For brands, social is, amongst plenty of other things, a place to engage with your fans. Your listeners. The people who pay your bills. You need to respect (most of) them. You need to be genuine. If you’re going to hang out with your community online, you need to be real. And you need to delineate genuine banter and engagement content from marketing content.
When you embed marketing into your “genuine” social engagement content you are essentially saying to your community, "Let’s talk… but only if I get something out of it." And that just doesn’t feel right. You’re running the risk of alienating your audience, particularly those that are tech savvy.
That’s not to say you cannot market socially. You absolutely can. What you need to do, though, is not treat your audience—who you’re so adamantly pursuing in an authentic way—like idiots. When you poll your Twitter audience with a yes/no question and you direct them to “RT for YES, Fav for NO,” you’re crossing the line. Why is that line crossing? In essence, you’re requiring those who want to respond with a “yes” to promote your brand, via a retweet. And those that want to say “no?” You care just enough about their response to ask them to favorite the tweet, an action that no one except the person at the controls can see.
When you have a specific marketing ask of your social audience, make it known. They’ll actually respect you for it. Better yet, don’t build a marketing mechanism into your social content. Instead of the whole “RT for YES, Fav for NO” thing, simply ask your community to reply yes or no. You’re getting the mention, but you’re not being pushy. There’s a difference. In fact, you’ll probably get more engagement.
"But retweeting or favoriting requires less action! Two taps/clicks at most!" says the other side. Sure. That’s absolutely true: retweeting is easier than replying and typing out y-e-s. (Hashtag optional, preferably omitted.) No argument against that. But again, assume a base level of social capability and you’ll get a base level audience. If that’s what you want, by all means: quantity over quality… though for how long?
Social gives brands an incredible avenue to do three things:
Brands need to remember that genuine conversation, free of any traditional marketing ploys, is marketing. Other people (aka, potential customers) see you talking to folks just like them. Over time, genuine engagement yields increased audience size. It does. But the moment you poison that real conversation with marketing mechanisms, trust beings to erode.
Are there legions of customers who won’t read so deep into this? Of course. But are they really high value customers?
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