Social Media Marketing Do’s & Don’t’s: Part 2

Last week, I shared my not-so-humble thoughts on the “Do’s” of social media marketing. And while most of you are probably still recovering from the shame caused by facing your ignorance, I feel it’s my responsibility to finish what I started.

And hence, here are the “DONTs”.

Social Media Marketing “DONT’s”:

1. Don’t expect a windfall.
It’s very tempting to be seduced by the promise of overnight success now that the Internet has become a communication platform for all. Lord knows any idiot can get his or her 15 minutes of virtual fame, simply by making a public ass of himself online. Take this guy, for instance. Not only has his desperate plea to “Leave Britney alone!” been watched over 13 million times (Jesus, people), but has also earned over 2000 video “responses,” 200,000 comments, and been “favorited” 34,000 times. Last I heard the eyeliner-slathered youth behind this bit of viral history was on CNN or The Today Show or some other network media outlet that calls itself “News”. Heck, I even saw a death threat aimed at the little video star posted on YouTube this morning. You know you’ve “arrived” when anonymous morons are expressing their homophobic rage and threatening to kill you. How American!

But I digress. My point was to assure you that although the occasional freak of nature does occur, most social media marketing efforts don’t earn this kind of infamy. I’m not saying it can’t happen; just that you need to align your expectations with reality. Lest you get your little heart broken.

2. Don’t lie.
This might seem obvious, but I swear, not a day goes by that I don’t see some corporate poser trying to “fake” their way onto a blog, making ridiculous claims about their product/service while pretending to be Jane Doe from Anytown, USA.

Haven’t we learned enough from the Whole Foods blogging debacle?

But don’t take my word for it (lest you believe a GENIUS!). Take a gander at this public flogging I ran across on BzzAgent’s “90 Days” blog some time ago:

Yesterday, I sat in on a break-out session about buzz marketing with ten fellow lux delegates who are involved in getting the word out about various brands. The talk was all about how to get and build word of mouth.

The president of a start-up company called SwingJuice, a new high-end energy/sports drink aimed primarily at golfers, told us about how he took a bunch of samples to a golf tournament and gave them out to the staff at the hotel where the golfers were staying. Pretty soon the bell staff and bartenders were chatting up the golfers, who started swigging the stuff, and, before long, SwingJuice was the talk of the tournament. (I tried it today after a six-mile run, workout, sauna, and a Lavender Escape back, neck, and scalp massage — it was pretty good.)

Everyone at the round table liked the SwingJuice approach to seeding WOM.

But then came Dr. Evil, the president of a marketing communications and pr firm based in New York. His idea? To promote their products, companies should write stealth posts on relevant blogs, pretending to be regular people, but actually talking up the product. Wine companies infiltrating wine-lovers’ blogs. Hotel companies anonymously recommending themselves to visitors to travel sites.

I said, “People will know that the corporate commenters are fakes.”

Another guy said, “It’s wrong. Don’t mess with the genuine nature of blogging.”

Dr. Evil didn’t say any more. But I doubt he was chastened. So watch out for shills on your favorite sites.

And here’s a user response to the thread:

“I frequent a gardening forum, and it is incredibly obvious when someone tries to sneak in a shill post. The Dr. Evils of the world tend to underestimate how well the on-line community regulars know each other.

Usually the shill will post something along the lines of, “Has anyone tried the new Super-Duper Plant? I just got one and it’s the best plant ever.” Someone will immediately look at the poster’s member page and find out that the poster just registered today and will then start suggesting that the post is a shill. The funny thing is, if the shill posted something along the lines of “I work for XYZ Flower Company and we’re very excited about our new Super-Duper Plant. I’d love to hear your experiences or reactions to the plant.”, then they would get a lot of genuine responses and they would succeed in generating buzz about their product.

Remember, the basic currency of all social media is sharing, engagement, authenticity and community. If you can’t resist the urge to cheat, I suggest you save it for your tax return. I hear the IRS is a lot more lenient on the issue of fraud these days (thanks, Dubs!).

3. Don’t assume it will be “free” or even cheap.
I know how disappointing this must sound. And to be fair, you can get a decent amount of mileage out of things like Facebook pages and good ole fashioned email. But… and this is a BIG but (not a big butt)… time is money, which means that even if you’re going to piggyback off of another campaign or reuse creative assets, there’s still the cost of planning, executing, and measuring your efforts.

Then again, at $5.50 an hour, maybe your time actually is pretty cheap?

Well, even if you do get that 25 cent raise, I still say that if you’re going to build social media marketing into your plan, you’ve got to build it into your budget, too.

