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


1. OVERPOSTING

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!

3. ADVERTISE

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.

6. INTERRUPT

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!

Equal Time for Nike

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Facebook, Social Media

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from Nike Golf’s Social Media Manager, Brian Carter, on Saturday evening in response to my blog entitled, “Nike’s Epic Fail.” In it, he apologized for the technical glitches that were experienced by me and by others after being told we were one of the winners of their golf ball giveaway. He went on to say that I was not blocked from their site due to my negative comment, but rather due to my use of their page for self-promotion by posting a link to my blog . . . fair enough.

In a subsequent email Mr. Carter also offered a link to a blog from another Nike page fan and Social Media blogger, Ryan Spoon. Mr. Spoon was one of the lucky winners of the contest (so Brian’s reference was perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek), but his analysis of the promotion was entirely different than mine. In his blog, he praises the time-sensitive nature of the promotion (surprise timing, limited response time) as well as the timeliness of the promotion (during Masters week). You can see his blog in its entirety at http://www.nndb.com/people/590/000103281/.

While I fundamentally disagree with Mr. Spoon’s analysis and hold fast to my own, I do agree with his assertion that this campaign was viral. But I do not agree that all virality is necessarily a good thing. Nike’s contention is that it is naive to think that a qualitative analysis can come from the feedback to a Facebook post. While to some extent that may be true, as we use Facebook to promote our businesses, I think it is equally naive to not consider the negative impact of our campaigns and show a willingness to bend and shape to the medium, not to try to shape the medium to match our objectives.

Social Media is just that, social. By definition, this implies that this is a relational environment. Just as in face-to-face relationships, there is a certain level of decorum that is expected. I have had many friends and relationships over the years in which the other person made a habit of doing or saying things that upset me or didn’t seem fair or thoughtful. I also have had many relationships, personally and professionally, in which the other person tried to control me. Wherever possible, those people are no longer a part of my life.

I’m just sayin’ . . .

This is a follow-up to my April 5th post . . .

faux pas/fō ˈpä/ Noun: An embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.

Nike Golf has now committed the ultimate Social Media faux pas, they have made a decision to try to control fan feedback on their page. They have hand-picked unflattering comments and have deleted them. Perhaps even more incredible, the page administrator dumped me as a fan (and perhaps others). Though I have since re-“Liked” the Nike Golf page (after all, I have a Nike Staff Bag filled with Nike clubs), I have now been blocked from commenting on their page.

You Nike guys really don’t get Social Media, do you?

Nike’s Epic Fail

Posted: April 5, 2011 in Facebook, Social Media

Yesterday, the highly paid marketing staff at Nike came up with a great idea for their Nike Golf Facebook page . . . a limited edition golf ball giveaway. The end result is proof positive that conventional wisdom does not apply to Social Media Marketing. So much talent, so little common sense. Clearly, Nike doesn’t get it yet.

Nike Golf has had its better days. A couple of years ago, their Tiger Woods line of clothing and his influence on their line of golf clubs, golf balls and accessories had positioned them in a place of elegant dominance. Nobody saw what was coming. To this day, Nike seems to be at a total loss as to how to recover from the fall of their icon, the most recognizable person in the world.

So, now it is Masters week 2011, the first Major golf tournament of the year and golf vendors are excited to use this well-publicized event to present their latest products. Nike is unveiling their new golf ball, the 20XI. Someone in Beaverton thought it would be a great idea to give out 65 sleeves of 3 “Limited Edition” Augusta 20XI balls to their loyal Facebook fans. After all, what could be better publicity than to give something away for free? What a great way to introduce these $50+/dozen beauties. Some intern in charge of the FB page pressed the “Enter” key and their promotion was off and running!

Within 30 seconds of the post, the balls were gone . . .

Within 45 seconds, fans were posting negative comments on how they responded within seconds of the post and the offer was gone or the site locked up on the final page of the entry process after being told they were one of the winners (I was among them).

Within one minute, Nike had a serious PR problem.

It was now too late to un-do what they had done. It was out there. People were upset. Or was it too late? I am staunch advocate of taking the bad with the good when it comes to fan comments, but this is one of the rare instances where I would recommend pulling the post quickly and cutting your losses. At the one minute mark, very few fans had actually seen the post, so by deleting it, Nike could have mitigated the damage to their public image with only a few hundred fans even knowing about it. But Nike had no plan in place for such a disaster. They simply froze.

I was one of the people who posted a negative comment on this campaign, pointing out their poor understanding of Social Media Marketing. I posted one comment on the promo offer page and another on their main page, with a link referencing my recent post on how to use incentives in Facebook marketing. Within 2 hours, both of my comments had been deleted. Oddly enough, I was no longer a fan of the Nike Golf page! THEY dumped ME as a “Like!” I went back through the comments and found that many of the negative comments had been selectively removed (presumably as were their “Like” statuses), leaving a smattering of the least damning comments in place to keep it credible.

