They say the new game in marketing is all about building relationships and trust. Most companies that dive into digital marketing accomplish just the opposite: they come off like robots.
Are you one of them? If you’re making any of these 5 mistakes, you probably are.
1. Posting about yourself
Whether it’s on their blog or their social media account, most companies that try to market themselves online make this mistake. Accustomed to the world of push marketing, where the audience is captive, they believe the best way to market themselves is to talk about themselves. So they talk about their history, their latest stunt, and the latest deal or contest.
Consider The Sales Lion’s experience with a brand called The Walking Company. Marcus Sheridan suffers from Plantar fasciitis, which makes the arches of his feet hurt…a lot. He’s spent hundreds of dollars on The Walking Company because they’ve built trust with him as a provider of insoles that remedy this problem. But he won’t be hearing any more of their marketing messages, because when he decided to give their newsletter a try, this is what he saw:
- Feature of the Week: Our Most Popular Dansko Sandals – FREE 2nd Day Shipping!
- NEW Arrivals of our #1 Sandals – ABEO B.I.O.system | We’ll Pay Your Tax!
- NEW Spring Arrivals for Men! | ECCO, ABEO, Thad Stuart & More!
Sheridan knows damn well when he needs new shoes or insoles, and like the vast majority of people, these emails went ignored. If, on the other hand, the newsletter had been filled with helpful tips about how to ease his Plantar fasciitis, he would have remained a subscriber, and seen many more brand impressions as a result.
Or consider Walmart’s blog. Clearly, nobody can argue that Walmart isn’t doing some things right; they wouldn’t be king of retail if they weren’t. But when you consider all the people in all the stores, the practically ubiquitous presence that the retail chain has, shouldn’t it be at least a little depressing that this blog post has a whopping two likes on Facebook? And that that’s the rule, not the exception?
Why? Simple. Every post on the blog is about Walmart and what Walmart is doing.
There’s room for these kinds of posts, but they should only make up a small portion of the content that you publish. Remember, online audiences are voluntary. Consumers don’t need to visit your blog, stay subscribed to your newsletter, or listen to messages on your Facebook page. To keep them listening, you need to give them a reason to keep coming back.
Digital marketers need to think less like advertisers and more like media outlets. Ratings take priority. Here are some of the tools in your inventory to make that happen:
- Shift the focus away from you and toward the audience
- Inject your posts with personality and humor
- Give your audience actionable advice
- Focus on the surprising, emotional, and counterintuitive
- Tell stories
2. No responses on social media
One of the greatest things that social networks have to offer is the capacity to go viral, but that is far from the only thing they are good for. If you focus all of your attention on trying to go viral and none of it on building relationships, you are missing out on a great deal of opportunity.
Make an effort to respond to comments, inquiries, feedback, and other communications. When you post and run, your audience is more likely to think you don’t really care about them. This doesn’t exactly make you unusual to them, but it does mean you’re nothing special to them either.
Recent research demonstrates that 66 percent of customers expect a response to their social media complaint the same day. Forty-two percent expect it the same hour or better, and only 33 percent expect it within a few days. When you let comments go ignored entirely, you dramatically fail to meet these expectations.
Only 40 percent of people asked say they don’t expect a response.
When an online company responds to comments, it demonstrates that they care about their customers. It sends the message that they really want the best for their target audience and that they won’t take advantage of them. It builds trust and it makes them more likely to recommend you to a friend.
At the same time, there is the danger of taking this too far, and getting it oh so wrong.
When brands just invite their customers and followers over for a conversation, they tend to get sabotaged. This happened with Starbucks when their #SpreadTheCheer hashtag was hijacked to complain to the company about tax evasion. The same happened to McDonalds when they asked customers to share stories about the brand, and got a lot of dialysis and heart attack stories in response.
People share and engage on social networks in order to maintain relationships with their friends and family, not brands. What they really want from you are kudos, little missions and stories that they can play a part in and look better for doing so. Any brand can take part in idle chit-chat. It doesn’t do much but destroy the magic.
