Marketing Your Personal Life on Facebook? Don’t.

In an apparent effort to raise advertising revenues, Facebook is now encouraging individuals to develop a marketing plan for their personal lives by advertising “important news” to their friends and family. Find that hard to believe? It happened to me just yesterday, when I shared the news I’m expecting. Here’s the picture proof (personal details removed):

Marketing your personal life on Facebook. Don't.

If you’re wondering, Facebook wanted to charge me $7.00 to pester my friends and family with advertising.

What a terrible idea. My friends don’t want me to target them with a marketing campaign. And I’ll probably unfriend the first person to advertise to me.

I’ve always advocated thinking of customers as individuals and real people instead of “target audiences.” Facebook seems to be trying to do the opposite – turning friendships into impersonal marketing strategies.

Customers See Through Marketing “Tactics”

Some marketing professionals seem to think marketing is all about “pulling one over” on customers with their clever tactics. The trouble with this philosophy (besides being ethically problematic, of course) is that it just doesn’t work. Marketers aren’t smarter than customers, and they can’t trick customers. And sometimes customers are actually smarter than the marketing experts.

My good friend Laura Poland (who is a photographer, not a marketer) recently showed some serious marketing smarts. She told me how she caught on to Covergirl’s marketing tactics. A TV commercial claimed their Outlast Lipstain is the #1 selling lipstain. She speculates, “What is a lipstain? They’ve created a new category! My thinking is they’re the only ‘lipstain.'” She’s not very far off with her analysis. They are number one because they are almost the only one, with few competitors. A quick check of the Covergirl website shows the product isn’t very well-received, either– it only receives 3 of 5 stars from reviewers.

This example of a photographer picking apart a marketing campaign isn’t isolated. Everyday, customers evaluate your marketing messages for trustworthiness and believability. If they catch a whiff of “tactics,” their skepticism will keep them from buying from you. The best approach is to be honest with your marketing and sell a product you are proud to promote.

How not to treat your customers

It’s said that the brain cannot process a negative. We can prove this with a simple example: Under no circumstance should you think of a pink polar bear. Do not think of a pink polar bear.
Of course, you just thought of a pink polar bear.

At the peril of using negatives, I want to give small businesses advice onĀ how not to treat their customers. In the following examples, imagine how your customers would respond if you tried these bad tactics.

Don’t offer customers a make-believe loyalty program.

Any customer can tell that buying six smoothies in a month in exchange for a free one is not a good deal. If you insult their intelligence, customerĀ disloyalty will skyrocket.

Smoothie make-believe loyalty

Don’t try to trick customers with sneaky advertising.

A company named Sneaky Advertising tried to post a spam comment on my blog. I visited their site, and took the screenshot shown below.. There’s no such thing as stealthy profits, because no one is fooled by those haphazard advertisements. If you trick customers into viewing your advertisements, two things can happen: they ignore it, or they get angry about it. If your customer gets angry at your advertisement, that means they are really angry at you. Only advertise to your customers in ways they find acceptable.

Sneaky Advertising doesn't work.

Don’t act like a large company when you’re not.

Small businesses can offer customers things that large companies cannot. Use your size to your advantage– don’t try to hide it. Large companies have many faults that small businesses must avoid such as unnecessary bureaucracy, unwieldy communication and treating customers like a number.

Don’t talk negatively.

Remember the pink polar bear example earlier in this article? Speaking in negatives is not an effective way to communicate your message. Focus more on your strengths than your competitors’ weaknesses or jabs. Just try to read the following excerpt from DirecTV’s website without focusing on, “NO!” and “ONLY!”

No! DirecTV

All of these points have something in common and can be summarized in one statement:

Don’t treat your customers like they are stupid.

Your customers are smarter than ever, have access to more information than they did a year ago and grow more discerning with every sales pitch they hear. Most importantly: they can tell if you are trying to trick them.

Use your marketing budget to treat your customers as the intelligent, discerning people they are. If you do, you will have the opportunity to grow loyalty, sales and referrals.