Last night Nike posted a comment amongst the other comments apologizing for the confusion and promising to deliver the same giveaway today and tomorrow to make up for their guffaw. Albert Einstein would have a heyday with this insanity. They did not pull the post, but instead changed the page (see screenshot below – incidentally, there is no way to “Like” this page as they suggest). They also eliminated the option for fans to be able to post to their main page!

While I am expecting a “cease and desist” order to arrive faster than Nike can run out of free golf balls, I want to use this example while I can to show how not to use Social Media in your marketing arsenal. Here are my Do’s and Don’ts:

DO :

  • Understand that “conventional wisdom” does not apply in Social Media Marketing
  • Carefully plan out your marketing campaigns on Facebook and consider all negative reaction potential
  • Plan for disaster
  • Monitor your posts immediately and in frequent intervals (if you have over 10K fans, monitor the first hour diligently)
  • Be ready to “cut and run” quickly if your campaign runs into trouble
  • Test your posts to make sure that they work properly and do not lead to dead-ends”
  • Allow a 24 hour entry time for any giveaway to generate goodwill
  • Accept the fact that Social Media will generate negative comments – use the comments to improve your weaknesses
  • Learn what works (and what doesn’t) from other’s Facebook pages

DON’T :

  • Think that just giving away something creates good will for your company – it could easily do more harm than good
  • Use instant giveaways that only benefit those on-line at that particular moment – you are not a radio station
  • Make promises that you can’t keep – EVER
  • Believe that “any publicity is good publicity”
  • Think that your company is too big or too good to be able to be hurt by a botched campaign
  • Selectively delete negative comments from your posts

UPDATE:

Shortly after publishing this post, I went back to see if Nike would repeat yesterday’s debacle. They sure did! Same result with even angrier comments. Comments were shut off after one hour. Nike . . . give away a Facebook coupon or something . . . PLEASE? This is getting embarrassing!

 

I was looking through the mail last week and came across a very attractive advertising  piece that caught my eye. It was a beautifully laid out, full-color, magazine-style advertisement for local businesses. It’s not often that I pay much attention to ad inserts, but this particular piece was different . . . it looked fantastic!

As I thumbed through the pages, I scanned the dozens of ads ranging from 1/8 page to full page and, as I usually do, started to critique the ads. There were some startling and disturbing trends. The first thing I noticed was that several ads did not list a website. Of the 45 advertisers, 10 did not list a website. So I did some digging. 8 of these 10 advertisers in fact have websites! Some of them were actually rather impressive.

The Importance of Enticements

My second observation was that only 2 of the 45 advertisers indicated a presence on Facebook, in spite of the fact that almost every one of these advertisers has a Page on Facebook. Of those two, one simply had a Facebook logo while the other used the weak, “Find us on Facebook” phrase (I consider this phrase weak because it has become so overused that readers tend to tune it out). Every business needs to be using the Facebook logo and using an enticement like, “Like us on Facebook to receive Facebook-Only Specials/Discounts.”

The objective here is to grow your ‘fan’ base on Facebook (I wish they still used that term) with quality ‘consumers’ that can be converted to ‘customers’ over time. Some companies use prize giveaways as enticements, which is a great way to grow your fan base, but you will get a lot of “Likes” that are only interested in winning something and are not necessarily interested in your company or your products. Not that this is a totally bad idea, because you may be able to convert these people into customers over time, and it doesn’t really cost you anything to have them on board. It’s just not necessary to spend money on prizes to increase your fan base.

A fan who wins a prize still may never set foot in your establishment. But, if you use an enticement that is exclusive to your Facebook fans, you will find that your fan base becomes more loyal and communicative about your company. After all, the idea here is to create a community “buzz” about your business, where fans share their experience and tell others about you. Your job is to set the wheels in motion . . . your fans will take it from there.

Because your Facebook fans are there by choice, you need to treat them like royalty. They have the power to grow your business faster than any paid advertising could ever hope to do. For that reason, it is worth rewarding their loyalty by spending some money on them. For example, a restaurant could offer a weekly special for a 2-for-1 or a free dessert. By changing it up every week, you keep people coming back to see what you are offering time and time again. Why not make it even easier for them? Accept your Facebook offers from customers who show your Facebook coupon on their smartphone. This will bring in customers like me who tend to forget their coupons at home. Are you worried about people sharing the coupons? Really? These tag-alongs will hopefully become fans of your business themselves and will spread the word about your establishment.

Who is to blame? Ultimately, you are!

I’d really like to know who to blame for the missed opportunities in this ad circular. Certainly, it doesn’t cost any more to list a website URL or mention the fact that you are on Facebook when putting your ad copy together. It really shows me that businesses still don’t get it when it comes to Social Media Marketing. I would also have to point a finger at the publisher of the publication. This is really a reflection on the quality of their product! If I were the publisher, I would have my salesperson ask every advertiser if they were on Facebook and then post a separate  list of Facebook advertisers with an asterisk next to those who offer special Facebook enticements.