Also, don’t try to automate responses, or this happens:
3. Trying to control the conversation
With digital marketing, it’s impossible to control the direction of discussions about your brand and its peripheral subject matter. Customers have an unlimited number of outlets for their discussions. You may be able to moderate comments on your own properties, but the conversation is taking place elsewhere, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. This is true whether you’re involved in digital marketing or not.
Nestle proved this in a big way when they tried to censor a Greenpeace video. Greenpeace had posted a video to YouTube showing deforestation that they linked to Nestle. Nestle’s response only caused the situation to inflate. They had the video taken down for “copyright violation,” and soon after the social networks were swamped with copies of the video and complaints about Nestle’s attempt to censor it.
As the anger swelled, Facebook activists started posting altered versions of Nestle’s logo and using them as their profile pictures. Nestle said that they would delete all such images, which of course led to yet another firestorm.
Sentiments around the Nestle brand dropped 36 percent as a result.
The smart marketer doesn’t try to control the direction of the conversation, they adapt to it. This doesn’t mean that they respond with the kind of PR-friendly, wishy-washy, gray comments and excuses that only offend nobody because they please nobody. It means that they respond directly, take full responsibility for their actions, take stances, and admit when they made mistakes.
The goal of the online marketer is always to be a part of the conversation in the first place. Trying to control it is a fool’s errand and a great way to ask for trouble.
4. Chasing the news
It’s important to respond to real time events and be “current” if you want to stay relevant to your audience, but chasing the news is a strategy that rarely plays off well. At best, you’ll be seen as a drone repeating what others have already said, and see very little outcome. At worst, you’ll be seen as somebody who exploits current events for their own benefit, hijacking the news for sales.
Case in point: SellItOnline. As brushfires swept through Australia and left many homeless, SellItOnline offered to donate electric generators to the victims if people liked them on Facebook. This led to an enormous backlash that should have been expected. The same goes for Kenneth Cole, who tweeted “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at [link].”
These are only the stories that you hear. Arguably the worst newsjacking stories are the ones you don’t hear: the countless blogs that regurgitate what they heard on the news or read on the latest blog without adding anything to the conversation, and earning zero followers in response.
Smart marketers don’t try to stay relevant by chasing news stories. Instead, they do things that are newsworthy. They act like investigative journalists and are actually the first one to break a story. They share proprietary information and industry secrets in order to attract attention and build trust. They leverage their private data to create a news story.
Being newsworthy doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. To promote The Muppets Movie last year, one simple stunt they put together looked like this:
All they did was mail these cupcakes to top tweeters like Stephen Fry, Claudia Winkelman, and T4 presenter Jameela Jamil, who immediately responded by tweeting about the cupcakes. That’s making news, instead of chasing it.
There’s nothing wrong with mentioning current events in your posts, it’s just a bad idea to build an entire post around one, unless it’s an event you are responsible for.
5. Rehashing played-out content
It’s important to bring something new to the table with every piece of content that you publish. I’m not talking about reinventing the wheel; that’s a waste of time. I’m talking about making sure that most of the people who see your content are going to see something they haven’t seen before.
The biggest mistake you can make? Copying the main points of a previously written blog post and just changing the way it’s worded. Don’t get me wrong: sometimes it’s a good idea to reiterate the basics. But you better bring new examples to the table, use a different writing style, or present it in a unique way when you do.
I could cite examples here, but I won’t, because I’d just be picking on the little guy. I’d be pointing to no-name blogs that nobody’s ever heard of. Played-out content doesn’t result in the kind of epic failures that are fun to point at and laugh about. It results in the whimpers and slow deaths of countless blogs that never found an audience.
Instead, I’ll point you to something that Darren Rowse, creator of ProBlogger, put together. Darren’s real money site, Digital Photography School, has over a million subscribers. The blog became a success because Darren filled it with free and unique information about how to take great photographs. Darren Rowse makes six figures, and he does it by selling advertising space.
What could you do with an actual product if you just got the strategy right?