Wednesday, October 27

Public Displays of Promotion

There are a few common truths when it comes to social marketing promotion programs:
  1. Consumers love free stuff
  2. Free stuff is a great way to attract consumers to your social spaces and reward those already connected with you
  3. Consumers get mad when they can't get their free stuff
  4. Social media is the perfect place for them to complain about it
There is nothing more painful than watching a brand's social promotion go awry. Between my own programs -- and following other marketer's promotions -- it seems any type is fair game. Online coupons, sweepstakes, and contests all have the potential to attract the haters.

Sometimes online coupons don't print correctly. Sometimes consumers are too dumb to enter a contest correctly. Sometimes (actually more frequently than you expect) your well-planned and orchestrated promotion is just too complicated for consumers to interact with.

Whatever the cause, social media provides a very public space for them to express their outrage. It doesn't help that places like the Facebook Wall overtly encourage other haters to pile on the criticism. Misery loves company, crowdsourcing becomes crowdcomplaining. Compounding this is the fact that your VP of Marketing can watch it unfold in real time. Assuming they even know that you have a Facebook page.

These Public Displays of Promotion require marketers to take extra care when planning and executing programs. You must be ready to deal with the vocal minority of complainers. They will show up eventually.

The following are my Guiding Principles for Managing Social Promotions. They are tuned towards Facebook, since that is where we execute the bulk of our programs. They can be adapted to any place where you can be publicly flogged.

  1. Your program will spawn haters. Doesn't matter how simple or straightforward it is. Someone will find something to complain about. Ensure you have clear user guidelines and T&Cs on your Facebook page that state what types of user comments can be deleted.

  2. Prep your Consumer Relations team about the promotion, even if they are not involved in moderating your Facebook Wall. A pissed-off consumer's resourcefulness is amazing when it comes to getting free stuff. 1-800 numbers or Contact Us email addresses are only a quick Google search away.

  3. Pre-announce a promotion start date at your own risk. You will quickly attract an angry mob if that sampling form isn't ready at 6 AM on the day you promised.

  4. Establish clear roles for watching your Wall after a promotion starts. Especially over the weekend. Murphy's Law states all online coupon inventory shall be depleted on a Saturday afternoon.

  1. If you pre-announced the promotion date, then launch it at midnight the night before. Seriously. Making it live "sometime that day" won't cut it. There must be a promotion countdown ticker synced with the atomic clock somewhere.

  2. Don't launch it on a Friday, unless you have a robust process for managing issues over the weekend.

  3. Keep It Simple. No multi-step processes or fancy interactive modules.

Managing The Impending Chaos
  1. Be prepared to address common user issues or complaints. Deputize the person or agency managing your Wall to respond immediately to these. It often will halt comments from other upset users.

  2. Don't delete any complaints unless they violate your user guidelines (see Preparing above).

  3. Often the community will police itself, and other users respond to complaints before you do. Watch these conversations to ensure they don't turn into a good old fashion flame war.

  4. If complainers pile on, then limit the public exposure on your Wall:
    --Change the Wall default view to Brand Only until the fury dies down. Users can still select the option to also view what other Fans have posted, but this will limit most of the views.
    --Prepare a group of new Wall posts to flood it after the conversation dies down. This will push negative posts off the first page view. People can still view them, but they need to make an effort to see them.

  5. Remind your boss, Consumer Relations, PR agency, and family members that this is only short term and will pass. Usually in a day or two. If they really freak out, then find a couple other marketing promotions on Facebook where the exact same issues are occurring. It happens on almost all of them.


  1. Write a status post announcing the promotion is finished. This helps prevent late comers from posting about how they can't find it. This happens often when coupon blogs continue linking to your page post-program.

  2. If late comers do complain, then respond with a comment explaining it is finished. This can help prevent piling on.

  3. If you are announcing the winner of a contest, then be prepared for the entire complaint process to start all over again. Some people just hate it when others win free stuff instead of them.


TML said...

Smart. Where do find the time to write all this up. This is nothing more than common sense. And that's not a criticism. There's a woeful lack of it at all levels in this space. So that makes this good and readable. Write a book ya bastard!

Anonymous said...

What promotion exploded on you?