How to tell a story through native content in a noisy social media world

What ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’ and my agency experience taught me about social media marketing.

Matthew Capala
· 7 min read

In his recent social-media bestseller, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Gary Vaynerchuk tells marketers and businesses what boxing can teach them about marketing.

A boxer spends a lot of time analyzing his own strengths and weakness, as well as those of his opponent. When two boxers step into the ring they already know each other well from countless hours of analysis and strategic planning. This step is crucial to win both in the ring and social media.

Effective boxers use a combination of jabs and right hooks to win the fight. A knock-out in boxing needs to be carefully set-up by a series of jabs. It’s no different than when you tell a good story — the punch line has no power without the foundation that comes before it.

There is no sale without the story; no knockout without the setup. The right hook gets all the credit, but it’s a series of well-planned jabs that come before it that set you up for success.

Right Hooks

Right hooks are the knockout punches. For marketers, those are the next highly anticipated campaigns that are going to increase revenue and make users engage in a cult-like following. A CMO’s dream.

Right hooks are calls to action that benefit your business. They are meant to convert traffic into sales and ROI. Except when they don’t….


Jabs are a series of conversations, interactions and engagements, delivered one at a time, that slowly but authentically build relationships.

Jabs are the lightweight pieces of content that benefit your customers by making them laugh, snicker, ponder, play a game, feel appreciated, or escape.

Jab, jab, jab, right hook = give, give, give, ask.

What big agency world taught me about social media marketing

Fortune 500 clients change their agencies frequently. Everyone is in constant pitch mode, planning the next right hook and trying to sell it to the c-suite.

It’s a dog and pony show, cluttered with credentials and case studies.. Marketing agencies compete on whose right-hook idea is the boldest. It’s all about swinging hard knock-out punches that will take the brand ‘to the next level.’ That’s your average social media strategy.

No one really talks about the jabs or what it takes to learn a platform. Or how to assemble a team that can respond in real-time to social media opportunities, such as Oreo’s black-out campaign during the Super Bowl XLVII.

Here is the usual…

“Just throw all those ideas under the community management slide.” What?

“There is a section about social media dashboard in the back of the deck, you can put your ROI slide there.” Thanks!

Big brands still get away with ignoring jabs because they can put large paid media budgets behind their right-hook campaigns. Facebook ads will bring needed traffic just fine. Look at all the Likes we got last time!

Most common end result:

The campaigns reached the eyeballs. People saw it but they didn’t care.

The chain reaction follows. Another RFP out. New strategy, bigger idea, more ad dollars. Another pitch, another agency, same outcome.

I have spent the last couple of years evangelizing the importance of having a long-term view. I also teach people how to leverage the new media platforms, such as blogging and emerging social media outlets, effectively.

You need a “Healthy Heartbeat” approach to content marketing. I introduced it on Sparksheet a while back, and it’s very applicable to what Gary writes about.

To jab effectively to set-up your right hooks you need to be able to create a lot of quality micro-content, and frequently. Can you?

I often present the slide below to my clients and audiences at conferences, emphasizing the need to think through your capabilities and resources.

When clients evaluate agencies they should equally consider their approach to macro and micro content. The idea and the math behind it. The creation and the optimization.

The importance of native content

The right approach to marketing on the Internet involves a wide range of disciplines: psychology, social science, and data analytics. But, above all, you need to be ‘native’ to the platform you are communicating through.

Jumping on Reddit with your big marketing idea that worked great on Facebook may be disastrous. Why shouldn’t you throw all your TV ads on YouTube? In theory, it sounds like a great idea to promote your services by answering questions on Quora. How about syndicating your latest blog post on Medium? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

You can’t just repurpose old material created for one platform, throw it up on another one, and then be surprised that people don’t engage or are turned off by your efforts. You have to take the time to understand each platform and take a long view approach to developing a community.

If you want to become influential on the platform you need to act like the user.

However, no matter how ‘native’ to the platform you are, your content has to be amazing. Effective social media marketing is about engaging your audience in compelling stories. That’s a constant.

Gary’s little dirty social media secret:

Though I get to things early and can often see the future, I am not Nostradamus. I’m not even Yoda.* I’m just the kind of person who shows new platforms the respect they deserve. I won’t predict what platform will see 20 million users in a year, but once it feels to me like it will, I will put my money and time there, testing new waters, trying new formulas, until I figure out how to best tell my story in a way the audience wants to hear it.

*It should read: Yoda I am not even.

What Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook taught me:

Your number one job is to tell a story.

No matter who you are or what you do, your number one job is to tell your story to the consumer wherever they are, and preferably at the moment they are making decisions.

Adding a social media layer to any platform increases its effectiveness.

Social media is overtaking the Internet the same way TV overtook radio and the Internet overtook the newspaper. From now on, everything you do should have a social component.

There is no 60-day or 90-day campaign.

There is only the 365-day marketing campaign, in which you produce content daily. Period.

Do not cling to nostalgia.

Ignoring social media platforms that have gained critical mass is a sure way for a brand to look slow and out-of-touch.

Like boxers, great storytellers are observant and nimble.

A great storyteller is keenly self-aware and attuned to his audience, he knows when to slow down for maximum suspense and when to speed up for comic effect. No boxer uses the same sequence of moves over and over again.

A story is at its best when it’s non-intrusive.

On social media, the only story that can achieve business goals is one told with native content. If you want to talk to people when their consume entertainment, you need to be entertainment. It doesn’t require you to alter your brand identity—you shouldn’t.

Content for the sake of content is pointless.

Businesses are on social media because they want to be relevant and engaged, but if their content is banal and unimaginative, it only makes them look lame.

Content is king, but context is God.

Even great content that goes onto your social channels can fall flat if you ignore the context of the platform on which it appears.

In summary, getting people to hear your story on social media and act on it requires: a) using a platform’s native language; b) paying attention to context; c) understanding the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique; d) and adapting your content to match.

Marketers who understand social platform at that fluid level will succeed. Get out there. Be human. Take the time to understand each platform and act like a user. Talk to people in ways that are native to the platform and you will win.

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Matthew Capala is the CEO and Founder of Alphametic, Internet entrepreneur, speaker, publisher of Search Decoder and Sumo Hacks, Adj Professor at NYU, and author of three books, including an award-winning international bestseller “SEO Like I’m 5.” He writes on the The Next Web and Entrepreneur. His work and ideas have been featured by Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Mashable, Problogger, and Inc. Matthew enjoys surfing, reading historical novels, and travel.

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    Matthew Capala

    Written by

    Internet Entrepreneur, Founder of Alphametic, a search marketing agency, and SearchDecoder SEO Training Institute, Speaker, Author,

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    Tips and hacks about showing your work, life hacking, marketing and seldf-marketing by @SearchDecoder