Thursday, 15 April 2010

Criminal Marketing - the does and don'ts of social media

All social groups have norms and values that govern what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Should an individual step outside of the subtle, yet rigid, boundaries they become a criminal, subject to the group’s justice system and even face permanent and absolute exclusion. The norms and values that govern Social Media groups are no less real than those that stifled my lunch time adventures at school. The problem is that Mrs Russell isn’t at hand to make clear where the boundaries lay. Here are five pieces of advice that I hope will help you form a socially acceptable Social Media identity.

Trespassers will be prosecuted.
Given that Social Media exist to serve a social and not corporate agenda, we’re already on questionable ground. But a quick search for your favourite brand in the Social Media circles will provide evidence that corporates are indeed welcome in some capacity to invade an otherwise peer environment. People appreciate being able to voice their opinions and show their loyalty to particular brands, and of cause have some contact with them but there is a fine balance to tread.
When in the social sphere we need to keep acting socially. This may sound obvious but time and again brands misinterpret appreciation as a signal to begin marketing. Brands need to add value to user experience in the same way that friends do: think invites, offers, news and updates.

Get a life.
It’s awfully hard to be social when you’re operating as a corporate body and speaking directly from the tone of voice guidelines. There are no absolute rules in the Social Media sphere but broadly speaking people like talking to people, not answer machines. We all appreciate natural and open conversation and inherently know when what we’re being offered is contrived and rehearsed. So get a life, grow a personality and give people the sort of information that you would like to receive. We all like humour, gossip, pictures, and videos; none of us communicate with our friends through press releases.

The demise of markets.
Market places are dying. Social Media is all about connecting with people, not demographics and so we should train ourselves to think in terms of conversations not markets. Conversations are an organic way of discovering and responding to people’s needs and the needs of their friends and families. Sometimes there will be a sale at the end but always your brand awareness will grow. When we talk about marketing to a demographic we’re already thinking in outdated terms and denying the individuality of customers and the power of Social Media. To use Social Media effectively you need to be prepared to have personal conversations.

Get Flexible
Get flexible with the relevance of your posts to your product. Appeal to the things that naturally appeal to people not just the things that appeal directly to your brand. If you’re in the business of insurance, post videos and pictures of skateboarding gone bad or bad drivers; YouTube is full of them. If you offer music tuition post the video of the Korean boy sing the Jack Johnson song. You need to learn to make you brand and its personality appeal to people. Post everything that relates to your brand and find a way of making the best of the web fit.

Jump in the deep end.
Jump in and start swimming. There’s little worse than a Social Media site that was set up, posted twice three months ago and has done nothing since. Equally, you should be embarrassed if three hours after a story makes the news you retweet or post the same thing having had it approved by the policy police; the online community expects instant news. And don’t be afraid of failing, Social Media moves so fast that what you perceive as a massive mistake, people will read once and move on. If you’re really unhappy delete the post and apologise for the slip; you’ve just become human.

Behave yourselves.

By Dan Chalke