Social Marketing.  It’s a buzzword (Buzzphrase?) that everyone talks about, who sells online.  It can also be one of the most fucking annoying things ever, when people do it poorly.  I have been effectively doing social marketing online for my own business successfully now for 16 years, and what I write here is drawn from that.  I do not claim to be an expert, and I have no formal education on the subject – This is strictly firsthand experience coupled with my personal ideas of decorum.
I’ve been spurred to write this post because it seems like more and more, I see a lot of people doing it very badly.  What do I consider “badly”?  Consider this:

If you have…

  • Ever added anyone to your email list without their express request
  • Ever mass-messaged all of your friends & contacts on a social network to ‘Like” your work
  • Ever used your friends list as a marketing address book
  • Ever posted advertising posts more than once every few days, preferably once a week
  • Ever played numbers games to pump up your “Likes” 
  • No separation of your personal and professional online accounts
  • Ever shotgun-blasted your advertising across multiple social network groups, platforms, and forums all at once, then…
…You might well be a Bad Social Marketer.  
Let me give a couple of examples.  I know someone who uses their Facebook connections to heavily advertise the artistic product they create.  How do I know this person?  Because she aggressively friends everyone she encounters in any forum or Facebook group, and then regularly PMs them a never-ending stream of ads promoting her work.  If you’re friends with her, you become her target market.  You probably barely know the woman but you can expect at least 2-5 PMs from her daily offering you chances to buy her work.
Another example – Utilizing your personal Facebook (or other) as an advertising platform or sales pitch.  When I log on and see the same person posting a dozen new ebay links a day, I block their posts quickly, or remove them from my “Followed Friends” list.  Seriously, folks… if you’re trying to sell something, this is not the effect you want.  If your connections are blocking or aggressively/selectively filtering your posts, you’re doing it wrong.  The only thing you’re communicating is that you view your friends as potential dollar signs.  People very understandably resent this.
FWIW, here are my Golden Rules of Social Marketing:
  1. If you operate an email list, it must be voluntary opt-in ONLY.  Years ago, some vendors would scour the Usenet pipe forum for email addresses to add to their lists.  Receiving one unasked-for email from one of these types was, for me, an instant brand of, “I will never buy from you, you asshole.”  Voluntary.  Opt-in.  Easily unsubscribed from.  What you get with this are people are are genuinely interested in what you sell, enough to go and type their email into a form.  That’s the market you want.
  2. Don’t use your personal account as a sales pitch.  It’s a nebulous subject for those of us “in the biz”, because a lot of poor souls follow my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts presumably to get pipe news, and what they get instead is a stream of ridiculous movie rants and Godzilla posts and comic strips.  But the thing is, my friends list is for my friends.  They know what I do for a living, and sometimes, VERY rarely, I will post pipe news to my personal feed.  By and large, though, pipe news goes on my Facebook business page and on my Twitter business account.  I do not treat my social network contacts as potential dollar signs because they’re people and they already have enough assholes shoving crap in their faces to buy all day long, they don’t need more of that from me.  If they want to follow Talbert Pipes news, they can follow the Talbert Pipes page.  C’est simple.
  3. Make your online presence interesting.  Do something other than just hurl ads at people.  Interact.  Sing, dance, bake cookies.  Whatever the fuck your skill is, engage people with it.  A business page that is nothing but a long stack of ads and promos is a damned boring business page.  I write and draw comics.  I write blog posts.  I post How-To instructions.  Basically, I say, “Hey, here’s some stuff to look at that isn’t solely designed to take your money.”  
  4. Avoid broadsiding.  A broadside is when you plaster every possible group or forum or social network with your advertising, all at once.  Again, there are people on Facebook whose entire streams I have blocked because when they post an ad, they post it to every damn group on the site.  Just because there are fifty pipe clubs on there does NOT mean that I should post my same ad to all of them.  Pick and choose.  Scatter.  Ideally, interact with the people in those groups and get a feel for which specific of your ads might actually be interesting to them.  Pipe clubs devoted to estate pipes and cheap pipes aren’t going to give a shit about my work, and that’s fine, I don’t want to bother them with commercials.  Waste of my time and theirs.
  5. Don’t play numbers games.  Don’t friend everyone who’s even once worked in a pipe shop just so you can pad your friends list.  Don’t badger groups or your own connections to go ‘Like’ your page every week.  Marketing types will say, “Network, network, network.”  I say, “Do good work.  Be interesting.  Let the market come to you.  Don’t be an asshole.”  My business wall on Facebook, as of this writing, has about 1040 Likes.  I’ve never chased those.  That’s not the result of me bothering my friend list and family members and everyone else I know to go and “Like” my page, it’s strictly a count of how many actual people went there and actually were interested in what I do enough to click that button themselves.  Don’t chase customers, let them come to you.  
  6. The best advertising you will ever get is word of mouth.  Rather than burning time and money trying to put your ads in front of the five thousand followers you have on X network, just do good work and have engaging interactions with your customers.  One single guy who goes back to his forum saying, “Hey, look at this pipe I just bought from that Talbert guy, he’s a trip.” is worth SO much more than all the ads you can fling.  This ties back into the “Be Interesting” rule – If you want to market your stuff, be interesting enough that people want to talk about you and your work.

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