As a certified social media strategist, it’s part of my job to look for patterns. Why do people respond to some posts and not others? Where’s the fine line between provocative and offensive content? How do you tell someone they should check out your product – because you genuinely think they would benefit from it – without being annoying?
You’ve all been in the conversation complaining about a person or company’s irritating marketing practices – and maybe you’ve even lead a few of those chats. But you’ve also likely been in a conversation where someone says they found this amazing new product that’s changed their life for the better.
As marketers, how are we supposed to know when we’re being helpful and when we’re being annoying?
My Super Official Facebook Results
I decided to see what my Facebook friends (via my personal page and a few groups) viewed as some of the most common marketing errors made by small business owners, big brands, and everyone in-between. Here are a few of the themes that emerged:
(Don’t) Lie to Me, Baby.
Many of the pet peeves identified could be identified under one category: lying.
Within minutes of asking, I received this response:
“Leaving messages to get me to call them back under false pretenses. I’ve had marketers pretend to be potential clients just to get me on the phone. I will never give a piece of business to someone who’s just lied to me.”
“What I have found to be annoying on (Instagram) is when a business likes one of my posts of a journaling spread and follows me and comments….and what they sell has absolutely nothing to do with what I post about. It irks me every time.”
These techniques have always baffled me…why even bother lying to me about the reason for your connection if I’m eventually going to uncover your ulterior motive?
The reason marketers do this is because – relying on the law of large numbers – if you blindly throw enough information out into the world, eventually you’ll find someone who clicks on your link and maybe even converts. When you take away the research, planning, and individualized messaging, you have time to post large amounts of information. Unfortunately, for all of the clicks you do get, you’re also eroding your brand each time someone recognized the haphazard technique you’ve employed. Need a better approach? Stick to research, planning, and individualized messaging. You won’t send as many messages, but a higher percentage will convert – all without damaging your brand.
TMI (sent too often)
While business owners weren’t often accused of oversharing in the I-didn’t-need-to-know-that-about-you sense, they are often accused of sharing product information too often.
“I have unfollowed anyone who is selling something on Facebook. It’s such a turn off. I have one friend who posts no less than five or six posts a day about skin care. Blech too much!”
While this is often attributed to home based businesses, it is certainly not a challenge we see exclusively with one group of business owners. As algorithms change and business owners try to keep up, they hear, “…the Facebook algorithm will hide 90% of what you post anyway…” or “…the half-life of a tweet is 2 hours – it’s almost impossible to over-tweet…” and those conversations (often based on accurate info) can contribute to the Too Much Information Sent Too Often epidemic.
Like the deceptive practices from the previous section, the reason people over-post is because (often enough) it works. Just the right post floats into someone’s feed at just the right time and converts to a sale – but as these practices increase, more and more people are unfollowing over-posters. Eventually, this technique will become ineffective.
What’s the better solution? It takes more work, but you have to provide value with each post. If you’d like to share a product announcement, include a genuinely helpful tip – no strings attached. Share an inspirational quote. Use a beautiful picture. Not only will you add genuine value to your post, you’ll increase the chance your post will be shared – and you’ll continue to be viewed as someone people want to follow because you add value to their day.
A Suspicus Claim of Benefitts or Expertize
Have you ever seen a post or email promising high-quality work that’s riddled with typos, broken links, or other errors? Unless they’re making a point (e.g., this section’s title), they’re losing business – or worse. They may be causing problems for the existing business.
“…grammar errors in posts for us, and gives false or vague information. For example, what nights/times we have live music. Or for a promotion with free beer advertises “free beer!” And fails to include “limit one per person with purchase of entree” so we are stuck giving free beer all night it makes us look bad…”
Why isn’t there more fallout when your company sends out inaccurate info or posts full of typos? Sadly, we’re becoming used to it! It could also be that there is more damage done than we can see. The good news is that this is one of the easier fixes. Typing your content into a Word document that will help you identify errors is a great first step. Having a second person review content is a great second step. And for larger pieces of work, investing in an editor can help you ensure you deliver high quality content in every message. You don’t have to do everything today, but it’s a good direction to move it!
How should this change your approach?
If you’re a marketer, business owner, or both, you have a difficult choice to make. When faced with the techniques that work but may alienate you from your audience, you have to make a decision – and it isn’t as easy as you may think. With little thought (or maybe if you’re in public), you may say, “I’d never do any kind of marketing that was bothersome.” But there are two problems with that statement. First of all, what bothers people is subjective. We have FTC guidelines on one end of the spectrum and generally accepted practices on the other, but the area between can be grey, so be careful what you promise.
The second challenge that you face is that you have to reach your customers which means – one way or another – you have to get noticed. My advice is to seek the help of a strategist who shares your business ethics and understands your audience. Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t promise you’ll never be annoying. But if you’re an honest and respectful rule-following business, a spark of creativity in your marketing plan will connect to the right customers – who will become the best marketing you could ever ask for.
I’ll follow up in a future post with additional feedback I heard from this research, but from the these discussed here, remember:
- Be honest. Grab their attention, but don’t lie.
- Add value – even something simple. If you’re going to ask someone to read your post, make sure it’s worth their time.
- Post carefully. Share details, but make sure they are accurate – including spelling, capitalization, etc.
Author: Dr. Amy Jauman
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.