My business mentor, my father, liked to use the term “business avoidance tactics” to describe business practices that seemed to intentionally turn customers away. My wife experienced just such a blunder today in her business. After contacting one of her specialty suppliers with a significant order, she was told that her account had been terminated 9 months ago due to lack of activity. Seriously? What business can afford the luxury of “terminating” accounts for any reason (other than perhaps non-payment) under current economic conditions?
So, I decided to compile a list of my Top 10 ways NOT to use Social Media Marketing (SMM) in your business; a list of “business avoidance tactics,” if you will. Why 13 then, you may ask? First of all, everyone does Top 10 lists, so why cave in to convention? Secondly, as I scratched my list out on a napkin, I had to stop at 13 when I ran out of space. I actually considered whittling the list down to 10, but as I was creating the graphic, my font selection looked so much better as a “13” than as a “10.” So 13 it is!
My list is not in any particular order of significance. My reasoning for this is that every marketing plan is different and the order may vary from business to business. I also felt that there are so many important items on this list that giving them an order might diminish my readers’ attention to the lesser-ranked DON’Ts. So here they are . . .
TOP 13 Ways NOT To Use Social Media Marketing
There is no better way to be “Unliked” on Facebook or “Unfollowed” on Twitter than to overpost with meaningless messages. Nobody likes to open Facebook to find their News Feed filled with multiple posts from your business or organization. Take Lexus, who is known for posting two to three times a day. The scary thing about overposting, particularly in the world of Facebook, is that you may never know the real impact of your posting frenzy. You may not lose numbers in terms of “Likes,” but the quality of those likes goes to zero if they block your posts from appearing on their wall. Also, if you use a utility application like TweetPost to automatically post your Tweets to Facebook, you may unwittingly be overwhelming your Facebook fans. Celebrities and musicians are notorious for this.
TIP: If you have several pictures that you are posting on Facebook, don’t “publish” them until you are finished uploading to avoid multiple posts on your followers’ pages.
2. TAKE A “DO IT ONCE AND WAIT” APPROACH
Your Social Media Marketing strategy requires a time commitment to work well and, until further notice, should have no end. It is naive to assume that you can build a fantastic Facebook page and expect it to take on a life of its own. Think of your SMM campaign as a pet. New puppies are so cute and appealing when you see them at the pet store. Then you bring them home. They need to be given food and water and be let outside and taken for walks. If you’re not ready for the commitment, don’t buy a puppy. The good news here is that in most markets you can affordably hire someone to take care of your Social Media puppy . . . and it’s still YOUR dog!
I am not saying that Social Media cannot be used to advertise your company’s products or services here. I am saying that advertising should not be the focus of your SMM campaign. Advertising is something you direct at your potential customers to persuade them to make a purchase. While your ultimate goal is for your SMM campaign to convert followers into customers, the way in which that conversion takes place is quite different than traditional advertising. In SMM, your goal is to get your followers engaged in spreading the word about your company. They become the medium and share your message with their friends and family . . . Viral Marketing.
4. CONTROL AND LIMIT CUSTOMER FEEDBACK
One of the greatest fears that business owners face when they are considering getting into SMM is that of negative feedback. The mindset of Social Media Marketing is contrary to what we have been taught. The idea here is to encourage consumer engagement and provide an open forum for them to discuss your company and share their experiences within their circle of influence. You will need to separate yourself emotionally from your SMM campaigns. You may be able to control what you publish, but not what happens from there. Obviously the better your corporate image and customer service reputation, the less you need to worry about negative feedback. In my experience however, a company that quickly and sincerely responds to negative public feedback stands to gain far more than their competitors who fail to actively engage with their following.
5. MEASURE YOUR ROI QUANTITATIVELY
Yes, of course you want (and need) to measure the effectiveness of your SMM campaigns quantitatively. But, when it comes to Social Media, the quality of your efforts is what will ultimately generate positive quantitative metrics. Having 15,000 followers is wonderful, but if only 150 of those fans are actively engaged in your posts, you may as well only have 150 followers. Key in on those 150 fans and give them a reason to spread the word. Most people love to have their opinions heard and influence their friends and family. Assuming that every Facebook or LinkedIn user has 100-150 friends/connections, imagine the impact of 150 people sharing one of your posts! You can easily track the spikes in the website or phone traffic that result. When done correctly, quality will generate quantity.
Who of us likes to be interrupted when we are trying to make an important point? We all like to be heard! Take time to listen to what your followers are trying to tell you. Some points require some digging on your part to bring them to the surface. You may very well find that your next great product is inspired by a fan of your page.
