between brands and consumers?”

The answer is YES.

However, to get to YES you’re going to have to move past fluff and memes and get out of your comfort zone. You’re going to have think more deeply about the conversations you’re having.

  • If everything you post on social media is cliché, your results will be cliché
  • If you only share dull facts, you may only receive factual information in return
  • If you push for opinions and feelings — and are sure to share your own — you may start to receive opinions and feelings from your community

It’s that simple. 

Or maybe it’s not. But if it isn’t, I’m fearful of what may happen to your business as the Consumer Revolution continues to flourish.

The bottom line is that companies can no longer see consumers as dollar signs. They can’t even view them as avatars or User1234. If they want to stay on top (and in business) they have to start building relationships with their connected communities.

Sharing is caring. Don’t keep everything inside. You might explode.

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