Breadcrumb Marketing with Social Media

Screen shot 2010-08-18 at 8.43.59 AMLast week, we talked a bit about the difference between marketing with advertising and social media. I mentioned the idea of breadcrumb marketing as a construct for thinking about how you’d market via a social media strategy.

Today I want to share a bit more about that with you because I’ve had a lot of folks comment on Twitter, in person and via email that they really like the analogy.

You remember the story of Hansel and Gretel right? In the story they dropped little white pebbles to mark the path back to their house.

Breadcrumb Marketing Explained
Breadcrumb marketing is very similar, except you’re not dropping crumbs that you will follow back to your home, you’re dropping crumbs that your consumer can follow back to your home. In this analogy, home can mean a lot of things. If you’re a retailer, home might be literally driving traffic to your store. But you might be trying to alter brand perception and thus your home is a consumer changing the mind about your brand. Whatever the case, success is helping your customer/prospect find the trail and then follow it, one breadcrumb at a time.

This is really counter to how we’ve all been taught to market. In a traditional advertising centric world, we’re taught to tell the entire story in one sitting — whether that be in an ad, a TV spot, radio advertisement or direct mail piece. If we’re lucky, we won’t be forced to literally tell every piece of information. However, it is safe to say, no client is going to fund an ad that is designed to get you to simply read another ad — well except for teaser campaigns. That simply isn’t how you generate good ROI using high cost mediums like advertising.

Enter social media. Because it’s relative cost is low (note, I didn’t say social media was FREE, I said LOW) and the natural limitations on communications (Twitter’s 140 limit for instance) social media lends itself to a breadcrumb approach. You can’t tell the whole story in one sitting, so why bother to try. Because the medium is about ongoing engagement/conversation, why not leverage that in your favor?

Thus the breadcrumb strategy. Help a consumer find that first breadcrumb. This is actually a place that advertising is quite adept. Once they find that first crumb, entice them (with something in the first crumb) to want to find another. Now, unlike Hansel and Gretel, the consumer doesn’t have to follow EVERY breadcrumb in order to successfully arrive at your house. But they do probably need to interact with a significant share of them, lest they lose the train of the conversation. The important point, be sure that you’re leaving them wanting something more with each tweet, post or email. Breadcrumb Marketing is about enticement, allure, information and persuasion — all without the consumer really realizing they are being sold.

Guess the only thing left would be to figure out how you’d plan such a campaign. Maybe you can help me there? How would you go about creating a breadcrumb approach for your brand? And once done, do you think it would work? Let me know…

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 25+ year veteran of the sales & marketing industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and showing companies how to Sell Greatly, and turn conversations into customers. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital sales & marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.


  1. This sounds similar to the idea of using Social Media as a Top-of-the-Funnel approach? Would you recommend using Social Media for middle-to-bottom of the Funnel conversion?

  2. Great article Tom! I’ve seen UpWorthy do this. Works pretty well, (as I always click through). When you create your titles to intriguingly trail off, you’ll get a ton more views and shares.

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