marketing ethics

4 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy Likes for Your Facebook Page

Managing a Facebook page is very challenging.  The rules change frequently and keeping your fans engaged is a continually evolving process.  Just getting fans is challenging.  So some Facebook page administers resort to buying likes.

But there’s more to a Facebook page than just the number of its fans.  Facebook pages are about building relationships as an extension of your business so when your fans want or need your product or service, you’re fresh in their mind.  Fake fans won’t buy into your real business.

Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn’t buy Facebook likes:

  1. Buying likes violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  If you get too many likes too quickly without organic methods such as Facebook ads or links from a website, Facebook has spam detection methods of detecting this and can disable your like button or even unpublish your page.
  2. Purchased fans won’t be your customers.  They are for numbers only and many are in different countries or are fake accounts without a real person behind them.  Since the main purpose of having a Facebook page for your business is to build and maintain relationships with customers or potential customers, you are defeating your own primary goal.
  3. Purchased fans will decrease the percentage of real fans who actually see your posts.  Since only a small percentage of your fans see your posts, Facebook decides the percentage based on how many are interacting with your posts (EdgeRank).  Increased interaction increases this percentage and vice versa.  So if your fans aren’t engaged in your posts, Facebook will show fewer fans your posts and chances are many of the fans who do see your posts will be fake.
  4. You can easily get real fans using inexpensive Facebook ads.  Why should you pay to advertise on Facebook?  Because it’s extremely effective.  Facebook offers amazing targeting capabilities to ensure you’re getting the most out of your advertising budget.  And since you set your daily or campaign budget, you can get a lot of likes for a very low amount.  (I got 51 likes for just $25 on one page.)

So while it may be tempting to purchase likes on your Facebook page, in the long run it’s only going to hurt the effectiveness of your page.  Instead, stick with legitimate methods to get real fans so you can build real relationships with them and eventually turn them into real customers.

Recommended Books About Facebook

Don’t forget to check out my book!

Everything I’ve Learned About Facebook: A complete guide on how to create, strategize, manage and promote your Facebook page to increase customer base and brand awareness for any size business


Netflix: A Big Business Decision Gone Awry

Last week, I wrote about the New York Times sending an email to 8 million recipients in error and how it quickly ended causing no real damage. However, emails that aren’t well thought out can cause serious repercussions, damaging the company’s reputation, causing the company to lose significant profits.

Consider the email from Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix, back in September regarding the splitting of streaming and DVD services and websites. This was following the July price increase that already caused many subscribers to drop their subscriptions. So in addition to the already unpopular price hike, subscribers now faced the inconvenience of managing their account and movie queue on two different websites if they wanted to keep both services.

Three weeks later, another email was sent out announcing that there would not be a division of the services and that the site would remain as is. Unfortunately, due to all the confusion, Netflix lost 800,000 U.S. subscribers during the third quarter of 2011, the largest drop they’d seen in seven years.

The email from Hastings almost comes off as an internal email, a suggestion for a new idea. But generally, ideas of such magnitude require planning, research and marketing. Suggesting such a big change to generally satisfied customers through an email was quite a blow. Being a subscriber to streaming services myself, I know I was shocked at this announcement and felt unsure about this new venture.

So how could this have been handled better? Rather than sounding like a cross between an internal company email and a message from a stern uncle on “how things are going to be,” Netflix could have taken a few steps to make this new idea more exciting and acceptable to subscribers.

Focus groups and subscriber polls could have been used to determine how subscribers would feel about the drastic change. With the outcry of threatening to cancel Netflix subscriptions quickly spreading across the internet after the announcement, Netflix could have quickly determined this might not be the best decision.

Rather than sending a long explanatory email to subscribers, the message could have been better controlled and spun to demonstrate the benefits to the customer of having these split services. Is splitting a service that works fine for me convenient for me? No, not at all. I don’t want to have to manage my one service through two sites. If you want to do that, then tell me why I should be happy about it and how it will benefit me.

The end-user doesn’t care how your company works internally and definitely doesn’t want to complicate their life to make yours easier. Stating “we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently,” is something you tell your employees, not your customers. You tell your customers “here’s what I’m going to do for you to make your life easier and make your experience with my product or service even better.”

