Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can brands tweet too much?

        The other day a student told me she thought some advertisers are overdoing it with social media. Every morning at 5:30, I know how she feels.

        When I open my computer, I face 75 to 110 messages. That's before the water boils. I'm  over-Facebooked daily, and people in online groups are pretending to start discussions when they're really trying to recruit or place people for jobs.  Do they really think this is a way to win friends and influence people --- by tweeting hard-sell messages?

        My friend Dave, who runs a branding company, tweets every day. He has over 1,200 followers. Instead of trying to sell them in 140 characters, Dave tries to help them, and give them things to think about. One day it might be about a promotion opportunity that car dealers are missing out on, and the next day, a new idea a home builder in Denver is trying out. Or a new PR tactic for medical centers. Dave appears to operate on a principle that's rather simple: if you love someone enough, there's a good chance they'll love you back.

        The kinds of tweets and postings and messages we can do without are the other kind. The all-about-me kind. "I just bought a swim suit --- they were half off." There's nothing for me in there.  Now, as much as I like to see swimsuits half off, why do I want to know this? Do they have the kind I like? Where is this sale? Is that my kind of store?

        Print ads and TV commercials fail for the same reason. There's nothing in them for the viewer. Leo Burnett, the head of his own huge ad agency in Chicago, once defined a good ad as one that's easier to read than turn the page. I believe that's true. By easier to read, Leo meant an ad so interesting and relevant to you that you just had to read it. No decision --- you just read it.

        Whenever I find myself captivated into reading an ad, I try to figure out why. An intriguing photo, a shocking statement, an unexpected promise, a striking question, a great offer? Often it's all of the above.

        We go to social media (or any other media) to get something out of them. When we don't, we have a right to be upset and complain. Or simply not pay attention. Call it self interest, call it self respect.

        If all someone wants to do is bombard you with his favorite subject, him, please realize he won't get a positive response from you, like Dave would.

        As I always tell my clients, you pay the same amount for a bad ad as you do for a good one.


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