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Vanity or Value – the truth about social media marketing

By Business

A long time ago a man was led to a pool. It was a bright sunny day and there was not a cloud in the sky. He was hopeful and optimistic. He peered into the water which was as reflective that day as an endless mirror.

He saw himself. In those days seeing your refection was not something that was common. At first, he did not realise it was even him, so overcome with emotion, he could not believe what he was seeing. The day went on, clouds crossed the sky as the day turned into night. However this man could not look away, he saw beauty, talent and charisma – it was him. The more he looked, the more he liked what he saw. Soon, days passed and the man became increasingly unhappy, nothing could compare to what he saw in the pool and slowly looking at his reflection became anĀ obsession.

Unfortunately for this man time moved on, seasons changed, new alliances were formed and trends came and went. However, he continued to be obsessed with the reflection he saw in this pool and wanted more. He wanted it brought to life, to accompany him everywhere – the perfect companion. Eventually, he could not take it anymore, his obsession turned deadly as he became so dissatisfied with life because nothing else could compare. His name was Narcissus.

While this story is dramatic and contains a character that no one these days wants to be (or pretends not to be), in truth there is an increasing number of vanity based marketing tactics that are now becoming mainstream. The main culprit is social media, where everyone has the opportunity, at a perceived low cost, or even at no cost, to promote themselves and what they do.

Before the days of social media the opportunity to be seen by the masses was rare since it either cost a lot of money or required doing something newsworthy – either good or bad. Social media has broken this down, putting control in the hands of business owners and individuals. Now with social media, you can share your accomplishments with the masses with one single post or advertisement.

However, I have to ask you, dear readers – the question remains, do your customers care? And more importantly – will this spur them to engage with your business.

Over the years as a marketer, I have seen accountants, lawyers, cafe owner, human resource consultants and coaches advertise and promote themselves on social media.

I have come to the conclusion that for most businesses, social media is what we at Business Growth Partners refers to as vanity tactics. Vanity tactics are marketing activities that generate no value but have a great way of bolstering a business owner’s ego. Social media for most businesses, and in particular, service-based businesses is so good at doing this by padding egos but failing to bring customers.


Being seeing is great. In marketing we call that brand awareness, but if people become aware of you don’t see the value in what you provide, what is the point?

The fundamentals of marketing have not changed since the 1960s. Marketing begins with identifying what value you deliver to your customers. A vanity tactic, while potentially raising awareness of your brand, may not be targeted at your customers. Facebook, for instance, is a platform where it can be easy to be seen with the right advertisement. But do people really go on there looking for business advice? Or are they more focused on checking out what their family and friends are up to and looking at pictures of cute puppies and kittens? LinkedIn conversely is not the place where you post family photos and inside jokes, however, I see this countless times from mature, non-millennials who treat the platform in a similar manner to Facebook.

It all goes back to your customers and what would make them undertake a purchase. It’s time to get real and not get caught up in the vanity but instead use marketing to demonstrate your value to your target customers.