Trickery Is Not a Marketing Strategy

Despite what some people may think, I was not born yesterday. But lately I feel like I’ve been duped by intentionally deceptive marketing practices everywhere I turn. When legitimate companies deliberately use misleading marketing tactics to try and entice you to respond, I wonder who, exactly, thought this was a good idea?

Despite what some people may think, I was not born yesterday. But lately I feel like I’ve been duped by intentionally deceptive marketing practices everywhere I turn.

I’m far from being a novice when reading emails (so sorry if you really were mugged while travelling in Nigeria), answering the phone (no, I don’t want to invest in the new drug that cures cancer), or opening my door to strangers (based on the way you’re dressed, I sincerely doubt you’re collecting for the San Francisco Opera).

But when legitimate companies deliberately use misleading marketing tactics to try and entice you to respond, I wonder who, exactly, thought this was a good idea?

Let’s start with …

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
If you’ve read anything at all about how the Web works, you already know that for your target audience to find your web site, it needs to be optimized for Google.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a hotly debated topic because Google changes its algorithm regularly and it’s a closely guarded secret. But since Google’s priority is to serve their users and their expertise is to assign relevancy to web pages, it makes perfect sense that the brain collective at Google will eventually figure out that you may be trying to “game” the system when you place words on your site (or in your meta tags) that really have nothing to do with your products or services.

If you’ve optimized your site for Google’s Web crawlers (by including words that are truly relevant to your business), then the logical next step might be an SEM effort—because if you can’t get to the top of organic search results, then why not pay to ensure top billing?

The problem is that many brands are so desperate to wave their arms in front of a Google searcher and “throw their hat in the ring” that they’re choosing SEM words based on potential volume of searchers who will be exposed to their brand message. As a result, they are investing in order to be seen, paying to get clicks, but ultimately losing because they’re getting lots of bounces when searcher discovers the company can’t deliver the information/product/service they’re seeking.

For many business-to-business companies, the problem is not so much trickery, but a lack of alignment between a set of paid search terms and the landing page to which each SEM result is linked. I covered this problem in my recent webinar on website personalization, so you can learn more by listening on demand.

Misrepresentation in Email
Our agency has a GSA contract—meaning we have been approved by the Federal Government to bid on RFPs for government work. Recently, we were required to update our contact information in the SAM (System for Award Management) database. Upon completion, (or so we thought) I received an email from an individual who appeared to work for the federal government. They noted that our update was not complete, but instead advised that we needed to fill out an attached form.

The PDF, labeled “US Federal SAM Worksheet New,” certainly looked official enough, and it came from someone who called themselves a “Case Manager” at US Federal Contractor Registration.

But it wasn’t until we had completed and returned the form, and had several additional email exchanges, that we finally figures out that we were not corresponding with an official of the US Government, but instead with an outside consulting firm who would be charging us for their “help.”

Needless to say, I was aghast.

I’ve now gone back and carefully read and reread our email exchanges, trying to discover how I was so easily duped and how I allowed confidential information to be provided to this outside entity. And I can honestly tell you, it was deceptive from their first contact with us.

If you’re running a legitimate business, you shouldn’t have to resort to either SEM or email “trickery” to attract customers. If you do, you’re no better than those Nigerian email scams.

Building Your Facebook Community

In July, 2010, Facebook announced that more than 500 million people worldwide were actively using the social media site to connect with family, friends and, yes, increasingly, brands. While Facebook continues to evolve as a marketing platform, a growing number of marketers are looking to leverage this channel to engage consumers and build communities. But what are some of the secrets to success, and how can you leverage these best practices to build a powerful community of brand advocates?

In July, 2010, Facebook announced that more than 500 million people worldwide were actively using the social media site to connect with family, friends and, yes, increasingly, brands. While Facebook continues to evolve as a marketing platform, a growing number of marketers are looking to leverage this channel to engage consumers and build communities. But what are some of the secrets to success, and how can you leverage these best practices to build a powerful community of brand advocates?

Listen. Understand. Then frame the conversation.
Before attempting to develop a full Facebook fan page for your brand, first determine the nature of the conversation between your brand and its customers. When it comes to framing the conversation, the brands that build successful Facebook communities take their cues from their customers and don’t try to dictate or dominate the relationship. They do this by listening. Follow these tips to tap into multiple listening sources to uncover shared passions:

Brand audit. Type your brand name into Facebook’s search bar to take a pulse of the nature of the conversations already taking place about your brand.

Leverage traditional market research. Collect information about how your customers use social media, and what kind of content and conversations are important to them. Survey your customer base through database marketing, website intercept surveys and third-party research panels. Use focus groups to drill down into the attitudes and particular content, features and functionalities that will set you apart.

Listening tools. Use powerful monitoring tools to filter the immense amount of discussions and activity surrounding your brand, and to identify opportunities and key areas of interest.

Acquire and grow: Build your fan base. So you’ve identified a shared passion that will underpin your general community framework. Up next: building your base. The best acquisition strategies leverage existing customer touchpoints as well as opportunities within Facebook’s ecosystem. Take the following steps:

  • secure a vanity URL and make it easy to be found;
  • clearly define the benefits of joining your page;
  • invite existing customers via email;
  • offer something unique or exclusive, giving those who like your brand a reason to visit, engage with and recommend your page;
  • test different placements of the “Like” button across your existing digital touchpoints;
  • include your Facebook page’s link on relevant paid search terms;
  • include Facebook URLs/tags on traditional advertising efforts (e.g., print, TV, radio);
  • “favorite” related brands; and
  • test Facebook advertising.

Stir the pot: Engage your fan base. Once you’ve acquired fans, create a compelling experience that keeps them engaged and actively participating. Keep in mind that engaging your fans is a journey, not a destination. Do the following to keep fans engaged:

  • provide them with unique access to special content and/or offers;
  • create and test applications like polls, trivia, simple games and widgets, making sure the underlying subject of those applications syncs with the shared passion of your community;
  • shower your fans with public recognition;
  • encourage user-generated content;
  • rotate and target content (e.g., geo-posts) to keep it relevant;
  • think internationally; and
  • adjust your content strategy accordingly.

Build trust. Being open isn’t always easy. Many brands shy away from social media out of fear that their fans and followers may say something negative or turn on them. Deal with issues and problems in an open, transparent way. In fact, if you’ve done a good job offering value and engaging those who like your page, you may find they’re your biggest defenders. To build trust with your fans, do the following:

  • post a comment policy;
  • remove spam;
  • be transparent and authentic;
  • remain calm and think before you act (i.e., respond/post);
  • train and communicate your goals with those responsible for managing/engaging fans; and
  • build a corporate policy and communicate that policy internally so employees understand how to engage consumers in a transparent manner.

Have fun: Analyze and optimize. So, how do you know if you’re doing a good job? Tracking and analytics will help you get a handle on your page’s performance. Try the following tracking tactics:

  • use unique tracking codes for Facebook posts;
  • leverage Facebook Insights to understand activity and usage;
  • identify brand advocates and tag them in your database — you may even want to consider rewarding them for their support with bonus points; and
  • communicate your learnings and institutionalize them.

Finally — and perhaps most importantly — don’t lose sight of the fact that Facebook is an evolving platform. No one person can keep up with all the developments, so make sure you partner right. Find an agency and/or support system that’s well-versed on Facebook best practices and your brand, and has shown a proven ability to engage consumers.