Quit looking for the easy solution and do your marketing job!

By Neicole Crepeau, Contributing {grow} Columnist

QR codes are failing.  Users are rejecting the Like button and unfollowing brands on Facebook. And now a product beloved to many in the blogosphere, Triberr, has had to nix its most popular feature. What do all of these events have in common? You, dear marketer, and your refusal to do your job.

In October, Sean X Cummings blogged about the failure of QR codes. In part, it’s a lack of user understanding.  But, as Sean argues, “Creative usage of a technical solution increases its viral potential and positive brand association.” The opposite is also true. When consumers repeatedly see a technical solution that offers little or no value, that wastes their time, they begin to have negative brand associations and avoid the solution.

Sean does a great job of laying out some of the ways QR codes can be used to add real value for consumers. That’s not how most marketers are using them, though. Instead, QR codes serve as a convoluted way to get to a website, when the faster way would be to just type the URL into your mobile browser.

As I wrote on {grow}, we are killing our customers with mediocre engagement. Now, even analysts like Brian Solis are predicting an “Impending Flood of Customer Unlikes and Unfollows.” Companies drank the Kool-Aid en masse, to the point where every company of any size seems to have a Facebook page and/or a Twitter account. They urge people to follow them. Then, once they have fans, they proceed to drive them away by posting largely useless or uninteresting content and making inept attempts at starting conversations.

Last month, I posted about Triberr and other tools that auto-tweet for users. In Twitter is dying—and it’s all your fault, I lamented the negative impact, the spam, that Triberr was putting into our streams. I even suggested that the best thing would be for Twitter to ban auto-tweeting.

I didn’t know that Triberr was in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service, which apparently does ban mass auto-tweeting. It appears the Triberr founders  didn’t know that either. Am I sorry that Triberr was forced to get rid of that feature? No. I stand by what I said. It was having a negative impact on Twitter. But I am sorry that it got to the point where Twitter had to step in, because it didn’t have to get to that point.

Bloggers were so thrilled with the idea of a nearly effortless way to get more visitors to their website that they gave up any oversight or ownership of their tweets. They used Twitter as a broadcast platform to pump advertisements for posts to their followers, without ever bothering to actually read what they were promoting. If bloggers had been a little more circumspect, using manual mode most of the time or perhaps limiting their tribes to a very small number of people, maybe the spam problem wouldn’t have driven Twitter to step in.

In all of these cases, marketers—or bloggers doing their own marketing—took a technical solution and misused it. They grabbed onto the latest shiny tool and started thoughtlessly using it, in the most simplistic of fashions.

Similarly, marketers and agencies have taken the lowest common denominator of social media advice available: put up a Facebook page and start sharing content and conversing. Apparently happy that it really wasn’t all that complicated, the majority put no effort into coming up with creative ways to use Facebook pages to add real value to their customers’ online lives.

I remember talking with my dad about littering when I was a kid. I explicitly remember him pointing out that one person dropping a piece of paper or a soda can on the ground wasn’t a big problem. But you always have to remember, he said, that it’s not going to be just one person. Always think about what will happen if everyone or at least lots and lots of people drop that soda can. Is that the world you want to live in? If not, then it’s your responsibility not to add to the problem.

Your business, your blog, it doesn’t live in isolation. When you choose to take the easiest path and the cheapest solution, just remember that there are thousands and thousands of other bloggers, marketers, and businesses putting just as little thought into their actions. When everyone is taking the mediocre approach, we get a mediocre ecosystem:  a mediocre Twitter, a mediocre marketing tool, a mediocre social network. Consumers know mediocrity when they see it, and they reject it.

We reap what we sow.  If you want a better business environment and more opportunities to engage with readers or customers, put a little thought into your work. Give a little forethought to the impact of your decisions. Quit looking for the easy solution and do your job. We’ll all be better off.

Neicole Crepeau a blogger at Coherent Social Media and the creator of CurateXpress, a content curation tool. She works at Coherent Interactive on social media, website design, mobile apps, & marketing. Connect with Neicole on Twitter at @neicolec

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  • Excellent points. “Phoning it in” is never an effective strategy. You reap what you sow and putting effort into these social media platforms can have impressive benefits. We are fortunate to have so many free platforms to spread the word, but it’s important to not take them for granted.

  • Katie Herbst

    Thank you for this post – too many take the “if we build it, they will come” mentality with social media. I’d love to see a follow up post with creative Facebook campaigns you’ve seen…

  • On the money . . .if something becomes too commoditized it has less value – good post thanks!

  • I’ll see if I can do that, Katie. Good idea!

  • Well said Nicole. It’s interesting you bring up Triberr because I was having some conversations with Dino about this recently and they’ve recently made lots of changes which force approval of tweets in your tribe.  I think that is actually a good thing because it creates a much higher quality environment within Triberr. One of the things you brought up was engagement with followers and fans and I think it’s an interesting subject to talk about more. I’ve been trying to get a more in-depth understanding of my listeners on BlogcastFM. So instead of just doing a survey, I’ve actually extended an invitation to 20 of my most avid listeners to participate in a focus group in exchange for 30 minutes of free consulting. i’m setting up a google+ circle specifically for them, and I’ll probably doing some video content as well. I think that we have find a way stand out amongst the noise if we want to really take advantage of social media in the right way., 

  • Well said Nicole. It’s interesting you bring up Triberr because I was having some conversations with Dino about this recently and they’ve recently made lots of changes which force approval of tweets in your tribe.  I think that is actually a good thing because it creates a much higher quality environment within Triberr. One of the things you brought up was engagement with followers and fans and I think it’s an interesting subject to talk about more. I’ve been trying to get a more in-depth understanding of my listeners on BlogcastFM. So instead of just doing a survey, I’ve actually extended an invitation to 20 of my most avid listeners to participate in a focus group in exchange for 30 minutes of free consulting. i’m setting up a google+ circle specifically for them, and I’ll probably doing some video content as well. I think that we have find a way stand out amongst the noise if we want to really take advantage of social media in the right way., 

  • Amen, my friend. #nothingtoadd

  • Excellent points, Neicole. The truth I see so many people overlooking is that all this technology is only a collection of tools. It is NOT the content, strategy, conversation, engagement, or conversion. And – as you so aptly point out – it is definitely not marketing. Marketing is about what you DO with the tools, how you USE them to share your message, provide value, and connect with people. Just because someone clicked “follow” or “like” does not mean they are connecting with you. It only means that they have opted in to give you a shot at making a good impression. Fail to do that, and they will slam the door – rightfully – in your face. 

