Advise, Don't Advertise

There's lots of good advice out there about how to launch a social media marketing campaign, and luckily for you, most of it is in agreement.

However, one thing you should remember is this - people don't want to be advertised to when they log in to Twitter. Sponsored tweets and promoted trends are already annoying lots of people, so don't let your own marketing tweets have a compounding effect.

You might think that sounds like an impossible situation, but it's not. You just have to remember that social networking is about word of mouth - you only need to give people a positive impression of your brand, and they'll do the hard work of converting themselves into customers the next time they need a product or service that you provide.

And that is why I say this: Advise, Don't Advertise.

A Question of Timing

I'm referring to the practice of linking to your website from a tweet, or from a Facebook status update.

Most, if not all, of the how-to guides for social media marketing campaigns will tell you that links are good, that most tweets contain a link, or are retweets of useful links, and so on.

What they don't all tell you is this - tweeting a link to your homepage is not a good idea.

Your link to your homepage belongs in your Twitter bio, the snippet of information that appears at the top of your profile page. People who want it will see it there, but it won't impose on people who don't want it.

So what do you link to? For some of you, this will already be obvious, but for the rest of you, here goes...

Do not link to:

  • your homepage
  • a static landing page
  • an overtly promotional/order page

Do link to:

  • a press release
  • a news item
  • a blog post

Now, there's some crossover there, so things get a little complicated. Take Phronesis, for example - this whole website's a blog, and I use posts as landing pages. So should I link to them?

The answer is yes, when they're new. And yes, if they answer a question or solve somebody's problem. But once they've been published, if nobody asks about them, I let my pages attract search traffic, and find something new to write about for my social media audience.

Social media - particularly Twitter - is a realtime medium. To keep up, you need new content. Simply linking, over and over again, to your static landing pages, will not have the desired effect.

Ask the Right Questions

What constitutes a good post for a realtime audience, then? Begin by asking yourself a few questions - the list below is by no means comprehensive, but should give you an idea of where to start. And, again, there's some crossover between the different areas - one post could answer more than one of the questions.

Is it new?

'New' doesn't have to mean 'news', but there's no reason why it shouldn't. A quick report on some breaking news in your industry, or an update on your own company operations, is an easy way to add value to your website, as well as giving you something you can link to via Twitter that is clearly time-relevant.

Is it funny?

Jokes. Be careful - if you're really not funny, or if you're too easily amused by jokes about paedophiles, you might want to avoid this minefield completely (see my own Jesus Christ, Fenton debacle). If you've got a good but inoffensive sense of humour, though, a witty post or two can show a human side to your company that Twitter users are likely to embrace.

Is it helpful?

If you're not funny, draw on your other strengths. Maybe you know your industry better than anyone - and are therefore in a unique position to offer tips and how-to guides to newcomers. Social media is as much about networking within your industry as it is about drawing in customers, so don't be afraid to interact - as long as you're not sharing absolute trade secrets, it probably can't hurt to be friendly.

Answer all the Right Questions

If you're working on an informative post, make sure it covers all the necessary bases - miss out one, and you undermine the value of your page.

For instance, imagine your article is a piece of world news. You need to tell people when it happened, so they know it's news. You need to say where it happened, to put it in geographical context. You need to tell people who was involved. And, of course, you need to tell people what actually happened, so they can decide whether they think the story's newsworthy at all.

This next part is a total cliche in terms of journalism advice, but here goes...

Make sure your article answers the following questions:

  • What happened?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?

You might not be able to answer all of those questions directly, but give as much detail as you can, without becoming self-indulgent. Your readers will want to know the whole story, so give it to them without going overboard.

Overall...

...remember what I said up top. People don't log on to a social network to be advertised at. They want genuine interaction and added value - and in many cases, they want something for free.

You'll need to be willing to give them that - whether it's dead-pan advice or something with a little humour involved - to truly establish positive word of mouth and favourable brand perceptions.

In return, you can gain brand advocates and new customers who will stick with you as long as you maintain your social media presence.

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