Monday, December 21, 2009

Social Media: How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days

By Philip Wocken

So you and your company have decided to embrace social media as a marketing medium. Congratulations! What do you do next? In this post, we’ll learn what not to do next as we follow Ralph, the marketing manager at (the names and companies have been changed to protect those involved).
Day 1: Ralph has decided that today was the day that jumped into social media. Ralph had heard about Twitter, his daughter has one of those Facebook accounts and he’d heard about all of those websites with names that he couldn’t pronounce and that weren’t even spelled correctly. Nevertheless, rather than seek help or advice from someone—anyone—who had some experience with social media, he decided that he would learn about social media as he went along.

Day 2: Today, Ralph wanted to focus on getting a large Twitter following. He logged on and spent all day “following” every user he could. By 4:00, he was following 1300 people and only 45 people were following him back (they have adjusted their settings to automatically follow back anyone who follows them). He had yet to send out a tweet.

Day 3: Since he wanted to learn about social media as he went along, he has decided that he doesn’t want to be tied down by a plan. He heard someone mention something about creating a content plan, but he concluded that he will update his content as he thinks of new topics. After all, he considers himself to be a pretty smart guy.

Day 4: Somehow, even though he hadn’t sent out any tweets, Ralph was getting followers on Twitter. Remembering that he got a lot of Direct Messages from people when he followed them, he thought that it would be a great idea to send out those messages to those who follow Unfortunately, he has decided to make the distribution of these messages so that they will automatically be sent out 10 hours after someone decided to follow At 4:00 pm, Mary followed At 2:00 am, she was rudely awakened by Ralph’s Direct Message. Mary was intelligent enough to figure out that what was thinly veiled as a personal and attentive message was nothing more than an artificially personalized advertisement. Mary, and everyone else who wanted to follow, undoubtedly felt insulted that Ralph was so artificial in his attempt to build a relationship with them. “Gosh,” Mary thinks, “ [’s main competitor] actually reached out to me and made a genuine connection. I’ll remember that!”

Day 5-9: Under the impression that he was really getting the hang of “this social media thing,” Ralph abandoned all of his other marketing activities/channels and decided to send out his first tweet: “ is your #1 source for all things widgets! Check us out on the web at!” He spends the next four days sending out tweets that sound like this every 20 minutes. He changed a couple of words here and there, but the message was still the same. Sick of being bombarded with advertisements and due to the lack of genuine, interesting content, the small following that Ralph has built up in the first few days immediately abandoned ship. On Day 9, Ralph now has 12 followers (those 12 never login to Twitter, so that haven’t been bombarded...yet).

Day 10: Somehow, Ralph stumbled across a blog and forum community that was setup specifically to smear They ridiculed Ralph’s social media “strategy” and a couple of user even started some false rumors about the company. Ralph, determined to set the record straight, logged on and scolded the site for allowing false statements to fester. Met with a defensive group of users, the conversation quickly escalated to a nasty argument. Within hours, Ralph’s comments were sent all over the web and were picked up by a couple of dozen blogs. The reputation of his company is now dangerously tarnished. Furious, Ralph concluded that “this social media thing is all just a bunch of hype.”
Don’t be like Ralph. While it may be an extreme example, it happens every day. If you’ve decided to incorporate social media into your marketing mix, I think that you have made a very wise decision. Use this opportunity to talk to someone who knows a thing or two about this ever-changing industry before you dive in. Or, at the very least, educate yourself so that you can avoid making the same mistakes as Ralph. No customer wants to do business with a guy like Ralph.
Have you, or someone you know, had an experience similar to Ralph’s (no names please!)? How do you learn about social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please enter them in the comment box below.
Philip Wocken is an inventive marketing manager specializing in Online Marketing techniques. He can be reached on Twitter @BuzzBrains or email him at

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