7 Sins of Social Media Marketers

Like most digital marketers, I live a double life. I have a day job in a digital advertising agency while I am also busy blogging, twittering, facebooking, weibo-ing (Weibo is the China version of Twitter) and of course, checking-in on Foursquare lately.

And because of my active participation in social networks, I am lucky to have made many friends that are influential bloggers. Some of them shared similar experiences about how they were frequently annoyed by executives from advertising agencies, PR firms, or even client marketers.

I then took notes to remind our social media team and myself, summarised below the top seven don’ts and propose solutions for marketers to consider when launching social media campaigns.

1. Don’t add someone on Facebook without introducing yourself.

Yes, this might sound obvious. But from my observation, it is still a really common practice for most industry practitioners. They include PR executives from renowned international agencies or even senior executives from corporations who might think they are so famous and important that if ‘I’m adding you so just accept it’.

The alternative way:It won’t kill you to write a few lines to introduce yourself and tell the person why you want to add him or her. By doing so, at least you are showing some respect and professionalism.

2. Don’t ‘request’ someone to follow you on Twitter.

“@rudileung Can you follow me?”, a stranger made this ‘request’ on Twitter to me. “Why?” I replied. “I want to DM (Direct Message) you”, the stranger said.  It sounded like a lame reason anyone would be bothered, doesn’t it?

The alternative way: If you want to get someone’s attention on Twitter, you have to at least start a conversation first. Write quality response to their tweets or actively retweet their tweets would be a good start. If deadline is coming and you desperately need to contact them, send them a private message on their blog. But don’t make yourself sound too desperate.

3. Don’t stalk the bloggers’ family or friends on Facebook.

I learned there were blogger’s family members or friends being added by “strangers” (actually most are PR agency executives) on Facebook after they have showed up at blogger events. Some people might think this is harmless, but some bloggers think this is an invasion of privacy.

The alternative way: It’s fine to keep a list of bloggers that your agency has engaged with and understand the relationship of their friends network. So before the next event, you can simply extend your invitation to their friends or family rather than contact them directly.

4. Don’t be the skunk at the picnic.

The alternative way: Being positive is key. Avoid picking a fight or saying anything that won’t add any value to a conversation. If you don’t like a post, just leave it alone. Try responding or sharing the posts you appreciate rather than the ones you dislike which people would think it might have your personal agenda involved.

5. Don’t approach bloggers for market intelligence.

So you are looking for more bloggers to attend your next event and you also want to learn what your competitors are doing lately. In cases like this, your blogger ‘friends’ would be the last contacts you should seek for help. I am not saying that you can’t be friends with them on social media but expecting them to share their personal contacts or your rival’s information would make you look unprofessional.

The alternative way: Every social media team should build its own network of social media influencers and sources of market intelligence. It is not rocket science but it involves a lot of hard work and all you need to do is do your own online research and homework. It takes time but it is worth to customise your own best practices that fit into your agency’s culture.

6. Don’t sabotage your friendship for work.

I understand you are making a living on social networks. But your high school buddies or your ex(s) don’t have the obligation to fulfill your work tasks.  So don’t send mass mailers to them or post campaign messages on the accounts of their social networks.  Sending a generic message without acknowledging me is bad. Sending a message but forgetting to change the name of the receiver is disastrous.

The alternative way: If you really want your friends to help spread your campaign or play a Facebook game, invite them individually via Live Messenger or email. It is fine to promote the campaign on your own wall or status updates on Facebook or Twitter. If you want more attention, post it during the time of the day when most of your friends are available online. Then you can do a quick follow up if someone responds.

7. Don’t hit and run on Instant Messenger. You just added a new ‘friend’ on Facebook or MSN Messenger. The next day you see him or her online. Don’t just copy and paste your sales pitch plus campaign link via messenger without saying hello. Then before the receiver has a chance to respond, you vanish.

The alternative way: Make sure that person is online and at least say hello before you try to pitch him or her anything. Or you can leave them a private message on Facebook, email, or Twitter instead. Follow up with a phone call if possible.

At the end of the day, social media marketing is still an activity dealing with people. So don’t just keep everything solely in the virtual world.

This column was originally published Dec. 3, 2010 on ClickZ.Asia.

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