Top myths about social media for business #3: “It only works for ‘sexy’ products”

Aug 2011

Welcome to our new series “Busted! Top 10 Myths About Social Media for Business,” where we debunk many of the myths out there surrounding social media as an effective business tool. Inspired by many objections I’ve heard (and overheard) from real business owners, I developed this series to help you separate the fact from the fiction in this still-uncharted territory. Stay tuned for more mythbusting every Monday and Wednesday ’til the list runs out!

sexyIn our last post, we debunked Myth #4 about social media for business—”LinkedIn is just for job hunters”—by highlighting some of the powerful marketing capabilities to be found in the Web 2.0’s most popular business network. Now let’s talk about sex … as in the popular notion that your product or service has to be “sexy” to succeed in social media.

Recently a clever viral video by SmartWater

spoofed the “sexy sells on social” idea

As we pointed out in Myth #6, “It’s just for the big brands,” many conversations about successful brand engagement in social media tend to revolve around names like Starbucks, Nike, Lady Gaga, and Apple—all high-visibility consumer brands that millions of people go (pardon the pun) gaga for.

Which might cause the savvy business marketer to say something like, “But my product/service just doesn’t have that inherent intrigue or excitement. Guess I’ll have to pass on this whole social media thing.”


DebunkDEBUNKED! Actually, some of social media’s most compelling success stories involve products that are anything but “sexy.”


One of my favorite social-media Cinderella stories is the rise of tongue-cleaner Orabrush, which TechCrunch recently called “the Justin Bieber of Mouth Care.”

Yes, you read that right, it’s a tongue cleaner. A cleaner. For your tongue. Hard to get less sexy than that, isn’t it?

I actually wrote a detailed post about Orabrush’s rise to fame and fortune back in January, but to sum up, the Salt Lake City, UT manufacturer was on the verge of packing it in when an enterprising student came up with a radical idea: Forget the retailers and take the product directly to the people through social media.

The team developed a series of YouTube videos starring the obnoxious, foul-mouthed “Morgan the Dirty Tongue,” and a social star was born. As of January 2011 the company had raked in over $1.4 million in revenue from consumers in 114 countries and retail distribution deals with more than 30 retailers in five countries. And back in February, venture capital firm True Ventures forked over a $2.5 million investment to complete the rags-to-riches tale.


Another un-sexy product for your consideration: heavy equipment. As in the kind you see around construction sites. Pretty dang low on the sexymeter.

And yet heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has built from the ground up (damn, another pun) one of the Web’s most robust online communities around its blog. Actually, I should say “blogs,” as their team has created a separate hub for each major industry (construction, electrical, marine) with sub-categories under each industry (products, safety, problem-solving).

So far I can’t find any hard ROI numbers (which must be tricky to track, given what’s bound to be a lengthy sales cycle), but Caterpillar’s engagement figures are impressive: 26,000 Facebook fans, 12,300 Twitter followers, 1.2 million views on YouTube.

My point, and I do have one, is this: If your product or service meets a real need among your target market, you’re as sexy as you need to be for a stellar social-media showing.

So, what about you—have you worked past the “sexy or die” barrier to find social media success for your product or service? Tell us about it in the comments; we’d love to hear from you!



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