As a child I used to watch old Western movies on TV with my dad. I didn’t particularly like movies about cowboys and gunfights, but I enjoyed spending time with my dad, so I watched a lot of them. In many of the Westerns, there would be a slick traveling salesman, peddling a fake elixir (snake oil) purported to cure all ailments. The exaggerated character of the “snake oil salesman” was marked by boisterous, obnoxious marketing hype, typically bogus.
Now, as an adult, whenever I see a smooth-talking, insincere person trying to sell something, the image of a snake oil salesman pops into my head. I see it every day: on infomercials, in business, at the mall, and in social media. Sometimes the product is great, but the salesperson is too pushy or just comes across as disingenuous. And therein lies the pitfall for many people and businesses using social media. Whether you’re a large corporation, small business, or individual trying to drive traffic to a blog, how others perceive you can make or break your brand’s success. Are you coming across as a social media “snake oil salesman”? Here are 5 warning signs you may be harming your brand:
1. You send out a DM to every new follower with a link to your site. Chances are most people will ignore your DM, and you run the risk of being blocked and reported as spam. Would you ask someone you just met face-to-face to do you a favor? The approach appears pushy and your motives seem insincere. Instead, start communicating with your followers and build a relationship of mutual respect and trust. I have many friends in social media who know that I will always RT a new blog post or support them in any way I can. I welcome their requests, but this came over time, after we had connected and gotten to know each other.
2. All of your posts are links to your site. This comes across as desperate and, again, spammy. Social media is not traditional advertising. If you only want to talk about yourself, buy an ad. The “social” in social media implies engagement. Share insightful content with your followers, comment on or retweet their posts, and ask questions. As people get to know you, they will be more apt to go to your blog or website.
3. You post random shout outs in stream asking people to follow you, check out a site or RT a post. I see this a lot with newbies on Twitter who think it’s a fast way to drive traffic to a website or accumulate followers. It’s highly ineffective and most people will ignore you. It’s the equivalent of the peddler on the street corner shouting at passerbys. Social media marketing takes time, and you need to put in the effort to establish a social network and loyal following. If you aren’t willing to do that or don’t have the time, maybe you should reconsider whether social media is the best marketing medium for you.
4. You use exaggerated claims. These are all over social media and they give the appearance of lack of confidence in the true merits of the products. “Become the next Donald Trump”; “Earn $3,000 in one week”; “Get 1,000 followers a day”. This is one of the quickest ways to destroy your reputation/ brand and become labeled a “snake-oil salesman”. If you want to build trust, be honest. Tip: If you only have 500 followers on Twitter, don’t post “I got 2,000 followers in one week using *XYZ* site.” Just sayin’.
5. You ignore complaints. By ignoring negative comments on your blog or about your product, you fuel negativity rather than mitigate it. In the Westerns, whenever someone shouted out “Charlatan!”, the snake oil salesman’s accomplice would come along and knock them out with the butt of his gun (all in front of a miraculously oblivious crowd), while the salesman continued to shout the merits of his product as though nothing happened. In social media, no one is there to stifle your critics (and your audience will not be as oblivious to your lack of response). Only you can quell negativity, by addressing complaints and detractors with professionalism and sincerity. This exhibits confidence in your product and respect for your customers/followers.
Whether you are new to social media or wondering why you haven’t been able to drive traffic to your site, take a moment to reflect on your approach and how you may be perceived. You can have the best product or the most insightful blog, but if you appear too slick or insincere, you will alienate followers.
Picture courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/ccohen/4064733771