Ultimately, you, the business owner, are responsible for your final advertising presentations. You must proofread the copy. TWICE. The mindset of the small business operator who handles his/her own marketing has got to change if they want to remain relevant and viable in this economy. Facebook needs to be a regular and an intentional part of your marketing strategy. It has the potential to double or triple the effectiveness of all of your visual marketing efforts. To ignore this free opportunity is a waste of a valuable resource!

And to those that didn’t even list their website . . .. seriously?

One thing in life that that never seems to change is the fact that Facebook is always changing.

While most Facebook updates are a real source of frustration and create a flurry of negative posts, Facebook may have just hit a home-run that will get fans buzzing. Today, Facebook unveiled their newly revamped (and little known) Questions app (or Tool as they prefer to call it) to a beta trial market and will soon be making it available to all Facebook users. Remember a couple of years ago when you could make your Top Five list of favorite classic rock bands or childhood games or famous people that share your name? If you liked the Top Five app, you are going to love the new Questions tool.

The Questions tool allows Facebook users to start a customized poll to share with friends. The example below shows a Questions poll asking the question, “What are your favorite restaurants in San Francisco?”

When you set up your poll, you will make a list of multiple choice answers for your friends to select from. When they vote, their profile photo appears next to their answer and the results are then re-ordered in real-time with the top vote-getter moving to the top. Each answer also shows a bar graph, but at this time does not show a % statistic. This example screen shot is a bit fuzzy, but if you look closely, you can see that you can make more than one selection. If your friend doesn’t find the answer she likes, she can simply add her own to the list, provided you have enabled that option.

Unlike the Top Five app, the new Questions tool is interactive and will be made available to your friends. Once they respond, it will be made available to their friends, making this a truly viral app. Built-in filtering will allow you to see only your friends’ answers or, if you prefer, you can view the global results of everyone who has participated.

Questions’ greatest appeal may very well be as a marketing tool for business page users to expose new products, poll customers and generate excitement about upcoming events. But smart marketers will step outside the box of conventional wisdom to see the hidden value of respondents interaction. For example Proctor & Gamble might publish a question asking fans to pick their favorite new cleaning product, listing a few products that are currently under consideration. But, here’s where this starts to get interesting . . . what P&G really wants (or should want) is to get ideas for new products that they have not yet thought of. Not only does this give them a chance to go viral and get people discussing their products (and doing so beyond the scope of their current fan base), it also opens the floodgates of creativity dwelling within the online community and may lead to their next big product. Imagine Starbucks asking what they most dislike about the Starbucks experience. Trust me, this will never happen, but imagine if they did. The possibilities are endless.

Businesses will need to remember and repeat over and over the social media marketing mantra, “You are not in control. You are not in control.” Weak kneed CEO’s will elect not to allow answers to be added, and lose out on the most valuable aspect of this app. Others, like the very successful and thick-skinned Victoria’s Secret page are likely to allow user-added responses in spite of the potential for negative comments (check the comments they get on their posts). They may indeed have pinpointed the ‘secret’ to successful social media marketing . . . letting go. The old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity holds especially true in social media ( just ask Charlie Sheen). The key to getting the most out of the Questions tool will be to allow your company to be vulnerable to criticism. If nothing else, it will give you a barometer of what the public thinks of your company and an opportunity to fix problem areas.

One pesky glitch in the Beta version of the Questions tool is the absence of a “select all” option in the “Ask Friends” window. If you have more than 100 friends (or in the case of a business, “Likes”) and you want to send your question to them and not just chance them seeing it on your wall, you have an ergonomic nightmare on your hands. Hopefully a “Send To All” check box and percentage statistics will be included in the final version. I have also found that this app does not give users the ability to switch between friends’ responses and ‘all’ responses as Facebook had promised and the overall result graphs end up being skewed (see screenshot below). Gingerale has two votes from “others” in addition to the two votes from friends, which should put it into first place with four votes, but Questions only ranks the list by your friends’ responses. The bar graph reflects all responses by friends and by others.

Overall, Questions is an exciting addition to the Facebook toolbox and one that should provide some entertainment value as well as some real marketing value. I think it will breathe some much needed new life into Facebook and help to get people engaged once again. While most changes tend to send FB fans packing and complaining, the development team at Facebook seems to have given them a reason to stick around this time, at least for now. Hopefully Facebook will see the value of the Questions tool and fine tune it to reach its full potential. While Questions will be available to everyone soon, you can try it now here.

How Relevant is Facebook?

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Facebook, Social Media

These are some pretty convincing statistics on the market penetration of Facebook. Yep, it’s a big deal!