Content is king, context is God, and then there’s effort. Together, they are the holy trinity for winning on Facebook, Twitter, and any other platform, and even for winning in any business. Without effort—intense, consistent, committed, 24-7 effort—the best social media micro-content placed within the most appropriate context will go down as gracelessly as James “Buster” Douglas when he crashed to the mat at the end of his November 1990 fight with Evander “the Real Deal” Holyfield. It’s a sad story, though it should have been the next Rocky. At the time of the fight, Douglas had been enjoying fame as the world heavyweight champion after unexpectedly trouncing the then-undefeated heavyweight champion, “Iron” Mike Tyson, nine months earlier—an upset that put my fifteen-year-old self in such a state of shock, I hid in my bed and missed a day of school. Dead serious. No one had expected Douglas to win that earlier fight. Tyson was the best boxer in the world; some thought he was the best boxer ever. This was the tenth time he was defending his title. Douglas had proved to be an unreliable fighter at best, and often carried more weight than he should. The odds were so high in Tyson’s favor that only one casino would even take bets on the fight. Most people were watching just to see how fast Tyson could knock Douglas out. But Douglas had done something no one expected of him—he trained like a man possessed. He was partly motivated by the unexpected death of his mother: “I knew that, somewhere, she was saying, ‘That’s my boy. He’s gonna do it.’ If I didn’t do my best, if I didn’t do what I was capable of, I thought my mama’s ride to heaven would be a little harder. I didn’t want that.” But he had also met Mike Tyson in person and walked away unimpressed. Tyson couldn’t be the undefeatable monster everyone said he was, and Douglas was going to prove it. By the time he stepped into the ring with Tyson, he had more than doubled his bench-press capability from 180 to 400 pounds, lost more than thirty pounds of weight, and watched countless tapes of Tyson fights. He studied Iron Mike’s techniques, identified his flaws, and with the help of his managers and trainers, put together a strategy to take him down. The effort paid off. Despite having been laid up with the flu just twenty-four hours earlier, Douglas pummeled Tyson with a series of strong, confident jabs, until at one point Tyson, his eye almost completely swollen shut, was literally using the ropes to keep himself standing upright. Douglas handed Tyson the first defeat of his career. Effort is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if your competitor is three times bigger than you and built like a Mack truck, or if it has a marketing budget that matches the GDP of a medium-size country, or if it has a staff of hundreds and you are alone in your broom closet with two laptops, an iPad, and a cell phone. What matters is the effort you put into your work. And never has effort counted more than it does today. Social media gave access to the market and even an edge over corporate behemoths to creative, determined, nimble upstarts. But now that big business has finally started investing in social media platforms like Facebook, albeit hesitantly, entrepreneurs no longer have as strong an advantage as they once did. One or two people just can’t be in as many places at once building community as a staff of twenty. What they can still do, however, is win through effort. Budgets should have no effect on the amount of effort, heart, and sincerity that can go into your conversations with your customers. You can’t be everywhere at once, but when the quality of your communication and communitybuilding efforts is better than anyone else’s, it doesn’t really matter. If you throw a great jab or right hook on Facebook, people will start to comment. Marketers that creatively and sincerely engage in as many of those resulting conversations as possible will be able to scale their relationships higher than their opponent. You should make sure to tag the person you want to talk to, to guarantee they see you have replied, and to bring them back to your page to continue the dialogue. Maybe you see that some people are unclear about the hours of your Black Friday sale, or they’re not sure that the sale is happening in all your store locations. By going back and clearing up the confusion, you’re amplifying your right hook and solidifying your relationship with your customers. And while you’re there, be charming. Be funny. Show you care. People love to be entertained and informed, but they’ll take that from anyone. The real connection, and the loyalty, happens when they believe that you care about them both as a customer and as an individual. People are usually astonished when a brand puts in extra effort to make them happy. That’s how rarely it happens, and that’s where you, whether you’re an entrepreneur or a big business, can separate yourself from the rest of the pack. Bigger businesses will be able to jump in on more conversations than others, but volume alone won’t raise a brand’s engagement levels—the quality of the conversation will. The thing to remember, however, is that you’re fighting a never-ending boxing match. It’s
true that brands that throw out consistently skillful storytelling jabs and right hooks can eventually build up so much brand equity that they don’t need to engage with quite the same frenzy as a newcomer, or a brand working to repair its reputation, but it’s all relative. Twenty percent less of massive amounts of engagements is usually still more than most marketers’ average engagement levels. But you cannot get lazy and rest on your laurels. You’ve got to keep putting in the effort, or you’ll get knocked out in ten minutes. In Buster Douglas’s case, it took seven minutes and forty-five seconds, to be exact. Douglas’s story, which started out as an underdog triumph, took a disappointing turn about nine months after his historic win over Mike Tyson. When he left the ring in February, he was in the best shape of his life and the new heavyweight champion of the world. He spent the next months doing the media circuit, appearing on the David Letterman show, posing for the cover of Sports Illustrated, signing autographs, and enjoying his fame. At the same time, however, he was still grieving for his mother. He also admitted to suffering from stress and depression due to a dispute with Don King, the boxing promoter with the electric shock of hair, who did his best to have the results of the Douglas-Tyson fight overturned. What he did not do was return to the training ring with the same intensity that he had when preparing for the Tyson fight. By the time he weighed in for his fight with Evander Holyfield, he looked like he’d eaten every cheeseburger in the world. When Douglas and Holyfield faced off in the ring on November 9, 1990, they didn’t seem overwhelmingly mismatched. Even the announcer commented, maybe with a little surprise, that there wasn’t much difference in size between the two. What he didn’t comment on, yet what was obvious the second each fighter took off his robe, was the difference in their shape. Holyfield’s trapezii were so built up, his head appeared to be sitting on a perfectly sharp, muscular triangle. His massive shoulders and chest seemed cut from granite, beautifully defined as a statue’s. As Douglas strutted into his corner, however, the tire around his waist jiggled slightly above his shiny white shorts; as he bobbed on his toes, his pecs shimmied, and his breasts drooped like soft little sponges. As the fight began, it was like watching a bull face off against a bulldog. Douglas was knocked out in the fourth round. Effort. It matters more than most people want to admit.