Guest post by Rachel Carlson
Faux pas is the fancy French way of saying, “Yo! You just violated the norms of social behaviour.”
We all make them. Usually our mistakes are merely embarrassing: for example, using the wrong fork in a fancy restaurant; or asking a non-pregnant woman when she’s due. Ouch.
But some faux pas can be more costly. Literally, as in, lost business costly. And no where is this more true than in the brave new world of social media, a forum in which your mistakes are posted for the world to see. For content marketers especially, those who specialize in harnessing the power of social media to promote goods and services, just working from your favourite cafe with a clear wireless Internet connection isn’t enough, you need to be conversant with social media dos and don’ts as well.
With that said, here are some tips that may be helpful.
Don’t: Go for the hard sell. It’s great if you really believe in your product or service, but, if you come off as too aggressive, you’ll alienate potential customers very quickly.
Do: A much better strategy is to keep it subtle, using the power of a personal story to get across the appeal of your product. For example, write a short anecdote of how a problem was resolved by the use of the product or service you represent.
Don’t: Submit press releases. Unless your intention is to be ignored and look ridiculous in the process, submitting press releases via social media is a recipe for ridicule. Instead, send your press releases to the in-boxes of actual journalists via their email accounts. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with press releases. Just keep them in context.
Do: Refer back to tip number one. Customer testimonials written in the first person, as long as they’re short and sweet, can much more powerfully tout the benefits of your product or service than a press release that is openly “leaked” via social media on the Internet.
Don’t: Be pushy when you begin posting content in a new community, especially if your intentions are content marketing.
Do: Take some time to get to know the site’s ‘vibe’ and establish contact with some of its leading players, making sure to express an interest in what they’re doing. Sure, this takes more time and effort than simply pitching your product from the get-go, but you’ll find that by establishing virtual relationships first, you’ll have a much more receptive audience for your goods or services.
Don’t: Misspell. Or, for that matter, use improper grammar. (And, yes, I fully realize that this sentence as well as the preceding one began with co-ordinating conjunctions, and that the first sentence could be construed as a fragment if the reader doesn’t assume it’s in the imperative with its implied subject of ‘you.’)
Do: Come off as literate. Even if you’re not the kid who sat in the front row of Year 12 English with your hand waving in the air at the teacher’s every question, you can still use a spell check and a grammar check before you post to the public.
Don’t: Use vulgarity, or even off-colour humour.
Do: Stick to the moral high ground and keep it clean. Even if such language is part of the ethos of the site or the community in question, it doesn’t mean you have to indulge. Further, you definitely don’t want to write anything that would offend other audiences should they stumble into the site, or read what you’ve written.
Don’t: Spam. Jeez, does this really need to be explained?
Do: When pitching your product or service, provide links to competing products or services as well. This helpful approach shows that you’re genuinely trying to help provide information and will win hearts and minds and, ultimately, loyal customers.
Don’t: Cut and paste. If you simply keep regurgitating the same content on every site and message board regardless of context or community vibe, it will quickly become apparent that you’re just a spammer and will get you ignored or removed.
Do: Take the time to submit interesting content, genuinely attracting followers and ‘thumbs up’ votes with what you have to say. This allows you to cultivate a customer base ‘organically.’ You can always offer your goods and services once a relationship is established.
Don’t: Only submit.
Do: Comment and vote as much as you submit. The more active a ‘site citizen’ you are, the better chance you will have of being an effective marketer when you wish to suggest your product.
Don’t: Be anti-social. Duh.
Do: Add friends and follow what they have to say. Ditto, duh.
Don’t: Be fake. If you honestly can’t stand the goods or service that you’re marketing, then don’t do it.
Do: Find a product that you genuinely like and believe in. If it’s something you have a passion for and sincerely feel that it’s something others could use, then, by all means, use the power of social media and the tips above to let the world know about. But, for crying out loud, be true to yourself and genuinely helpful to others; you’ll establish some authentically interesting relationships online and your reflection will look better to yourself in the mirror.