When to Say “No” to Your Social Media Marketers

See photo credit belowMore and more people are calling themselves social media marketers these days,  so how do you know the one you are working with is giving you good advice?

As always, my recommendation is to first hire a social media professional (someone employed in social media for at least five years) as your in-house guide, watchdog and subject matter expert. Until then, here are four red-flag warning signs that you’re getting bad advice from your social media marketer:

They tell you they will “grow your followers/friends by ‘x’ amount in ‘y’ days”
This is the snake oil of social media. If you focus solely on the numbers, you will get what you paid for – numbers. Not relationships, not engagement and not a deeper connection with your audience (audience=customers), big, meaningless numbers. Why does this matter? Studies show that when consumers feel connected to a product or brand, they are more likely to purchase and recommend it to others. We live in a referral society where consumers no longer swallow the fluff that marketers dole out. Puffery equals B.S. They are more likely to rely on friends, family and yes, even strangers who share their own personal experience with your brands. If your marketer focuses primarily on the numbers, focus on getting a new marketer.

 They say they’ll create “fan accounts” to help elevate your brand on social measurement sites.
If that’s their plan, plan on stopping them ASAP. You can’t fake engagement. The web is self-correcting and there are many professionals and amateurs alike who can spot a shill at 140 characters or less. And when they do, the blowback lands squarely on you. Recent example: New Gingrich touts that he should be the Republican candidate for president because “I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined.” What came out a few days later? That 85% of his followers were fake, fabricated by the marketing firm his campaign hired. Bye-bye, Newt. This is absolutely wrong-headed and happens more than you’d think. When they start talking “fake,” you start talking with another marketer.

 They tell you that social media is just another distribution point.
In 1995, I became a contractor at AOL and managed communities for several content channels. Back then (good ol’ Web 1.0) we created content and the information flowed to our members — one-way. That’s when the web was just another distribution point. That’s old (and in Internet years, ancient) thinking. Social media includes the word “social” for a good reason. It’s about people — interacting with each other, yes, but also interacting with your company. Again, in today’s referral society, the need to curate consumers as brand supporters (low, but some, engagement), loyalists (solid, maintained engagement) and defenders (active brand ambassador engagement) means one-way communication doesn’t cut it. If your marketer suggests that it does, show him/her the one-way out.

 They want to set you up on every social network known to the free (and not-so-free) world.
As a social media professional I believe engaging in social media makes sense. So, does that mean that more social media makes even more sense? The answer, of course, is “no”. Every company can benefit from social media, but not all social media benefits every company.  You have a target audience for a reason, so you need to participate online where your target audience lives.  If your marketer say you need a presence on MySpace, and you’re not in the music industry, play them the “Nah, nah, hey hey goodbye” song.

I could go on (and probably will in subsequent posts) but you get the idea. Make Accuracy, Transparency and Integrity the foundation of your social media strategy. You’ll thank me later.

UPDATED, February 16, 2012:  Think Social Media “experts” are any better? Think again. See this entry by Pam Moore: “Social Media Consultant Gone Bad… Real Bad!

PHOTO CREDIT: Freakoutville Express

About Ron Casalotti
I am part of that lucky generation that started out when watching TV meant choosing from three networks, three independents and PBS. Now, I work in new (social) media for businesses and organizations - but these thoughts are my own.

2 Responses to When to Say “No” to Your Social Media Marketers

  1. Nice collection of warning signs, humorously though seriously presented. It’s a somewhat scary indictment of the industry that you “could go on” and come up with more than 4.


  2. Pingback: Your Questions About Social Media Strategy | Miami Video Production | Internet Marketing | the best

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