In the past, we’ve repeatedly emphasized the importance of social media in niche marketing. Not only is social media absolutely critical to successful niche marketing, it’s critical to commerce — period. When sites like Twitter first stumbled out into the world on shaky, nascent legs, they were small, obscure, populated primarily by teenagers and college students idly “creeping on” their peers and followers. Years have passed, and those times are long gone. Today, Twitter is a global juggernaut, and even Barack Obama counts himself among its 200 million-plus users. Businesses — including yours — are expected to maintain active Twitter accounts. But while Twitter is an indispensable (indeed mandatory) tool, it can turn into a nightmare when marketers fail to anticipate problems. Learn the do’s and don’ts of Twitter for businesses.
Don’t: Walk Into a Trap
To be fair, this is easier said than done. After all, the whole point of businesses using Twitter is to step up engagement with fans and followers; and thanks to Twitter’s conversational format, starting a dialogue is quick, simple, and easy. Twitter unites companies and consumers by design, and gives business owners and marketing experts priceless insight into what real people want, think, and need.
If you’re confident that your company doesn’t have any skeletons in its closet (not that it should), that’s a beautiful arrangement.
But if it does — or if people even suspect that it does — the results can be… mixed. Countless companies and even government organizations have learned this the hard way.
The most recent example of walking into a Twitter trap comes courtesy of the New York Police Department. While the NYPD may not be selling a product, it is similar to a business in that it needs to maintain a positive public image. To that end, the NYPD recently extended an invitation to the people of Twitter and New York City alike: write something about the NYPD with the hashtag #myNYPD.
Unfortunately for the NYPD, the response was overwhelmingly negative.
Some Tweeters did step in to defend the NYPD. “These guys put their lives on the line every day,” one user wrote. “They deserve our respect and gratitude.”
However, the hashtag quickly devolved into what Rutgers professor and social media marketing expert Glenn Gilmore calls a bashtag. The majority of posters shared images of brutality, abuse, and violence against protesters, accompanied by snarky and sarcastic comments.
Other organizations have faced the same wrath. In late 2013, financial giant JP Morgan launched a similar Twitter campaign, encouraging posters to tag comments with #askJPM. Much like the NYPD, JP Morgan’s marketing department was in for a nasty surprise.
Far from the legitimate inquiries JP Morgan officials were no doubt expecting, the tag was immediately flooded with insults and anger.
“How many homeless people did you create in ’08?” one poster wrote.
Other Tweets prompted by #askJPM posed vitriolic rhetorical questions like, “Did you always want to be part of a vast, corrupt criminal enterprise?” “Did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?”
But you don’t have to be as serious as JP Morgan or the NYPD to invoke the wrath of sarcastic or downright angry consumers. Even McDonald’s, which can hardly be accused of committing acts of violence or flagrant political corruption, fell prey to the same mistake. Ronald McDonald and friends asked for #McDStories, and Twitter rose to the occasion… much to McDonald’s embarrassment and detriment.
“One time I walked into McDonalds and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDStories,” joked one Tweet.
“Ate a McFish and vomited 1 hour later….The last time I got McDonalds was seriously 18 years ago in college….. #McDStories,” quipped another.
McDonald’s reportedly pulled the plug on the campaign in just two hours.
Do: Reward Your Customers
On the other side of the coin, when Twitter-going companies initiate a conversation with happy consumers — particularly when there’s a reward up for grabs — the results can be overwhelmingly positive. Fashion industry powerhouse Marc Jacobs is a shining example of Twitter engagement done right.
For a few magical days in February of 2014, Jacobs made fashion-forward shoppers’ dreams come true when the company announced customers could pay for certain items with a hastag instead of a credit card. In exchange for a simple mention of Marc Jacobs under the #MJDaisyChain tag (a reference to Jacobs’ “Daisy” fragrance), patrons of a two-day “pop-up shop” could cash in a few strokes of the keyboard for perfume, necklaces, and accessories.
In a huge departure from the bitter jabs at JP Morgan and the NYPD, Marc Jacobs was lavished with praise, excitement, and media buzz from satisfied customers across the Twittersphere.
“I love these Marc Jacobs purses! #MJDaisyChain,” wrote one Twitter user. “Enjoyed visiting the #MJDaisyChain pop-up. Social currency thanks fans and offers insights. Amazing!”
The bottom line is this: if your consumers are unhappy, they won’t be shy about letting you — and the world — know about their dissatisfaction. While the effective utilization of social media is critical to boosting business, it pays to remember that social media is a means to an end — not the end itself. Social media purely for social media’s sake does little good (and actually does harm) if your company doesn’t have its ducks in a row first. Focus on providing an excellent service or product and making your customers happy — then worry about how many Twitter followers you have.
If you would like to find out more about social media to boost your niche I invite you to contact me. I have been helping professional service providers such as CPAs, attorneys, and financial services providers focus their business development efforts on profitable micro-niches for over 10 years. Email me at email@example.com.