Undeniably, social media can be a marketing powerhouse. You can use it to generate awareness for your products and exponentially grow your client base. Plus, all the major social media platforms are free; it’s the perfect marketing solution, right?
Well, not to rain on your parade, but social media has as many pitfalls as it has advantages. I watched on Twitter a few weeks ago as a marketer committed social media suicide.
It all started with a harmless tweet. Someone shared a horrific experience about having a painful and nearly fatal allergic reaction. Spotting a potential customer, a marketer from a company selling non-allergenic products sent the tweet’s owner a marketing message.
So far, so good. The marketer had done nothing wrong. He utilized Twitter’s search function to narrow down relevant terms and leverage the information to target a potential customer. So where’s the problem? After all, this approach is social media marketing 101.
Unfortunately, the marketing message rubbed the recipient the wrong way. It was poorly targeted, and the message lacked empathy for the recipient’s experience. Thus it came off as opportunistic and predatory.
The result? The recipient let her displeasure known in her response.
I don’t need to tell you that being put on the spot by an angry customer is any marketer’s nightmare. However, this case was worse since everyone reading the recipient’s tweetstream became aware of the issue. It goes without saying that the marketer seriously compromised his company’s brand image.
Now, the solution for this marketing debacle seems straightforward. A sincere apology from the marketer would have soothed the recipient and diffused the situation. Furthermore, he could have gone the extra mile and offered free samples of his company’s products. Unfortunately, the marketer chose the alternative; he dug in and defended his actions.
His poor decision had the effect of adding fuel to a dumpster fire. The potential customer went on a warpath; She publicly vowed never to use the company’s products and told everyone on her Twitter network about her negative experience with the company. More bad publicity.
Here are three critical lessons from this marketing disaster.
- Searching for trending terms is not good enough
Search terms will only get you so far. Understanding the context behind search results is the key to effective marketing. The marketer would have weighed the situation better if he’d read the Tweet and empathized with the potential customer.
He would have easily crafted a positive marketing message and avoided offending the customer with mistaken assumptions.
To illustrate, you can’t market cat toys to someone who has tweeted either “I hate cats” or “My cat just died.” It’s unlikely that either case will be a productive lead.
2. Social Media is not the platform for hard-selling
Undoubtedly, this is the elephant in the room. Print and TV ad strategies don’t work well with door-to-door selling and social media. Here’s why; Print and TV ads work by hard-selling products. This approach doesn’t work with social media, especially since platforms like Twitter weren’t designed primarily as marketing platforms.
It would be best to remember that you’re like a virtual door-to-door salesman when you’re marketing on social media. You have to connect with your prospects on a personal level by being respectful, friendly and empathetic.
Go soft, not hard. While your prospects can’t slam the door in your face as they would for an annoying salesperson, they can still block you.
3. Be considerate when you have made a social (media) blunder
You can’t afford a war of words with your customers, especially on social media networks. Arguing with a customer’s reaction could quickly blow things out of proportion. What started as a single tweet could cascade into an avalanche of negative responses or worse- a cancel hashtag aimed at your brand.
It’s okay to defend your brand but do it tactfully. My rule of thumb is you can explain that it wasn’t your intention to be insensitive but follow with an honest and clear apology. It’s rare for customers not to accept apologies; moreover, you still have a shot of making a sale if the customer is in a forgiving mood.