The five laws of social media marketing

A few months ago, skincare giant Nivea was forced to pull down an advert less than 48 hours after uploading it. The reason? The company posted an ad on one of its Facebook pages with the slogan, ‘White is Purity’. This drew plenty of backlash across social media as it was seen to be supporting racism and promoting white supremacy.

The post, which was on the Nivea Middle East page, featured the photo of a woman dressed in a white robe, with long, brown hair flowing down her back. It was aimed at promoting the brand’s “Invisible For Black & White” deodorant. A day before the Nivea incident, Pepsi had also sparked social media outrage over an ad that was perceived as degrading efforts to fight racism in the US. The beverage company’s ad, which featured an actress handing a policeman a soda in the middle of street protests, was seen as undermining the Black Lives Matter movement.

Both companies had to do a lot of damage control, make public apologies and try to woo back customers who had vowed never to buy anything from them again. These situations aren’t the preserve of multinationals – all sorts of businesses have made advertising mistakes that have cost them a lot. The backlash has been heightened by the presence and popularity of social media. To avoid a Pepsi or Nivea moment in your company, here are a five laws to follow when marketing your products.

1. Law of inclusivity Be careful about the message you are passing on to your customers. Avoid instances where a cultural group or religion will feel left out or insulted – granted, it will be difficult given how many labels are thrown around these days. But be sensitive. Given how powerful social media has become in advertising, it could easily lead to the collapse of your business if a message is misconstrued. The content that you share on social media will remain there for a long time and is seen by anyone who has access to it. It is very unlikely that a small company could have survived the backlash that Nivea and Pepsi got. You don’t want to risk being the focus of online users – recall the kind of panicked withdrawals they caused from small banks last year?

2. Law of being shareable Once you have done a brainstorm on the social media pages you’d like to open, make them shareable. This ensure that you are able to satisfy not only the customers you already have, but also reach their friends. Make the information you pass on important enough for people to want to remember and share with others. However, in your quest to be relevant, don’t become boring or bury your product under too much fluff. Learn the art of communicating through brevity.

3. Law of quality over quantity If you are selling several different products, don’t lump them all under one ad. For instance, if you sell shoes for both men and women, rather than coming up with a generic advert that showcases your entire stock, split your customers into groups. And then target each group at a time. Remember, an ad that would typically appeal to women would be vastly different from one that would appeal to men. Do not do a cheap advert just to get it over and done with, or to get information out there. Chances are, your customers will miss the point or totally ignore the message if the advert does not appeal to them.

4. Law of solving problems This law requires that your business listens and acts on the information it gets from customers. Social media is a great way to communicate with your customers, so listen to their problems, solve them and make your brand better. Put your customers first by asking them questions about the services you offer. Make noise about the changes you make based on the feedback you’ve received to illustrate your business’ dynamism and customer-facing objectives.

5. Law of transparency Allow your customers to peek behind the scenes when you’re marketing your business. And it doesn’t always have to be about positive things. If you’re going through a tough time that’s likely to affect your customers, let them know. You’ll be surprised at the support you get from loyal clients. Customers value honesty, and are more likely to adjust to any temporary set-backs you face if you tell them about it (and the plans you have to sort them out). Don’t leave it until they find out for themselves – they’re less likely to be tolerant then.

Article written by: Mumbi Kinyua