4. Don’t give up too quickly.
You know the old saying, “Winners never quit and quitters never win”? Well, it applies to social media marketing as much as it does to dominos. Sure, you might launch the next great ElfYourself campaign and retire to a private island three months later… but more than likely, you’ll have to take a few turns at bat before you hit a home run.

Dear God, did I really just use a baseball metaphor?!

Clearly, the Genius must rest.

TTFN, my pretties!

Social Media Marketing Do’s & Don’t’s: Part 1

Hopping on the Social Media Marketing bandwagon? You’re not alone. Seems user-generated content and social media marketing are becoming as ubiquitous as the tacky inflatable snowmen with which my neighbors continue to pollute their yards.

The trick, my little sugarplums, isn’t to simply embrace the trend… but to master it.

Or in your case, not to make an ass of yourself the first time out of the gate! [sigh]

Lucky for you, I’m feeling rather generous today! And so, The Genius shall share her personal list of Social Media “Do’s and Don’t’s”—with the full knowledge that you’ll probably screw your program up anyway.

[sigh] It isn’t easy being so brilliant and flawless. But it’s my cross to bear.

Social Media Marketing “DO’s”:
1. For crap’s sake, please DO establish clear business objectives for your social media marketing efforts—before you even think about launching a campaign of any kind.

Seriously: If I see one more blog, podcast, or pointless viral marketing campaign launch with no clear strategy other than to satisfy the overgrown ego of some bonehead executive [who got their MBA when dinosaurs still roamed the earth]… well, I just might barf!

2. DO establish your metrics—yes, before you launch.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure, right, people? It’s Marketing 101.

Social media is no exception to this rule.

Now, I know that “goals” and “metrics” seem tedious and about as sexy as plumber’s crack, but trust me: it’s your only hope of having something more meaningful to say the next time your boss asks how the social media campaign is doing than, “Uh…”

[Side note: Why is it that so many businesses treat their marketing strategy like a leisurely drive through the country?

“No, we don’t have a map or specific destination in mind… but we’ll know we’re good when we get there…. Oh wait… I think we’re lost… and we’re running out of gas! Shit… I told you we should have asked for directions!!!!”

Don’t be stupid. And don’t be a wimp. ROI isn’t the only meaningful business metric, so don’t become a slave to it. Consider what’s most relevant, metric-wise to your company’s business objectives. For a cheat sheet on some of the best metrics for SMM, check this out.

3. DO your homework. (And I don’t mean “Do do your homework”, because that would be very messy.)
Social media isn’t rocket science, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill tool for broadcasting product features and benefits either. You’ve taken a great first step by reading this blog post; now go read a few others. This basic primer by one of my favorite marketing bloggers, CK, is another great place to start. If all else fails, I’m sure there’s a copy of Social Media for Dummies out there somewhere just waiting for a home.

Side note: If you’re a control-freak and can’t get jiggy with the idea of your marketing messages becoming a two-way communication, perhaps you’d be better off investing your correspondence-course education on something more suitable—like annoying pop-up ads or a nice, cheesy infomercial.

3. DO get to know the community before you ask something of them.
Like it or not, the same rules apply here as in the larger game of life, only amplified. Read: you can’t show up to a new school/office/neighborhood and immediately ask people for stuff. You’ve got to give a little first. Get to know them. Maybe even let them get to know you.

To do this well, you’ll need to a) actually spend some time observing and [gasp!] interacting with the communities that are relevant to your market segment(s).

I.e., What conversations are taking place? And who is shaping/influencing those conversations (and how)?

I know it may sound creepy, but you’ve got to do a little lurking before you barge in with your brilliant addition to the conversation. Get to know the topics, the people, and the tone of the dialogue. Remember the key word here is “ENGAGEMENT”—not broadcasting.

4. DO take an integrated approach to your social media efforts—particularly with respect to SEO.
Yes, yes, I know I’ve been bashing SEO since before the dawn of man… but the truth is, an integrated approach to search and social media makes a lot more sense than throwing either one under a bus. Social media marketing (and blogging in particular) can have a dramatic impact on organic search—assuming, of course, that you’re clever enough to pepper your blog with relevant keywords and phrases, and to keep the content fresh and the incoming links/comments/trackbacks a-flowing.

DUH!

5. DO start small and “fail fast”.

The skeptics who poo-poo social media as an effective marketing tool do so because, well… the vast majority of social media campaigns are pretty big failures. After all, there’s a learning curve. Plus… few of the folks that have come before you were blessed with the marvelous wisdom I’ve bestowed on you here!

The question is, will you follow in their mediocre footsteps? Or blow them away with your strategic, iterative, and flexible approach that treads carefully [and cheaply] into new territory, all the while honing your strategy on-the-fly.

Ooh, that’s so Web 2.0!

Tune in next week for “Part 2: The DONTs.”