Social Media: How Not To Fool Your Audience

Unwritten social media rulesUnlike April Fool’s Day where the focus is on pranks and practical jokes, for marketers, social media is about honesty—showing who you, your product, your brand and your organization are.

While it’s acceptable, and even encouraged, to participate in amusing social media based memes and content, the unwritten social media rules focus on transparently respecting your audience—specifically your prospects, customers, employees, investors and the public.

Social media is the antithesis of the pushy used car salesman or the late night DRTV pitch. It’s about building person-to-person relationships.

Social media provides forums that enable customers and the public to find the information they need, when they want it. Google research calls this the zero moment of truth (or ZMOT) and it often occurs before companies realize that a prospect is in market for their offering.

10 Unwritten social media rules: How not to fool your audience

Here are 10 unwritten social media rules. They’re the opposite of the social media 10 commandments.Unwritten social media rules

These 10 points show you how not to fool your prospects, customers, employees, investors and the public on social media. Many of these points extend beyond social media platforms because they’re just good business practices.

  1. Don’t oversell your product. Be honest about what your product or service can do and can’t do. If you exaggerate your products’ capabilities, other customers won’t when they give their point of view on social media and related ratings and review sites.  Actionable Social Media Tip: Portray your products clearly in both text and visual content. Provide multiple views as well as customers using your product in live situations.
  2. Don’t withhold important information. Don’t hide relevant facts customers, end users, investors and the public need to make educated decisions about your company, products and brands. Actionable Social Media Tip: Provide all of the content that your target audiences need in an easy-to-consume format.
  3. Don’t use bait and switch pricing. Be transparent in your pricing. Skip the hidden pricing, add costs, and/or shipping fees. Pricing is a sensitive area that can have legal repercussions. Actionable Social Media Tip: Know that your prospects check prices again before buying. They may use a variety of different sites and apps to gather information.
  4. Don’t fool customers by playing with inventory and stocking issues. Don’t offer a very low price that’s limited to a small number of items relative to the size of your potential buyer base. Actionable Social Media Tip: Clearly state when your product availability is limited. Also, note whether you’ll extend the lower price when stock is replenished or offer a rain check. Another alternative is to use stock counters.
  5. Don’t play hide and seek with your customer service. Since many prospects and customers turn to social media for customer service, state your hours of availability. Actionable Social Media Tip: Include links on your social media profiles to your FAQs and related product information.
  6. Don’t obfuscate your returns policy. Define your returns policy clearly in plain English. Actionable Social Media Tip: Include the time limit for returns, the form of payment refund (credit to charge card, cash or other options), and reasons for non-refundability (such as personalization or other adjustments).
  7. Don’t hide from problems. Wishing your company issues will just disappear doesn’t translate to solutions. Social media interactions can go bad. Actionable Social Media Tip: Monitor what’s being said on social media and have a PR crisis plan ready.
  8. Don’t confuse customers with different firm names and branding. While there may be legal or business reasons for having different legal entities or brands, don’t intentionally try to fool your audience. Actionable Social Media Tip: Note your corporate affiliates in your social media profiles. Also, have employees be clear when they’re posting and supporting your organization versus when they’re representing your firm.
  9. Don’t conceal product affiliation or compensation. Don’t write rave reviews without revealing that you received free samples or other vendor compensation. Beyond social media, this applies to a wide range of rating and review sites. More than fooling your prospects, this is illegal. Actionable Social Media Tip: Clearly note where you benefit from the company connection. Also explain the positives as well as the negatives. Know that your customers can tell a planted review, especially if it stands out from the pack.
  10. Don’t follow other deceitful social media practices. This means earn your social media followings through on-going efforts not paying for followers and other fakes. Actionable Social Media Tip: Cross promote your social media presence on your other owned media and communications to expand your reach.

On social media you must be honest, open and transparent with your prospects, customers, employees, investors and the public. Otherwise, you’ll tarnish your reputation and hurt your bottom line.

What other ways should marketers not fool their customers on social media?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies. You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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