Since I wrote a post on the topic of social media and ROI, I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems associated with social media marketing in general. Some might have thought that I covered it with my post this past Saturday talking about the dangers of social media, but I didn’t. Matter of fact, that was geared more towards individuals; now it’s time to talk about the problems businesses have.


by Phillie Casablanca via Flickr

I believe there are two major problems with social media marketing; those are:

1) getting the message wrong

2) being ignored

For any other issue that one might come up with, these are the two biggest problems to date. I never touched upon the second one when I did the outline for my social media marketing seminar back in 2010, and barely touched upon the first one. That’s because I’m usually concentrating on educating people as to what social media is in the first place, not getting much into the details of it. I like to think I know something about social media marketing, but every once in awhile I have an epiphany and realize that I’ve just scratched the surface.

Getting The Message Wrong

Let’s get into it. We’ll start with the first premise, that being getting the message wrong. Man, is it easy to mess up. Just ask McDonald’s, which tried to have a Twitter media campaign asking people to use a certain hashtag telling the world why they love McDonald’s. The problem is that not everyone likes McDonald’s, or wants to own up to it, and thus there were a lot of negative responses that hijacked the hashtag and brought a modicum of embarrassment. A representative said the negative comments only amounted to 2% of comments overall but no one believes that. And even if it’s true, then McDonald’s still lost because the media has already spread the word; bad publicity isn’t always better than no publicity at all.


from Huffington Post

The problem sometimes comes from thinking you know your market when you don’t. I don’t hate McDonald’s, but I hear a lot of people putting down their food, although many of those same people will scarf down a box of fries if they got one; those things are tasty. Setting it up as a Twitter campaign to promote your company when you know there’s a lot of negative press about you from time to time (who hasn’t read this story nor seen the picture next to this paragraph about their chicken?) probably isn’t one of the smartest moves in the world. And they paid someone to create this campaign for them; they should have known better.

Late last year there was a campaign from the makers of Ragu (my favorite spaghetti sauce by the way) that seemed to make fun of the cooking skills of fathers and faced a major backlash about it. Truthfully, I thought it was a lot of fuss about nothing, but it was a fuss and the company ended up having to apologize to fathers for it.

This kind of thing happens all the time, and it doesn’t have to be this big. There was a woman whose book got a bad review on Amazon and she went after the person who wrote that review, only angering a constituency that hadn’t reviewed her book online because they’d thought it was horribly written and edited and just didn’t want to make a fuss, and once they mobilized and wrote all the negative reviews you can imagine the woman pretty much disappeared, with her book eventually averaging just barely over 1 star. Yes, social media can be deadly indeed.

Being Ignored

If getting the message wrong is a major problem, a problem just as bad is being ignored. Some time ago I wrote a post saying that social media marketing is just marketing. As true as that is, I didn’t expand it further at the time, mainly because I hadn’t thought about it.

When you watch your favorite programs on TV, what do you notice during the commercials? You notice that you see the same commercial over and over. During most sporting events on TV, you’ll often see the same commercial at every break. This year the big commercials seem to be from Papa John’s, who’s sponsoring the Super Bowl. The point isn’t that they’re paying millions to do that; the point is that they’re making sure their message gets across by popping it up there every 3 or 4 minutes on multiple channels to make sure we all get the message.

Let’s think about our social media marketing processes. I wrote about our reluctance to market ourselves, and it probably needs to be modified to say our reluctance to over-market ourselves. Indeed, if you read the comments on that post, you’ll see people admitting that they hate marketing themselves, instead spending a lot of time promoting others with the expectation that doing it helps to promote themselves. It does, but if one really wanted to earn a significant income, just how much marketing and self promotion via social media would we have to do?

The short answer; a lot. During my recent short period of pitching my request for a Shorty Award nomination I started retweeting that request every couple of hours. I did that for maybe 4 days before I started feeling self conscious about it; I even had it up here as a sticky post for that time period before putting it back into regular circulation.

That campaign only got me 26 overall votes, and what’s funny about it is how people said they never saw it; are you kidding me? I put it on Twitter, I put it on Facebook, I wrote about it on two other blogs. Yet that’s all I got; with a lot of people saying they never saw it, and I bet there are people right now who will say they never saw it.

The same thing happened when I was marketing my 2010 live presentation locally. I thought I was putting my message out there often, over many weeks, yet not only was the turnout not what I expected it to be, but when I mentioned it to people less than a month after it ended they said “I didn’t know you were doing that”. How often can one legitimately put their message out there?

One of the biggest complaints many of us have about some of the people we see marketing through social media is that they’re always promoting themselves over and over, to the extent that we’re sick of them and we stop following them. I’m one of those people, yet I’m starting to realize that if I ever really want to make money via social media marketing, or get better known so that I will get more consulting gigs or requests to speak at paid gigs that putting out the occasional marketing post probably isn’t going to get it done. And that doesn’t bode well for someone, whether it’s me or someone following me. People will do what people need to do to make money, and whether you or I like it or not if those people make money by those means, who are we to say they don’t have the right to make a living?

Those of us hoping for positive things out of our social media presence and social media marketing have to decide what it is we really want to do to reach our goals. I haven’t decided yet, but I’m still leaning towards not being too much of a pest. But maybe I can be slightly pesty, if that’s a word; I’m not sure. An interesting question is whether I’d do it for a client that asked for it. I’d have to answer that with an affirmative, which means we’re back to an old Redd Foxx joke, where the punch line is “we’re just arguing over the price”. One of these days, if prodded enough, I might tell the rest of that joke. 🙂

Meanwhile, think about it; what would it take for you to decide to put yourself out there more in social media, and just what would that mean?
 

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