Avoid Poisoning the Marketing Channels

A friend who manages a store for a large retail chain recently told me that headquarters announced a companywide conference call for all store managers. Never a good sign.

The chain apparently had decided to increase its e-mail marketing efforts during this economic downturn. It implemented a quota system for store managers, requiring each store to capture 25 percent of its customers’ e-mail addresses.

You might be able to guess what happened next. Unable to reach their quota by normal means, some stores started making up e-mail addresses. As a result, the chain’s e-mail service provider detected a large number of bogus e-mail addresses and refused to send the e-mails.

Naturally the ESP is working with the retailer to correct the problem. But in the interim, my friend complained, they’re unable to send out any e-mail marketing. The moral: Don’t poison the well by using bad marketing practices.

This type of well poisoning now happens with social media channels like Facebook. As marketing on these channels becomes more tempting, it’s important to begin a discussion on exactly how we safely and effectively market to these channels.

Hopefully we can at least begin the dialogue and raise awareness of the issues, if not necessarily come up with answers.

From my viewpoint, shared by many marketing professionals with whom I’ve had this discussion, each social network has its own role in our working lives. For many, LinkedIn and Twitter are the de facto B2B (define) networking networks, while Facebook is for personal contacts and, at best, B2C (define) marketing efforts. The vast majority of my Facebook “friends” are also industry colleagues, which adds an interesting conundrum: how much do you want your industry contacts to know about what you’re doing and your personal life?

Add to this that many people use Twitter to automatically update their Facebook and you have a scenario where, as George Costanza would say, “Worlds are colliding.”

I recently unfriended some people I’m otherwise perfectly friendly with. Why? These folks never provide personal information in their updates and use the channel to promote themselves, their products, and their companies. On LinkedIn, I wouldn’t mind it. But on Facebook, it’s as if I invited someone into my house and they tried to sell me blue-green algae.

On the other hand, some of my Facebook “friends” provide references to interesting articles they’ve read. I find this valuable, even though it’s business related.

Some people keep two Facebook accounts: one for friends and the other for business associates. I’m beginning to lean toward the idea that this is the wrong approach.

Facebook requires a personal touch. As an example, my Facebook friends include jazz musicians I admire. Most of these musicians use the channel strictly to promote their personal appearances and CDs.

However, one jazz musician, Sean Jones, uses the Facebook channel effectively. One of the best jazz trumpeters on scene today, he announces his concerts and albums on Facebook, and also lets you know what he’s thinking — how he feels that day, that he’s stuck in traffic, his thoughts on race. He’s not just updating his fans — he’s turning them into friends.

I’m reminded of the late comedian Red Skelton. When Red Skelton traveled from town to town doing his act, he would collect the postal addresses of anyone who came to see him. Each time he played a town, he would personally write to everyone who had shared their mailing address to let them know he was coming to town again. Instead of playing to an audience of strangers, he played to an audience of friends.

Isn’t that what social media is all about?

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