Pretend you are the Director of Marketing for a business or organization. A tech company approaches you and they ask if they can put their logo on all of your promotional materials. All they want is a little space in the corner of each brochure, billboard, business card, television spot and newspaper ad you pay to produce. Preferably in color. But they can’t pay you for it. They need you to do this for them as a favor, for free.

What would you say?

If you wouldn’t take that deal, why in the world would you give Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media company free advertising space on your real-world promotional efforts?

If you get a few precious seconds of someone’s attention as they skim through your thing, why do you want them to spend part of that time thinking about someone else’s thing?

It used to be conventional wisdom that having that little blue "F" or that little bird icon on your advertising materials could indicate you were hip to modern technology and ready to hang out with the cool brands on social media. But the images usually sat next to or below a website address and a phone number, and they were rarely the most dominant/colorful element of a design. Maybe in the past it was a reasonable trade-off for an organization to give up a little control over how their target audience encountered them online in exchange for the network effect of social media sites. Today, individual users are much less likely to amplify someone else's marketing message just for the heck of it, and brands expect to earn or pay for any real exposure on social media.

Everyone knows that social media networks exists and are places to look for your brand, and it's not your job to remind them of that.

Despite this, we still regularly see promotional materials using social media icons as the primary way they expect people to follow up on their interest in the services or products being offered. Sometimes I see “Find us on Facebook" as the one and only call to action or contact information on signs or billboards I drive by.

Do you know what that looks like in practice to your target customer? It's not pretty:

  1. Pull up their social media app, sort through all the red notification dots and "can’t-miss" content or animal videos at the top of their feed.
  2. A few minutes later, remember why they are there and open up the search box.
  3. Type in some things they remember about your organization’s name and hope the search results come back with your profile and not one belonging to a similarly-named organization in another state.
  4. Click through and then start scrolling around trying to find something they’re interested in in the midst of your cover image, latest post, photos and other information that the platform shoves in their faces.
  5. Hopefully find the content you actually want them to see and that eventually engages them enough to make them call, email or click through to your website.

Can we agree that this is a horrible way to convert someone from a reader/viewer/listener of your advertising materials to a consumer/customer of your products or services? It’s just asking for them to get lost in the noise. Unless you've found a way to turn your follower count into money, or you are a premium brand that the user simply must start a long term relationship with on social media right this minute, you lose, and they lose.

Who wins? The social media company that got free advertising and a bunch of new information about your customers, all on your dime.

What's the alternative? Make a clear, high-quality website your home on the web, the hub of all the different ways to learn about what you offer, contact you, and follow you. Link to your social media presence there, yes, but make those profiles some of the many spokes of your marketing strategy...not the starting point.

One thought on “Why are you giving social media companies free marketing?

  1. I couldn't agree with this more, Chris. I liken it to 21st century Feudalism-it ain't our land, ya know? It's Zuckerberg's estate. And the Zuck giveth and taketh away.

    And don't even get me started on social media experts. The emperor wears no clothes.

    I've said too much lol. Thanks for another great article, Chris.

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