The message could have been conveyed better as well. Rather than sending a long-winded email letter, placing internet ads, commercials announcing the “exciting new service” and easing customers into the change using controlled messages to build their confidence in it would have been much more effective. Sometimes it is better to slowly inch into cold water than to dive right in.

Waiting three weeks to announce the change was not going to occur was another blunder. Granted, big decisions take time and I’m sure it took a long time to field all the calls and emails from unhappy subscribers, but had they responded earlier, perhaps they could have prevented some of the subscriber loss.

In the end, Netflix, a company that had been functioning perfectly fine in the eyes of its subscribers, upset and confused the very people it needed to exist. The company made a very bold move that ended up backfiring, giving the impression that the company was unafraid to make drastic decisions without regard for its subscribers.

What other companies have made drastic decisions that didn’t turn out well?  Which ones made big decisions that worked out?  How would you handle a negative backlash of a recent business decision?


Ocean Marketing: A Public Relations Nightmare and How to Avoid it

If I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s the importance of getting things in writing as well as being courteous to your customers—the lifeblood of any business. Getting things in writing not only serves as a helpful reminder of what needs to be done, it can also help trace the cause and lead-up to both successes and failures to help you succeed in the future.

Email chains serve as a timeline between multiple parties and since everything is in writing, there’s no confusion about what details were spelled out, unlike remembering chicken scratch notes from a meeting. Have you ever been in a long meeting and left remembering only a few vital points and some humorous commentary that didn’t have anything to do with the main topic? This is a time when getting things in writing can help you succeed.

Now, imagine that same meeting with a written agenda with room for note taking then receiving a summary of what was discussed with a plan of action laid out? This way of thinking follows the basic presentation training of “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to talk about, I’m going to talk about it, then I’m going to tell you what I talked about.” Three chances to get the information in your head.

Another great reason for emailing information is it enables you to search for it at a later time in the event you need to obtain information or follow-up. I’ve made a point of including order or model numbers in emails so if I want to trace the lead-up to an order or follow-up on a particular order, all I have to do is search for the order number.

There are times, however, when getting things in writing can be negative. As with anything digital, it is important to understand how easily information, photos, videos or even sound clips can be spread. While the intent may not always be malicious, it can quickly turn that way, especially if emotions get involved.

Take for example, the recent case of Paul Chrisoforo from Ocean Marketing. If you haven’t heard of him yet, he is a public relations professional who forgot his manners and how easy it is to forward an email. What started out as a simple inquiry from a customer regarding the delivery date of a pre-ordered a video game controller, quickly turned into a career train wreck for Paul. Instead of just giving the customer a straight answer, he was vague, got irritated with the customer, then completely insulted and spoke inappropriately to the customer.

In his tirade of insulting the customer, he, in return, let the customer know just how important he was, how many powerful people he knew, and how many gaming expos his company would be attending. When he mentioned PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, the customer decided that it was time to inform Mike Krahulik, creator of popular comic and blog Penny Arcade, as well as head of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX).

When Mike read the disastrous email chain, he let Paul know he wouldn’t be getting a booth at the expo. Rather than calm down or even look into who this Mr. Krahulik was, Paul continued the insults, power trip and name dropping. By that point, Mike decided he’d had enough of the drama, and informed Paul that he would be featured on his blog Penny Arcade the next day. Paul was still excited for the feature and PR until he realized who he was dealing with. Now he’s begging for the publicity to stop and has written an apology to both the customer and to Mike, but at this point, he’s completely damaged his reputation as a PR professional.

Although this put Paul and his company in a very negative light, I would say that this could actually help his career, similarly to the way the E. coli scare at Jack-In-The-Box helped their sales.  At the time, no one wanted to eat there, but shortly thereafter, it was regarded as one of the safest places to eat because the restaurant chain was taking extra precautions to ensure no one else got sick from their food.

Could this be the same case with Mr. Christoforo? Could he really be a brilliant enough PR professional to swing his career into a successful one or has he ruined his career in public relations forever?

