The dark side of social media marketing

In my Marketing class- Consumer Behavior- one of my classmates did a presentation over the benefits of Twitter as a marketing tool. Those of us interested in marketing and PR know that Twitter is a great way for companies to reach opinion leaders, to listen to and engage with their customers. 

The presenter cited a personal experience he’d had with Twitter when he posted that he hated the way his ink pen smudged and made his tiny writing illegible. Within minutes, he got a reponse from a Uniball executive telling him about a new product they’d just released- a strong pen with a fine point to prevent smudging. My classmate said he went out that day and bought the pen.

From a marketing/PR standpoint, that’s a perfect example of how brands should be taking advantage of this social media network, but I started to wonder, if every brand contacted people whenever they mentioned an issue with a product, would the consumers grow tired of the outreaches? I don’t want 50 paper companies contacting me next time I say that my printer’s out. 

How can brands/companies take advantage of Twitter without overdoing it? Or, will it never get to the point where so many brands are using it regularly that the consumers actually start to hate both Twitter and the brands that use it?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. I think as long as interactions are to the point and specific, companies won’t annoy customers. There’s a difference between “I don’t like the functionality of X (pen, in this case” and “I’m out of paper (condition, not function problem).” Responses that address a function or service problem are specific. Responses to a condition observation (I’m out of printer paper) would be non-specific and probably irrelevant to the customer… hence the annoyance you’re anticipating. 🙂

    What if you tweeted you were out of printer paper because your office supply company failed to deliver on time? NOW we have a specific, solvable service issue that a company paying attention could possibly address… “Hey, Allison… try our XYZ service. Free same-day delivery in your area. Here’s the link.”

    Probably would be perceived as helpful instead of intrusive. It all comes down to remembering the medium’s basic function, which is conversational in nature…. if companies remember and respect that function, they’ll gain customers and customer loyalty through social media.

    Reply

    • Posted by allisonbroyles on April 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm

      Thanks for the comments! Yes, specific functionality-related messages would be helpful, but again I feel like that’s true only if it doesn’t pass a certain point. Maybe the paper example was not the best one to use. Say there’s something wrong with my pen, and Uniball offers a solution on how they can help, but so does every other pen company out there. If every company took advantage of this system, then I would have thousands of messages from pen companies saying “our pen is the best for that problem, let me help you with that..” So what I’m wondering is, how many companies are going to catch on to this system and will something that is helpful turn into something that’s not even worth using?

      Reply

  2. Great thoughts! I’d wondered something along the same lines when “Free Splenda” began following me. Would that mean constant badgering of Splenda this and that? Ugh. It’s great, but… I still haven’t decided to follow them or not.
    Have you had any experiences so far with companies contacting you like the guy you cited?

    Reply

    • Posted by allisonbroyles on April 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm

      Yes, I’ve had problems with companies following me and then using my information to try to sell me things, which is not at all how social media is supposed to be used- like Mandy Vavrinak discussed in her comment, that would be too “intrusive” and fail. I think there is a difference between companies who don’t understand how to use social media and just “badger” people and companies who really offer helpful information- but I’m worried that even those companies that are doing it right are going to start seeming ridiculous if all their competitors start doing the same thing.

      Reply

  3. If you look back at recent history on marketing activity telemarketing exploded and became annoying so marketers moved to direct mail then email and now today it is social media and Twitter is just one tool. Social media marketing is likely to stay around until the “next thing” comes along.

    Chuck
    ccj3 on Twitter

    Reply

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