“Share this with your followers!”
“Share this link with three of your friends to get into the beta!”
“Invite three friends for pumpkin seeds!”
The social share button is the ‘brother, can you spare a dime?’ of online business.
Trying to Get Something for Nothing
When asking customers to push a message to their lists of friends, remember that credibility is an exhaustible resource. Different customers want to be perceived in different ways by their friends. If they expect that pushing your message will enhance their social standing, they’ll do it. If they think it might damage their social standing, then they won’t share.
If your prospects are uncertain about the value of your offering, asking them to ‘share’ is asking them to take a risk on you. And if they don’t trust your company, then they’re not going to take that risk. Begging for a “like” without offering value is a losing strategy. Experiencing the pain of this failure is what turns businesses to spam techniques — they try to get started with begging. The time-honored method is to begin by offering value first, and then giving prospects the opportunity to reciprocate.
It may cost $0 to post something on Facebook, but it still has potential risk and cost to the credibility of the user. If that customer (or potential customer) attributes little value to their credibility, then their potential value in spreading the message of your business is close to $0.
This is how much it costs to buy a robotic Twitter follower with no credibility: $0.018, according to the internet security specialists Barracuda Labs. One tweet from one of those two-penny bots is barely valuable enough to calculate. It’s tough to discriminate between bots, high-value customers, low-value customers, and high-value customers who aren’t good at looking cool on the internet.
Your uncle Barry may be a potentially valuable customer to some business — perhaps he makes $300,000 per year and loves purchasing expensive boating equipment on an annual basis. The catch is that he may have less-than-zero credibility thanks to his penchant for forwarding chain letter e-mails and his repeated posting about the Mayan Apocalypse on Facebook. While there are countless tools out there for measuring “influence” and “reach” on social media, there aren’t many that connect that with real purchasing behavior.
The idea that mass-promoting through Facebook and Twitter is a low risk / high reward strategy mistaken.
It’s usually a high-risk, potentially low-reward or loss-making strategy. It’s certainly not the only strategy that you want to pursue to spread the good word about your product.
Not every pair of eyeballs is worth the same as another pair of eyeballs. It’s a mistake to treat customers like commodities if you want to run anything more than a marginal commodity business.
The funny thing about this video is it’s an accurate portrayal of the muddy, often unethical, and bot-ridden state of online marketing today. Major companies buy lists of robots to ‘advertise’ to, and have only limited methods for tracking conversions. Despite a theoretical capacity to avoid sending the same ad messages to people who are already customers as those who aren’t, plenty of companies make ad purchases based on expressed preferences rather than purchasing behavior
It’s a fundamental error to assume that all advertising messages are good for your product. The adage that “all publicity is good publicity” is wrong. When people complain about advertisements that “annoy” or “offend” them, it’s safe to assume that they’re telling the truth. Those follower-and-like counts can deceive a marketer into believing that just because X thousand people are reading something, it’ll impact sales.
David Ogilvy wrote “The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product” in Ogilvy on Advertising. Intuitively, we know this from our experience with annoying or offensive ads. But when a professional gets paid to produce an ad or to formulate a “social media strategy,” bum incentives combined with ordinary incompetence often result in an endless trickle of treacle squirting from every free “social” account that they can get their hands on.
The endless supply of “social media channels” — publishing technology that’s so cheap that it’s almost free — has caused an overproduction of vapid and counterproductive marketing messages that pollute the attention of customers everywhere. In any kind of business, the only sustainable goal is to improve the lives of your customers.
But you’re going to have struggle to pay your bills and to mollify nervous investors if you continue to worship at the altar of “continuous connection” with your customers regardless of whether or not it improves their lives. Just because someone likes your company’s page or follows your company’s Twitter account or follows your company’s Pinterest board isn’t necessarily an indication of a customer relationship. All it says is that they clicked a button on one of your pages. “Like” doesn’t mean “like.” It’s more of a vague expression of interest that’s often quickly forgotten.
I’m open to be sold to when a company has something to sell. To be pedantic, selling is convincing a prospect that they’ll be better off after they buy your product.
This is an example of a “social” ad, which is no different in structure from an infomercial, which worked on me:
This ad is up-front with the benefits of the product, explains the ethos of the company, and wraps it in a humorous package. It also only cost $4,500 to produce.
If you’re trying to persuade someone, you need to answer the implicit question of “What’s in it for me?” Online, I see few companies willing or even capable of articulating a value proposition Asking for a “like” is so often akin to begging for permission to annoy the customer until they decide to hide your page.
There’s something good to be said about a company that sells, and then goes away and stands ready to provide service upon request. This isn’t a radical proposal: it’s what waiters in nice restaurants do. If I’m at a restaurant, I don’t want to be harassed every 45 seconds to “try the Bloomin’ Onion™.”
Sell me the onion once and then go away. Explain to me why this is the bloomingest onion in the world. If I say “no, not interested,” go away graciously.
Here’s what I want you to learn from this post:
- Annoying, offensive, and irrelevant marketing messages cause people to associate uncomfortable feelings with your company. This harms sales.
- Just because you can post something to your “followers,” doesn’t mean that you should.
- “Engagement” is only worthwhile if it involves you selling your customers something that improves their lives.
- When you’re publishing media for your company, sell. You’re not trying to make friends with the customer, except in the context of being a friendly salesperson. You’re selling them something that will make their lives better.
- Be suspicious of any numbers that can be faked trivially. Sales are good. Follower counts are bad. Like counts are bad. E-mail sign-up counts are questionable until they’ve been validated by sales.