I’m sure there are times when it might feel good to really let a customer know what you think, but in the long run, it’s not good for anyone. And worse, as Paul Christoforo so clearly demonstrated, giving a customer that kind of ammunition can be extremely damaging, not just for the person who sent it, but for the reputation of the company as well. Even if you aren’t intending to be insulting or short with someone, because it is in writing and not spoken, it can sometimes come off that way.

So keep your customers happy and your reputation safe with a few tips:

  • Write every correspondence with the knowledge that it only takes one click to forward your message. If you wouldn’t want someone else reading it, you probably shouldn’t write it.
  • If the person you’re communicating seems unclear about what you have written or seems to be getting frustrated, call the person or allow them to “please call” you so you can ensure you are on the same page. If you want to keep that record in writing, it is perfectly acceptable to write a follow-up email “per our conversation” to reiterate your points.
  • Always be courteous and polite, opting to close the email with “thank you” or “best regards” rather than “thanks…” or just your email signature. Make them feel special.
  • If you’re not sure how your email will be taken, have someone else read it. Don’t read it to them because they need to read it as your customer would—without your tone of voice.

The customer may not always be right, but no one likes to be told they are wrong and if someone is paying for a product or service, they want the respect they deserve from that company. Treat them well and you will prosper. Treat them poorly and you will damage your and your company’s reputations.

Penny Arcade Blog Post:

Red Robin E-blast: Marketing Genius or Disaster?

I received an e-blast from Red Robin today with the subject reading “Are you Jim? A FREE burger awaits!”  I was a bit excited because I recently signed up for their royalty card and had thought maybe they confused me with someone else—nevertheless, they think I get a free burger so maybe I’d take them up on the offer!

Then I open the email and see this:

Red Robin e-blast - Free burger if your name happens to be Jim, James or Jimbo

Red Robin e-blast - Free burger if your name happens to be Jim, James or Jimbo...

I did forward it on to my father-in-law, Jim, but then I started to think about how it made me feel.  Granted I’m a vegetarian (yeah for RR Boca burgers) and I’ve sworn off Red Robin for receiving poor service the last few times I’ve been there, but I’m also human and a fan of free stuff and equal opportunity.

I went to Red Robin’s Facebook page to see what others thought about the promotion:

  • There were a lot of excited people, as I was in the beginning, sharing this with all the Jims they knew.
  • There were confused folks who didn’t get it and thought Red Robin thought their name was Jim
  • There were some who were disappointed they couldn’t get the deal and hopeful for a Carol or Melissa free burger day.
  • There were all the happy Jims (and derivatives of the name)  announcing their excitement for the free burger.
  • There are those who think this is a fun and cute promotion.
  • There were the naysayers, not thrilled about being fooled into thinking they got a free burger.
  • There were the extremists exclaiming how sexist this awful campaign is because it’s only valid for people named Jim and even states to forward on to “him,” and many even suggesting boycotting Red Robin.
  • There were the regulators telling the extremists to calm down and just be happy for the Jims.

There’s a couple sides to this reputationally-risky promotion: is it good to get any publicity even if it is negative or do the risks of negative lashing out by the public outweigh any positive attention this campaign could get?

The Red Robin representative on Facebook has been commenting like crazy, making sure the rules are clear, responding quickly to positive comments and laying low in response to the negative comments.  Is it wise to focus on the positive and avoid drawing attention to the negative?

It will be interesting to see the reactions of Red Robin executives over the next week to see if there is an apology or if they stand behind their marketing campaign.

What do you think about this e-blast: genius or disaster?

Word of Mouth Marketing: Natural vs. Enhanced Marketing

Two types of word of mouth marketing that occur are natural and enhanced.  Natural word of mouth marketing occurs when consumers take it upon themselves to spread information about your product or service out of experience and enhanced is when your company interacts to influence or create word of mouth marketing.  Enhanced word of mouth marketing occurs when steps are taken to enhance existing marketing efforts or to create new marketing efforts.

Natural word of mouth marketing can be viewed as reactive, for example if someone receives excellent service or is satisfied with a product they purchased and leave a positive review of it online.  It is a natural reaction and many online vendors request buyers to share their experiences for the benefit of other consumers.