TIP: Asking questions at the end of a post is a good way to encourage engagement and feedback.
7. COMPENSATE YOUR FOLLOWING
Brad was the new kid in my small town. Word quickly spread that Brad was a bit of a bully. In order to make friends, he resorted to bribing kids to befriend him by giving them candy or money or toys. How often do you see companies that try to lure people into “Liking” them online by offering prizes? Sure, this manages to drive their fan base numbers up, but are these fans really engaged? To illustrate, I recently “Liked” Ray-O-Vac on Facebook in order to enter their prize giveaway. Knowing that I needed to be on their “Like” list, I stayed on, but immediately blocked their posts on my News Feed.
I have a circle of friends that enjoy having fun get-togethers with lots of great food and beverages. It doesn’t make me like them more, but it is one of the experiences that makes these friends enjoyable to be around. Think of your SMM campaign as if you were hosting a party for friends. You treat your close friends differently than you treat strangers. As you develop your rewards strategies, use rewards as an expression of gratitude towards your loyal friends, not as a way to lure new, uninterested acquaintances.
8. MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA YOUR PRIMARY MARKETING MEDIUM
This is so obvious that it really shouldn’t need to be stated. But it does. Some people still think of Social Media as a replacement for traditional marketing campaigns. The truth is that SMM is just one tool to add to your marketing toolbox. Its primary purpose should be to get people interested in and buzzing about your company and ultimately get them to visit your website or storefront as customers.
9. THINK OF FOLLOWERS ONLY IN TERMS OF POTENTIAL FINANCIAL GAIN
This goes back to the somewhat immeasurable aspect of SMM. Don’t focus solely on connections that you can convert to a customer. Here is an example: Jane Doe is connected to you on LinkedIn, yet she really has no interest in your company’s line of cat care products since she is allergic to cats. While Jane may never convert to be a customer of yours, because she enjoys making recommendations to her circle of friends and acquaintances, she may very well influence them if the conversation ever turned to cats. Let’s assume that Jane has 150 contacts on LinkedIn and 200 Facebook friends. Suddenly this connection has the potential to influence 350 people who, in turn, can potentially influence their friends. Always be cognizant of how your SMM campaigns might influence the influencers.
10. SCARE YOUR FOLLOWERS WITH HIGHLY TARGETED CAMPAIGNS
In my previous company, our clients were either wheelchair users or family members of people who used wheelchairs. In my early days as a Facebook marketing fanatic, I decided that it would be a great idea to target people whose profiles included the words “wheelchair,” “disability” or “disabled.” Within a few hours of launching the campaign, I was being deluged with negative responses about how “creepy” it was to be targeted just because they use a wheelchair. While Facebook advertising allows you to fine-tune your target audience, it doesn’t mean that you should necessarily do so. Always be sensitive to your target audience and consider the “Creep Factor” before you launch any targeted marketing campaign.
11. SHOOT FROM THE HIP
The old adage, “Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan” comes into play here. If you think you can wing it, you are certain to be disappointed with the results. SMM can be a great way to share impromptu happenings with your fan base, but to really be effective, you need to make a plan in advance and stick to it. Lay out a 6-month calendar that parallels your other marketing efforts and prepare your content ahead of time. Even the time of day that you publish your posts should be strategic to maximize exposure when your fans are most likely to be online. You can always augment your plan with additional posts on the fly.
12. KEEP YOUR MESSAGE STRUCTURED AND STERILE
While you may wear a business suit to work every day, would you want to wear one when you’re just hanging out with your friends? It will be much easier to know how to behave in the Social Media environment if you remember to think of it as a gathering of friends. SMM gives you an opportunity to let your hair down and get comfortable with these friends. I know of companies that even post pictures of little events that happen from time to time at their office just to inject a human element into their otherwise polished personas.
TIP: Post a picture of the store owner or manager with your customers (be sure to get permission to post the photo) and see what happens!
13. LET THE KIDS DO IT FOR YOU
One of the most common mistakes I see business owners make in their SMM efforts is to hand off this responsibility to their kids or to young employees because they “get” social media. The reality is that whoever manages your SMM really needs to have an understanding of sound business principles and an even deeper understanding of your corporate mission and philosophy. Things can quickly go South if your 21 year-old intern is left in charge of responding to negative fan posts. Always have a key employee monitor your company posts or hire a Social Media Marketing Manager who has a strong business background.
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Well, there you have it, my Top 13 Ways NOT To Use Social Media Marketing! Take some time in the coming week to review your Social Media Marketing strategy against these items and see how you stack up. Many of the changes that you need to make should be relatively simple, but the payoff could be huge!