Why Social Media Isn’t the Place for Selling

By the time we reach a certain age, most of us can recognize when a superficially friendly person is approaching us with an ulterior motive. You’ve probably felt the tingle of recognizing someone else’s agenda, whether you’re walking down the street and some clipboard-holding college student trills, “HEY, how ARE you, I LOVE that shirt!” or you’re hitting delete on an email from someone claiming to be your long-lost Nigerian cousin.

Prior to the advent of e-commerce, the line between advertising and editorial–or even innocent conversation–was easier to recognize (except for your sister-in-law the Amway rep, of course). We knew the beats of the more overt manipulations of traditional advertising and could respond accordingly.

Most companies have some aspect of social media in their marketing strategy. They may even employ an expert–self-proclaimed or legitimate–to help them craft what they hope is a brilliant, subtle strategy that will take their company straight into customers’ hearts and Facebook newsfeeds. However, unless your plans are very subtle indeed, you may be doing more harm than good.

At AdAge, marketing consultant Bob Garfield describes his violent reaction to the ham-handed social media strategy an unnamed agency gave to his unnamed client. Devoid of any finesse, the plan included this chilling sentence: “Convert conversations into transactions that support business objectives.” And with that, Garfield knew that his client’s agency knew nothing of the finer points of sales strategy versus social strategy–to say nothing of the negative reactions most savvy consumers have to that kind of manipulation.

When we look at a company’s Twitter or Facebook page, we know what we’re doing–we’re on that company’s turf, likely seeking business hours, deals, or other facts provided with the goal of creating sales. However, at this point in our collective social media evolution, adding a crass sales pitch to that free flow of information just feels… gauche. We’re at the point where a sales strategy should not only address steps to take and goals to make–it should also include a Miss Manners-style treatise on making the topic of online conversation fit the medium.

Learn more at adage.com.

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