Social Media Marketing Lessons From 1902


I recently read Successful Advertising: How to Accomplish It by J. Angus MacDonald. I bought this book, which was first printed in 1902, as a novelty, but after perusing it I realized that a lot of its key lessons still apply today. Below are some social marketing best practices from 1902.

“There is a constant fight between art and business (each of which is very important), and only the ad man who knows his business strikes at the happy medium.”

There is merit to being able to create a piece of content that is visually captivating, well written, clever, tear-jerking, or just really cool. But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. You may think your left shark post is pretty cool, but you know what your CEO thinks is cool? The bottom line.

Establish a content strategy that is rooted in business goals, then you can get creative. Have a voice for your social content that is rooted in your company’s brand guidelines, if you have them. Take pride in creating quality content because this is what lends authenticity to your brand. The “art” is the trojan horse containing the “business”.

“Say nothing in advertising talk except when you have something to say.”

Let’s say National Aardvark Day is coming up and you want your brand to get in on the fun with a witty tweet. Stop. Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Why? What will you gain by doing this? What might you lose if it doesn’t go well? If you have a reasonable answer proceed to question two. If you do not have a valid answer, step away from the editorial calendar.
  2. Can you connect this to your brand in a way that doesn’t feel like a social team spent 2 hours googling the best aardvark meme? If the answer yes, proceed. If the answer is no, don’t sweat it. You don’t have to jump into every trending topic or weird holiday. Pick your moments and make them count.

“When you say something in advertising talk say it as quickly and clearly as possible.”

Get to the point. It is often opined that consumers have shorter attention spans than ever, but the reality is that being succinct has always been necessary. At Indeed we’ve found that tweets with 100 characters or less (not including links) drive higher engagement. Write like you speak, edit like you’re being charged by the word.

“Pictures tell the story quicker than type and the two make the winning combination.”

It’s common knowledge that images make for more engaging social content than plain text, but this is not new or unique to social. Social media is a new platform, but most of the best practices for traditional marketing and advertising apply.

Today we may have more sophisticated advertising vehicles and enhanced analytics, but the best practices for delivering your message effectively haven’t changed that much. Don’t get social media tunnel vision. Expand your knowledge of other marketing functions (old and new) and you’ll be a better social marketer. Thanks J. Angus!


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