Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Beware of 'Snake Oil' on Social Media

I read Twitter messages everyday - it seems like every minute - from one of my 'Follow' people who tells me that I could get hundreds of free leads on Twitter.

It struck me that the chap has no idea what my business is and that if only he knew that I had a 100 leads, I probably would not be able to service any of them if I closed more than a few at a time. That strikes me as a very poor use of Social Media as a way to either promote yourself or your company.

The first rule of ANY marketing is to know your audience. If all you do is accumulate 'Followers' willy-nilly and for the sake of numbers, then you will rapidly find that many of your Tweets will not resonate. So whether you put on there that you are doing coffee at St Pancras Station or peddling thousands of free leads, you have to know whether your audience is going to be interested.

Here is my main personal gripe with Twitter and it's one reason why I cannot comprehend the mega-bucks price tags on the pending IPOs of Twitter, Facebook, Zynga et al. There is so much banal twaddle on them all that it is very difficult to cut through the blaring noise of sheer inconsequential crap. There, I've said it.

If the content has no value, then it depreciates the asset, in my humble opinion. So beware those pleasant people selling the 'Snake Oil' panacea that Social Media will revolutionise your business.

My advice is to follow the general marketing principles that have been tried and tested but experiment with the new medium:

  • Get to know your audience, so research who your Followers are before bombarding them.

  • Create compelling propositions (and that's tough in just 140 characters).

  • Think about which platforms you want to use and why and then vary the content for each.

  • Now here's the rub. One of the 'nice' things about Social Media is that it is a fairly relaxed, casual place to be. Users don't like spammers or blatant selling so refine your messaging as information or education rather than 'roll up, roll up - get 'em while they're hot' selling.

Another of my major gripes is that there is so much banal guff and unimaginative retweeting on things like Twitter that it's hard to spot people with innovative ideas or refreshing viewpoints and original thought. Trust me, if you can make your pitch original, pithy or provocative you will catch the eye.

I suppose the over-riding message here is that Social Media is not the ideal place to 'sell' as the users are in unreceptive mode when they are using it. They are there to socialise, in the main.

  • So Rule 1 - use it as only part of your usual marketing mix and,

  • Rule 2 - try to create 'engagement' rather than solicit for orders.

    Maybe that will help us all cut down on the humdrum dross that fills my Social Media in trays and we'll get some meaty, original stuff.

Dream on.

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