"Hi thanks for the follow - please take a peek at my website http://www.____ If you need a favor drop me a note!"
"Thanks for following me. Here's a free gift you may enjoy"
Direct marketing SPAM. We all know what it looks like. And it's all over Twitter.
I guess you can't blame anyone for using the reach of Twitter to try to sell their goods. But I have serious doubts that it will ever be any more effective — or respected — than e-mail SPAM.
As an adman, I am fascinated by the goings on in social media. I participate in them. But the one thing I don't use these channels as is a sales tool. For one thing, it's tawdry. For another, it undermines what might just be the best branding media that ever existed.
For years we've tried to get our clients to understand brands in terms of identity. Branding is often pedaled as a science, but it is much more intuitive than that. Branding accesses our very nature as social animals, taking advantage of the good feelings we get out of loyalty and admiration towards other human beings in our tribe. But in the case of companies and products, the personality traits are conjured up in an anthropomorphic emotional construct. We "like" favourite brands. We "trust" them. And most importantly, we make them part of our tribal identity.
If there's one thing everyone wants to be in the modern world, it's special. We're each one among billions, but we strive to stand out by reducing our world to a series of social groups where we can be appreciated. Great brands like Mac or Volkswagen already had communities of users years before social media existed. But just as any fetishist can find his mate on the Internet, so can any brand find its followers.
Facebook has been a great place for this phenomenon, as long as it's done right. Traditional marketers consider setting up a Facebook presence as something you DO. The problem is, the presence is all about who you ARE. If you are putting in the daily work to post links, information, and fun stuff that enhances your brand personality, the medium offers a powerful outlet for humanizing your brand. But if you "set it and forget it" it's just one more piece of space junk floating out there.
Twitter is taking off, but its branding opportunities are much more personal. It is the ideal place for a thought leader representing an organizational brand to brand his or herself in an informal forum. The leaders there provide more than expertise, resources and tips; they let us have a peek into the lighter side of their professional (or even personal) lives, and to see who and what they think is important. Following these individuals provides true networking opportunities, and engaging them in intelligent dialogue enhances your credibility.
Overall, by creating a more diverse and intimate relationship with social media communities, personalities, products and companies can build more human dimension and trust into their brands. Especially if they don't break the illusion by going for the hard sell!