The simple reason your social media icons are doing nothing

by DJ Waldow on Apr 02, 2013
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Social Tool

Let’s bring back an important acronym: WIIFM.

It stands for — What’s In It For Me?

That’s the first question I ask every time I see social icons like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Pinterest slapped onto a label, a coffee sleeve, a billboard, the back cover of a magazine, or on a television commercial (nearly always in super-small fine print).

This question is quickly followed by a few more:

What do I do now?
How do I follow or like you?
Whenever I see social icons slapped onto something, I imagine the following scenario:

CEO: WE NEED MORE FOLLOWERS! I keep reading articles saying that social media is hot. Why is nobody following us?

CMO: Great question. Let’s create such compelling content that our fans will be knocking down our virtual doors to follow us! Also, we need to be sure we are clear about what’s in it for them? In other words, why should they follow us? Why should they like us? Oh, and we need to make it easy for them to connect with us. And …

CEO: Hmmm… How much time will that take? We need to get more followers YESTERDAY!

Social Media Expert: How about including the Facebook and Twitter icons in your current marketing collateral?

CEO: Yes! Brilliant. You are the expert. Let’s do it.

CMO: But …

And here is the end result:

Photo Credit: DJ Waldow (iPhone 4S)

Note: This example is from the label on a Lil’ Critters Gummy Vites bottle. I snapped this picture with my iPhone 4S.

The Solution

Okay. I realize that was a bit exaggerated. I also know that I just offended a few CEOs and Social Media Experts. But hopefully you get my point. There are three points to consider when looking at adding these icons to your product or marketing collateral. The first of which is the most important.

  1. If you want more people to connect with you on your social media channels, you must give them a reason (What’s in it for them?).
  2. If you want more people to connect with you on your social media channels, you must make it easy for them to follow and/or like.
  3. If you want more people to connect with you on your social media channels, you must ensure the call it action does not require a magnifying glass to read!

Let’s break down each of those points above using a couple real world examples.

Lil’ Critters Gummy Vites

1. What’s in it for them?

Made in the USA (with flag). Facebook icon. Twitter icon. That’s it? Why should I like this brand on Facebook? Why should I follow it on Twitter? What’s in it for me? Can I expect to see “breaking news” in the gummy vitamin industry? Maybe I’ll get to see pictures of people eating the vitamins? Or maybe – just maybe – you’ll include coupons for discounts on my next purchase of Gummy Vites. Maybe?

2. Did you make it easy?

When I see the example above, I want to click on the icons. My 3-year old daughter, who can navigate my iPhone like a pro, actually has tried to click a Facebook icon on my laptop before. Go figure. Back to this example … what do I do next? How do I like you on Facebook? How do I follow you on Twitter? Where do I go? (hint: What’s the URL?). What do I when I get there?

3. Call to action?

Sure, these icons stand out somewhat, but that’s mostly because they are color pictures while the rest of the copy on this label is black text. However, if you really want to grow your social media following (see comments from made up CEO above), dedicate some more real estate to your social icons!

Sprouts Grocery

As a contrast, let’s ask (and answer) those same questions using a sign I saw at my local Sprouts grocery store here in San Jose, CA.

Sprouts Join Us Sign

First of all, wow. Right?

Take a second to contrast this Sprout sign with the Gummy Vite label above. Night and Day. Black and White. Bad and Great.

The Sprout sign was located at the checkout counter. I was literally pulling out my credit card to pay for my groceries and this sign was just … there. It was impossible to miss.

1. What’s in it for them?

Pretty clear in this sign, huh?


If you go to the Sprouts Facebook page, you’ll see that they are quite active. They also have quite a following (205,000+ likes!).

More importantly, they do everything they promised on the sign. A quick glance on that page shows contests, prizes, coupons, savings, recipes, and tips. The same holds true on the Sprout Twitter page.

That, my friends, is how it’s done.

2. Did you make it easy?

Notice that the sign not only includes the Facebook and Twitter icons, they also include the full link (URL) as well as a QR code. Yes and Yes! For Sprouts especially, this is very important. After all, the URLs are not /sprouts or @sprouts. In fact, its Twitter handle and Facebook username are not even the same. While not ideal, it is what it is. The Sprout sign makes it easier to follow them.

3. Call to action?

Did I mention where this sign is located?


Again, it’s nearly impossible to overlook it. The only thing that would have made this sign better would have been if the grocer had pointed to it while I was paying and said, “Do you follow us on Twitter? Do you like us on Facebook? If not, here’s why you should …”

At this point, I’m hoping you are emailing to your Social Media Expert and telling them to copy what Sprout is doing.

Go. Do that now. Then come back and leave a comment.

Post Author

DJ Waldow is an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that helps make email marketing go from boring...

  • Thank you!

  • Thought of this post when I checked into a hotel this afternoon. They handed me a card with all of the free Wifi info/passwords. That would be a good spot for their social media handles, as I often give a shout-out to the hotel on Twitter when I arrive (especially when the desk staff is especially pleasant, as they were today).

  • I’ve given that exact recommendation to a couple hotels before. It is very smart advice. I also think they should have Instagram and Foursquare signs at the pool and other photo-worthy amenities like spas, rooftops, etc.