  • Is or could this signal a return to the actual use of the social tools for what they are. A way to contact and engage and keep in touch with those we have encountered online?

  • Certainly think that’s part of the problem. If not to contact and engage, at least to provide something of real value to fans/followers. I think if you’re focusing on what is useful to them first, you’ll do better.

  • I like how you put that, a Like just means they are giving you a shot at making a good impression. And I absolutely agree with you. It’s what you build with the tools that count, and a lot of marketers are putting in minimal effort and building creaky little shacks.

  • Wow, Srinivas! I really applaud you for doing that focus group. What a great idea! I agree with you that manual tweeting will actually create a higher quality environment within Triberr. It looks to me like they are going to lose a lot of the people who were just in it because it was an easy broadcast platform. But they should be left with people who were in it of the Tribe part and all the other benefits that Triberr brings to bloggers. 

  • This quote speaks to your Excellent post Neicole:

    “Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The
    lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original
    insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.

    Warren G. Bennis

    Cheers! Kaarina

  • Awesome points, Neicole! I agree that marketers / business owners are taking the easy way out. They spend their time (and money) to locate the best (?) tool out there that can automate their entire social media presence and existence. Sadly it always ends up as: 1. buy lots of followers 2. schedule a million tweets 3. set auto DMs. The best part is that this always happen to social media ‘gurus’.

  • Thanks, Kaarina. I love that! I actually think I’ll share that one with my kids.

  • That’s true. It’s awful that people are going so far as to buy followers. Who won’t do anything or buy anything or engage. Hmmm, maybe there will be a market to pay for comments, too. Paying for false engagement just to create an image of an active community?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Neicole for raising the issue, and Jamie for her feedback.

    Are there any new musical notes in marketing? When asked, someone will usually point out the latest social media platform. 

    That isn’t a new note, it’s a new instrument. The notes are the same.  They include, as Jamie pointed out: “content, strategy, conversation, engagement, or conversion.”

    It’s not the instrument’s fault if we choose to play notes that don’t work well together. It’s our fault for not learning the instrument and choosing the music that inspires our audience.

  • Very nice analogy, Don!

  • News of my demise has been greatly exaggerated ~ Triberr

    Ok, maybe someone else said it ..not really sure 🙂

    Since we disabled auto mode (which will come back in the form that doesnt violate Twitter’s TOS…think hootsuite or twitterfeed colliding with the power of the tribe 🙂  our daily unique visits have doubled.

    Let me make sure I say that again since it may sound like an exaggeration. Our visits have doubled.

    We had a slew of new signups who never even heard of auto mode and thought that manual mode was automated enough.

    In fact, 3 weeks after turning off auto mode we had to address scalability issues again this weekend. We’re back on track now 🙂

    After rolling out multi platform sharing and dynamic tribes, we have some more amazing stuff in store that will address the biggest issues small bloggers are facing.

    Our mission has always been and always will be to solve big problems for little bloggers. Our only mistake was to solve some problems all too well 🙂

  • First off this is probably my favorite post by you @neicolec It is awesome!

    You raise an important point: for all the so-called engagement on twitter it has become a bit of a broadcast platform for many. Since the changes to triberr I have seen a slight drop in the number of rts but I’m still getting the same level of conversation. I am also learning to value one visitor, one listener at a time. Big numbers do not mean your blog is a success. Bottom line, in business it’s about staying in business through revenue

  • Thank you, Jon. I’ve definitely seen less spam/RT volume, which I think is a good thing.  One visitor, one listener. And maybe one customer, eventually!

  • Just in relation to QR codes, they are a wonderful marketing tool, but like any tool, the value to a huge extent is in the hands of the user. Tools make things possible, not automatic, and QR codes can be misused, but used well……….  

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  • Neicole, nothing has really changed.  Companies, marketing “professionals” and many tools manufacturers are just applying the same old techniques to a new medium.  Unfortunately for them, this is the first time in history where the consumer actually can communicate directly to the brands (with words and actions) as a collective group.  And, I know everyone has heard this before, but like you’re saying, why aren’t they just paying attention???? Those who do, will succeed.  Those who don’t will fail.

  • I’m really glad to hear that! I know I’m actually more interested in using Triberr now than I was before.  Keep up the good work!

  • Absolutely agree.

  • I love Bennis.  Thanks for this great qupte Kaarina!

  • This is a tremendous idea Srini. Thanks for sharing.

  • You are going to be much better of this way I think.  I was always in manual mode any way as it should be. You are what you tweet and you can’t abdicate your brand to strangers. Thanks for adapting and adopting.

  • hey Mark,

    Thnx for the words. Yes, evolving has def been the name of the game from the get go. We will bring the automation back in different (doesnt violate twitter tos) and limited (will have to be deserved) form.

    The Triberr eco system is really different than any other social network. Our member’s objectives are tied to real goals and the bonds forged between members have been the surprising piece of the puzzle.

    Onward and upward 🙂

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