Yet this criticism is not new when it comes to complaints about authenticity in marketing. That debate has long existed, and in part this has led to a situation where most US consumers have become adept at filtering out irrelevant or outrageous marketing claims. Unfortunately, consumers are learning that their built in radar honed over a lifetime of seeing (and ignoring) interruption marketing messages is now inadequate. Consumers are no longer as confident in their ability to spot a marketing message. As a result, their guard is up. Their radars are peaked and they are on the lookout for anything inauthentic. In social media, the journalist's search for the scoop has transformed into the blogger's search for the dupe.
Looking at all these risks, some organizations might conclude that it is wiser to simply avoiding doing anything with personal media altogether. This is a big mistake. Despite the risks, using personal media for marketing can offer a chance for an authentic dialogue with customers, a chance to ask for and act on direct customer feedback, and a unique and human voice for what may otherwise be a faceless corporation. In short, the benefits are worth it. But how can you do it right?
Below are five lessons that may help in avoiding the dark side of personal media, and finding success in the blogosphere:
1. Be as transparent as you can. Transparency is key, as flogs and astroturfing are both based on marketing efforts that are dishonest and lack transparency. Yet full transparency can make a campaign boring or give away too much too quickly. The trick is to strike a balance where you maintain authenticity without necessarily giving away every detail.
2. Don't be afraid to "admit" you are marketing. This is the single biggest myth that lots of marketing teams believe ... that if they admit they are marketing people will stop paying attention. If a marketing message resonates- the fact that it happens to be marketing doesn't matter. This is one of the central concepts behind WOM, that consumers are willing and often happy to support marketing and even become brand ambassadors for something they believe in.
3. Understand who your detractors are, and assume they will always hate you. Every customer has a way of looking at the world, and this is typically very hard to change. Chevy Tahoe's viral promotion failed because people who hate SUVs are highly vocal, and people who like them are usually embarrassed to admit it. The lesson here is to know who hates you and assume they will be vocal about their hatred. The only way to manage this is if that group happens to be relatively small, or if you have a equally vocal group of people who love you.
4. Make sure you have supporters that will fight for you. This relates to the point above. When engaging in personal media, you can't succeed if everyone universally hates you, or if no one cares. You need to find a way to engage those people who like your product, service or what you are trying to do. Ultimately, these voices supporting you in social media will matter far more than anything you are able to release in your marketing.
5. Listen, participate and respond. This may be fifth in the list, but is perhaps the most important. If you look at every instance of personal media marketing horror stories, from the Kryptonite Bike Lock, to Dell Hell, to Walmart ... each could have been managed far better if the companies involved had listened, participated and responded to issues or problems raised on blogs.
Any other lessons you have learned from your experiences with social media about how to do it right and wrong?
Rohit is a founding member of the 360 Digital Influence group at Ogilvy, one of the largest agencies in the world. He is author of the best selling new marketing book Personality Not Included, a guide for small business on how to be more authentic, keep your customers and inspire your employees, which has been published globally in 8 languages.