Last updated on February 18, 2016
Using social media networks is a great way to get your name or your ideas and products out there to people who might be interested in them. It just makes sense to want to pursue blogging, Facebook, Twitter, online forums or similar avenues to target and reach as many people as possible. D’uh. And I’m pretty sure we’re all agreed that Spammers are the bane of our modern Internet existence and would never in a million years want to be lumped into that 3a.m. infomercial, fly-by-night, spray-on-hair category, right? Awesome.
Then while we’re busy flogging the you-know-what out of whatever it is we’re promoting, there’s something that needs to be kept in the forefront of our thoughts while we’re doing it – there are rules. Why are there rules? Okay, aside from some behaviours being unethical never mind outright illegal in some circumstances, remember that using social media in the wrong ways can sink your reputation and turn you from Internet entrepreneur to snake oil salesman in a heartbeat. And that would be… what’s the word I’m looking for here? Counterproductive, yes?
I can already hear the indignant “I don’t Spam!” ringing out across the web. So, I’ll counter with a “Are you so sure about that?”
Email has raised our awareness of what is and isn’t Spam, so I think we’re all pretty good there. Although, to be honest, I still run into it in the course of my outside job every day with just regular people who had their email accounts shut down for Spam-y behaviour they didn’t understand would be perceived that way. That’s a discussion for another day, though. Let’s keep this to social media marketing.
At a very high level, no matter what social media community you want to target to promote yourself through, always remember to abide by the rules and guidelines of that particular space. Not all of them are the same. How do you find out? Um, they’re posted. You have to read them. When you can’t be bothered to read the owner’s manual of your new car to find out where the parking break is and your car rolls down a hill and off a cliff, the insurance company isn’t going to help you out when you tell them you didn’t bother to read the manual to educate yourself on those things that would keep you from crashing and burning. Social media spaces aren’t going to have any mercy, either. You’ll be banned and that would be… what’s that word again? Oh yeah, counterproductive.
Don’t spam your message. Use your good judgement every time you reach out to the Internet community at large, because the backlash can crush you and kill your reputation.
Social media marketing doesn’t mean you sign up for every community in the universe and start broadcasting your message to everyone and anyone. Auto DMing on Twitter to flog your new book or logging into ten thousand community forums and posting links to your website without conscience or without even recognising what space you’re in to know if that’s even an appropriate place to put your link is a big no-no. Seriously, don’t do it.
There is nothing worse that getting those inane auto DM’s that negate the fact that you’re a human being on the other end. You know you hate getting them, so don’t do it to other people. Like Twitter itself says “You are what you Tweet!”. Be sure you find out if you’re allowed to even post links in the community forums you might be considering posting to, because not all of them let you do that. Shocked? You wouldn’t be if you read their individual rules of conduct. Never assume that what was appropriate on the last forum you posted to will be applicable everywhere and you’ll keep yourself out of trouble.
Oh, and my other pet peeve… don’t pose as a consumer to post recommendations for your own gig – totally slimy. You do that on Twitter? That’ll end in permanent account suspension; they even have a separate portion of their terms just to cover impersonations (http://support.twitter.com/entries/18366-impersonation-policy). See? I’m not the only one who wants to drop napalm all over your business for catching you at that and you will lose mine and everyone else’s trust for a really long time. Takes about five seconds to kill trust and months or years to regain it, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot, because that’s, oh there’s that word again… counterproductive.
Social media marketing can definitely make the difference in the success of your promotion, so go there boldly, don’t be afraid of it, but follow the rules and exercise good judgement always. The FTC Guides on Testimonials and Endorsements (U.S.) is a good general place to start and you can find info on various topics. Here’s Facebook’s updated TOS (as of January 16, 2015). And don’t forget to check Twitter’s Terms of Service (Effective: May 18, 2015). Remember to check the TOS and community rules of the individual forums you are considering before you post.