A recent article in Advertising Age declared a hard truth: the social network Twitter has turned out not to be the marketing bonanza that many businesses had hoped for. In a survey of Twitter users (is that “Tweeters”?), it was revealed that of the thousands of brands promoting themselves on the network, the number of brands actually generating interest among users can be counted on two hands on a good day.
On the face of it, it seems like a good idea: a potential market of millions out there doing nothing but talking, so one good Tweet every couple of days means millions of impressions and a metric ton of instant word-of-mouth advertising. Not only that, but using Twitter conveys an image of tech-savvy hipness guaranteed to register with would-be customers. And it’s free! A total win-win, right?
Wrong. After a couple of years of this strategy, the anticipated gains in brand identification and market share have failed to materialize, and any Twitter or Facebook user could have told these companies why. Yes, social networks are huge and populated with people who respond to digital media, but advertisers have focused on the “network” when they should have focused on the “social” part. Tweeters and Facebookers are there to talk about their day, to complain about their love-lives, to pass on bad jokes and goofy YouTube videos. They aren’t there to be sold to, and they certainly have no interest in selling for you. People don’t just talk about brands in casual conversation like they do in commercials – they wouldn’t in real life, and they won’t on the Internet.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that InkHead Promotional Products maintains a presence on both Twitter and Facebook (and we invite you to friend us, or “like” us, or whatever it’s called now) but, being Tweeters and Facebookers ourselves, we try to use those networks the way we’d like to be approached. We’ll post tidbits we find interesting or news about upgrades to the site, but we generally try not to strong-arm our friends.
There’s a place for the hard-sell, and social networks are not it.
Instead, you want to make your Facebook or Twitter presence the community “persona” of your company, its personable or downright playful side, and the voice of your corporate conscience. There is where you strike up a conversation, tell your story, ask for feedback, demonstrate that you relate to your customers as more than just people whose money you want, and thus generate goodwill and eventual loyalty. In other words, be people, not salesmen. If you want to market to social networkers, talk to them in their language, not yours. And most importantly, keep the conversation going — people go online to interact, so ask questions, solicit feedback, and make friends. You’ll find it pays off in the long run, in all sorts of ways.