5 Ways to Avoid Social Media Spam Traps and Still Market Effectively
Would the real Don Cenobio Sauzaplease stand up? Oh, sorry, he can't. He's been dead for 100 years. But that doesn't prevent him from tweeting. Sauza was even a Twitter celebrity for a while, says Paul Ardoin, global programs director at Belcamp, Md.-based computer and network security product and service provider SafeNet.
"Sauza Tequila tweeted as @DonCenobiofor a couple of years," Ardoin says of the company's now invite-only Twitter account. And the thing is, people seemed to like that persona, much like they engaged with the Old Spice Guy or Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World, he says.
But social networks have been stepping up their anti-spam policies—with Google+ not accepting dead celebrity spokespeople, for instance. (The fledgling social network is attempting to have only real people join, with real companies coming next.) Google and Facebook also don't include pages with live updates from the dead Tequila maker. But they and Twitter did not return requests to explain how marketers can comply with these anti-spam policies. Facebook's press representative simply provided links to resources.
"Two of the most common social media networks, Facebook and Twitter, have stringent anti-spam policies and anti-spam systems that the networks claim work effectively in the background," Ardoin says. "Facebook's CTO even reported that platform spam was cut by 95 percent in 2010. These anti-spam systems are designed to target suspicious activities; for instance, sending the same message to many people not in one's friend list, or having the vast majority of friend requests ignored."
Says Dave Scott, CEO of Seattle-based list marketing services provider Marketfish: "Social media companies are looking toward tools like Captcha to ensure that there is a person/brand behind every ad that's being placed."
Some proactive measures businesses can take to effectively market while avoiding running afoul of the spam regulations are provided by Ardoin, Scott and:
- Ian Baer, chief strategy officer at Costa Mesa, Calif.-based marketing agency Rauxa;
- Dennis Dayman, chief privacy and deliverability officer at Vienna, Va.-based marketing automation software and service provider Eloqua;
- Jeff MacGurn vice president for earned media at San Diego, Calif.-based search marketing firm Covario;
- Shawn McNamara, chief operating officer at Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based marketing software and service provider DigDev Direct; and
- Craig Spiezle, executive director and founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based trade organization Online Trust Alliance (OTA).
1. Branch out. McNamara says: "I would not advocate completely abandoning social media initiatives. I would, however, say that the current restrictive environment seems to make substantial direct marketing efforts difficult, if not impossible, on today's social networks. Permission-based email from lists the marketers have collected themselves or targeted opt-in third party lists, I believe, are … more effective options."
2. Understand social media audiences as much as email recipients,Dayman says. "You're still dealing with an individual, so why send them the wrong thing when you could easily get to know them more through their digital body language and send them the right things?" he asks. "Segment them and discover their online characteristics—like age, gender, location, etc." It helps to use preference center information, such as whether customers prefer Twitter to Facebook, or Web to mobile, Dayman says. Also, it can't hurt to ask them to opt-in for emails so messages can become even more relevant to them, he says.
3. Tone it down.MacGurn says: "Don't be too overt with your branding. Having your logo in your social media content is great, but don't make the piece feel like corporate propaganda. … Don't try to over-sell your products. Your goal in participating in social media should be to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way. So if all you're trying to do is use social media to push your products, it will become very obvious and you could receive a backlash."
Ardoin agrees and adds: "A good rule of thumb is that for every promotional message you push out, you need 10 conversational messages. If there are industry Twitter chats (like #cloudtalk for cloud computing, or #securechat for computer security), make sure you're listening and participating. … Be genuine. No one is interested in conversing with your company's boilerplate."
Dayman says to use common sense: "Don't just go out and start following a bunch of people hoping they will follow back. Earn their trust and fellowship. Too many times I see companies open up a Twitter account and make their bio a marketing pitch. You will find that in those situations, people will not follow you back, thus not seeing your future content, and in many cases then reporting you as spam."
4. Be useful, informative and unique,MacGurn adds. "Introduce something to the discussion that nobody else has been able to bring to the conversation," he says. "If people are talking about hosting their e-commerce site and you're a Web host, don't just ask them to host with you. Develop an infographic with the statistics on the type of hosting plans used based on the type of business or a flow chart for anyone looking for hosting that helps guide them through the decision-making process—no matter who they end up choosing." Companies doing this well are Mint.com and Rackspace, MacGurn says.
Ardoin points to Jimboy's Tacos, which "lets Twitter followers know about 99-cent Taco Tuesdays, sends short messages with interesting facts about Jimboy's history, and engages in snarky debate."
5. "Be aware of social media etiquette,"Ardoin advises. "Social media is a two-way street, so trying to trick people into opening your emails, visiting your site, or signing up for your coupons is a guaranteed way to get potential customers to hate you."
Don't get too personal and watch the frequency, Spiezle says. "Respect the users and do not beat them into submission."
Baer adds: "The No. 1 reason people 'like' a brand on Facebook is to get a promotional offer … and the No. 1 reason people un-like a brand is because they then get bombarded with promotional offers."
And, while not a persona, Baer says the brand that exemplifies the right way to engage on social media does have personality. Jones Soda brings customers into the process from flavor development to submitted photo labels—"and not a coupon code to be found."