  • Donna Merrill

    Every business needs this! People using their phones to scan a “freebie” or coupon wherever they go is a good sign that this is the new wave of doing business. Just went to a local “Dunk’n Donuts” and scanned …. got a free cup of coffee! This makes the buyer more attentive to perks a company is giving.

  • Thank YOU!

  • Great idea. Wow. Love that.

  • More smart ideas…

  • Good point, Donna. Love it.

  • Great examples. The same can be said about the ubiquitous use of QR codes. At least it appears Sprouts put some thought into it. (I personally love everything about their marketing… From their Twitter and FB to their email newsletters!)

  • Tonya! Hey there. Yeah … the QR code. Man, I’ve rarely seen that one used effectively!

  • Great post. I cannot wait to share with our audience. I love how you broke it down to be an easy to follow process, just like the business needs to break it down to the customer to be an easy to follow process.

  • Great article! You just gave me a good reason to follow….you!

  • DJ, great post! I totally agree with you that there’s too much of that last-minute, “let’s slap the Twitter logo on here and call it good” stuff happening. The standout brands in social media are offering something more on these platforms(and not always discounts!).

  • Just LOVE this article. ^_^ As always, you have a knack for breaking it down. Must be the gummy vites.

  • Thanks so much Rosie. Long time no … chat! Yeah. I need to toss those Gummy Vites. Turns out they are full of crap!

  • Thanks for your comment, Elisabeth. Good point too that it’s not always about offering a discount. What else have you seen that’s effective?

  • See? It works!

  • Appreciate that! Glad it was helpful

  • Juliska

    Careful, you’re really asking for trouble from the Gummy Vites people.

  • Not sure if your comment was meant to be serious or not. Wait. What sort of trouble?

  • RavenCourtney

    Great post, DJ! You can’t go wrong keeping your audience front and center. And imagine my surprise and delight that our most-coveted Raven Tools T-shirt makes a cameo, too! :) Social tools unite!

  • Was hoping you’d notice the t-shirt!

  • For b2b brands, offering unique knowledge that people can access through social media platforms (e.g. offering tips and tricks not available on any other platform to Facebook fans) seems to have worked really well. Any sort of “exclusive”, really.

  • Great article!! So many times I cringe when I see commercials and it says find us on facebook and it just shows the icon… that does not help me! People need to get a bit more creative and engage others on why they want to connect and the obvious – how do I find you exactly?

  • Your CEO/CMO dialog was missing a key element….the CIO. I would have had the CIO listed in the conversation, but with the CIO asking what “tool” could we install to get followers…

  • EXACTLY! I also always want to click the icons … on the TV screen!

  • Ha. Good point.

  • Hooray! You nailed it and here’s hoping that from your pen/mouth to CEO’s ears everywhere this message sinks in! Great post.

  • Thanks, Mike!

  • Great read, DJ.

  • Doug Rotherham

    Nice article – I’d even share it if I could find the share buttons. Oh wait, found ’em. All the way back at the top of the page!

  • Thanks for sharing Doug!

  • Are you serious that they’ve just printed the social media icons on the bottle? I mean, are the people really thinking about what they are doing or they just unthinkingly do what they are told? Anyways, this is a brilliant article, @djwaldow:disqus. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Anne: Dead. Serious. Ha! Thanks for your kind words about the article. It’s been floating around in my head for a few months!

  • Loryn Kasten

    Great post DJ. A good reminder that you can’t just be in the “social” world, you actually have to engage and converse.

  • Thanks Loryn … and HOW THE HECK ARE YOU???

  • Amy Porterfield just recommended this article. NICE! Clear, concise, and right on the money. It’s SO obvious, now that you point it out.

  • Thanks so much Robbie! And thanks for being an email newsletter subscriber … and soon-to-be LinkedIn connection. I’m a HUGE Amy Porterfield fan.

  • Super article! Great example of Sprouts to show just how effective having an incentive along with your call to action can be.

  • Social media icons are everywhere and are on seemingly everything; packaging, signage, products, and more.

  • Bill

    Great article, but please tone down your personal picture. You look horrifically intense.

  • I definitely thought about this when, one day while eating breakfast, I saw a Facebook and Twitter icon on my milk carton.

    I thought…why on earth would I follow my milk guy on Twitter?

  • Kurt

    This is some really incredible and timely information! The light bulb went on for me in a BIG way tonight as a result of your writings. Took a photo of the Sprouts sign…then began to scroll down as I’m thinking, WOW this is SO VERY COOL…only to be met by your smiling face with a look that seems to say…Dude, ain’t it though?!? It was perfect, your photo totally fit the moment.:) We will most definitely be incorporating this into our marketing campaign. Thanks DJ!!

  • I need to show excellent online freelancing opportunity… 3 to 5 h of work /a day… Weekly paycheck… Extra bonus for job well done…Earnings of $6k-$9k /for month… Just few h of spare time, a pc, elementary knowledge of internet and dependable internet-connection needed…Click on my disqus~~~~page to@ learn more

  • Although this article is nearly 3 years old, the content is still very relevant today, too many people making the same mistake when it comes to social media, I will now be reviewing my own on my site, many thanks. :)