Two years ago, if your company or your client was using facebook or MySpace (yes, two years ago so the MySpace reference is appropriate) as a tool to leverage their business, brand or company news, they would have been considered pioneers in a new realm of media.   In present day, media professionals’ phones, blogs and email in boxes are bombarded with social media tips and tricks from all sorts of sources. Despite the entire buzz about social media as the “quick fix” to all public relations, advertising and marketing campaigns– it is possible that social media is not the proper platform for your audience.  Social Media Warning! Unless you execute it carefully, a social media campaign can end up alienating the audience you are trying to target.

I can speak from experience. I received a “friend request” from Wheat Thins the other week.   Unless Nabisco was going to have a social media campaign about how their product was going to make me stay in my 20’s and a size 8 forever, I didn’t want to hear it.  Simply put.  So out of curiosity, I accepted. Within a few days my facebook newsfeed and inbox was attacked by offers, coupons, and meaningless status updates about what their website was doing.   Wheat Thins clearly did not need to be anyone’s friend on facebook as it was just a barrage of coupons and offers.  Those campaigns are more suited for an online advertising or link ads.

Here are some ways to tell if social media is the right path for the messages you’re trying to communicate:

1. The message you have is informative and that people are meant to hear it! Yes, as simple as that.   The reason social media is such a huge success, is due to the fact that other people are interested in humans, hence the fascination with celebrities.  People put their best, funniest, sexiest pictures of themselves online and communicate messages about their likes/dislikes, their romantic perils, their job successes, relationships and day-to-day activities.  It keeps their page viewers interested because people are interested in people! Make sure your status is up-to-date, current and has substance, much like the way individuals communicate on their pages for social networking purposes.  A coupon offer may work if it’s seldom and done the right way (i.e. creating a false sense of exclusivity to your audience) but social networking can’t be used for only for coupon and offers.

2. Individuals; putting a face to the name: When suggesting someone to become a ‘fan’ of something or to become virtual ‘friends’ with product/place, it’s always better to be someone if at all possible.  Again, humans attract humans.  For example: if you are trying to market  a fitness program, or studio, do not make a social media page for the studio itself, make the page based around  of the instructors or the founder.  If an individual thinks they can receive content from an expert, a guru, or an individual who they will interact with, they are more likely to join and to follow your page.  It’s just the same with a customer service hotline, no one wants to pres s 1 and hear about more offers, they want to talk to a person and get their information fast, accurate and effective.  The same concept applies here.

3. Content is the KING! The more content you can incorporate into your social media strategies, the better.   Even if some of the content you’re posting is not relevant to the mission statement for your business or product/service–posting interesting content will always keep people on your page.  Also, another key to success is interacting with your users.  If you put a post or a discussion on your page, make sure you keep tabs and interact with the users who are commenting.  If you asked them to be interested in your page, you can keep them around with interactivity.

In short, if you do not have a clear message to convey, an individual to incorporate into your campaign and fresh, interesting content, then ultimately social media is not the right fit.  While social media is a great networking and marketing tool, it can also negatively drive people away heading for the cyberspace hills, so to speak.   My experience with Wheat Thins and a week of internet friendship did not make me want to buy their product; in fact I’m so annoyed I don’t know if I even want to eat a Wheat Thin.    By following the tips above, your page should grow a large following that is satisfied and engaged, not horrified.