Enhanced word of mouth marketing can be viewed as proactive.  This includes creating mediums where consumers can comment on products or services or finding other ways to start conversations about your company.

Now, if you are starting communication about your company, it is wise to always give a positive twist on it.  Instead of asking “what do you think about this product?” try asking “what do you like best about this product?”  By starting on a positive note, you are more likely to reap positive results.  And positive results are what you are seeking in the first place, correct?

If you encounter negative natural word of mouth marketing, don’t be afraid to confront it.  Negativity attracts more negativity, but if you can incorporate positivity, you can control your image.  This brings to mind a local bar that hosts BINGO night.  When we first started playing BINGO there, when someone won, everyone else would groan.  We decided to put a twist on this and applaud every winner.  The applauding caught on and with very little encouragement, those who used to groan at the winners now applaud.

This same methodology can be brought to your company.  If we can convince BINGO losers to applaud those who beat them at the game, surely a company can convince their customers to applaud their product or service even when not always 100% what they wanted.  Perhaps an item is on backorder.  How about suggesting a complementary item at a discount?  Perhaps your customer’s tee shirts are slightly delayed.  Why not suggest branded logo drawstring bags or water bottles at a discount.  Find ways to put a positive spin on negative times so you will receive naturally positive word of mouth marketing.

What are ways your company can use enhanced marketing to influence your natural word of mouth marketing?

Word of Mouth Marketing: What NOT to Do

In a virtual world of online polls, reviews, shopping and marketplaces, it can be tempting to fake positivity toward your company.  Even in an anonymous online world, people are by nature somewhat suspicious, especially if a reviewer sounds a little too knowledgable about a product or company.

In order to be effective, word of mouth marketing MUST be genuine.

Here are some examples of word of mouth marketing that may seem to be a good idea at the time but will ultimately work negatively against your efforts:

Fake reviews: people are getting increaingly better at spotting fake reviewers.  There are actually lots of sites explaining how to find fake reviewers (presumptually from the company that is producing the product or service, thus negatively impacting your company even more than actual negative feedback from an actual customer)

Paid reviewers: have you ever seen a commercial with a disclaimer that the person speaking is a paid actor.  It doesn’t do that great of a job convincing you the person is actually that enthusiastic about the product. However, if your parents, friend or sibling told you the same thing, you would be much more likely to believe them.  Paying someone to promote your product can negatively impact your company unless they are convincing enough. Even if the promoter is truly your biggest fan, consumers will question how genuine the promoter is if they are getting paid.

Email Spam:it seems like no matter how hard I try, I still end up getting inundated with unwanted communication from companies I have never solicited.  Not only is this illegal, it can greatly negatively impact your company.  Keep in mind, even if you require your customers to opt in to your email list, they will not take the action to actually opt in.  But when you solicit consumers without their permission and bombard them with unwanted information, they will have a negative reaction.  Make sure if you contact your customers with a bulk email, that they have clear ways to change their subscription or unsubscribe and also that you have a clear message about  why you have contacted them.

Comment Spam:there are programs or bots that will post comments unrelated to the topic or item listed and promote your company.  While you may initially see an increase in your audience, it won’t be long before these bot comments are marked as spam and your message gets lost as an annoyance rather than an effective marketing message.

Deception:people don’t like to feel like they’ve been deceived so offering a deceptive marketing device should be an obvious no-no.  However, that doesn’t stop companies from spreading false or misleading information about their company to try to gain fans.  Sure, it’s exciting to think you can lose 20 pounds overnight, but in most cases, this is not a typical result and will lead to consumers dismissing your message before they’ve even considered your product or service.  By being up-front and honest, you will gain many more supporters than by being deceptive.

You should always strive to keep your company in a positive light.  Being deceptive will only get you ahead for a very short period of time then negatively impact you for much longer and with much more expensive and long-term repurcussions.

Practicing ethical business marketing methods will prove positive results over time and you will reap the benefits long-term.  Reputation is everything and it only takes a few moments to damage it.