Around the year 1600, in Cambridge, England, there was a stable owner named Thomas Hobson. When a prospective customer arrived at his stable to rent a horse, he would not offer the customer his choice of the horses in the stable. Instead, the customer would be offered Hobson’s choice: the sole option of the horse nearest the door, take it or leave it.
In the world of 2012, the common thinking regarding social media marketing is to give the customer a wide range of different options: types of content to receive by email, channels to subscribe to on twitter, or pages on Facebook for different products distributed by a business. We are in a complex digital world, so why should we desire to keep things simple?
In point of fact, most customers favor simplicity in making decisions. Studies show that when faced with an online interface with many buttons, drop-down menus, and options, the user gravitates to the largest and most colorful button, regardless of what its function is.
If a large, colorful, “call-to-action” button is the focus of any user’s experience, all the other information on the web page surrounding is mere peripheral information, and plays a minimal role in the user’s experience of the page, besides to distract him from the main focus. Consider these examples of prominent call-to-action buttons.
Four hundred years ago, an English stable owner had the Arby’s moment that the call-to-action of a stable customer was to obtain a horse. So Hobson cut out all the chaff and pared the experience down to its basic function. And he remains a household name to this day.
The late visionary Steve Jobs also realized this. He ordered the iPhone (and the subsequent iPad) to be designed with only one button, which had the call-to-action of returning the user to the home screen. No matter where you are in any app, the single call-to-action button will quickly and simply take you home. Note how this radical and simple design decision took root in the entire mobile market, such that after the 2007 launch of the iPhone, almost every other mobile device on the market came to look like a clone of the iPhone.
How can you integrate Hobsonian simplicity into your social marketing strategy?
Easy. Just define your priorities in your marketing scheme and create a simple call-to-action for your customers. Do you want them to Like your Facebook, enter a sweepstakes, follow your twitter, or attend an event at your place of business? Make this the entire purpose of the splash page of your site. Make a big, giant, eye catching button linking to that page or action. Give it the 5/5 test: if a five year old cannot figure out the purpose of your social media campaign in five seconds, you have failed.
A real world example: Red Bull’s Facebook strategy. A bunch of colorful arrows leading straight from a Red Bull can to the Like button. And does it work? Red Bull has an obscenely simple call-to-action, backed by creative content and the popular platform of Facebook. These element combine to allow the company to have more than 25 million initial impressions for every post on their Facebook page.
Simplicity in business is a tried-and-true idea, hundreds of years old, and no less revolutionary on today’s internet than at Thomas Hobson’s stable.