Keep Your Social Media Marketing Subtle

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Subtle Social Media Marketing

Today there are many businesses and companies that have (wisely) decided to engage in social media. While the effort is to be commended, a large portion of them are still making a fundamental mistake when it comes to social media marketing.

What is it?

They are treating their fans and followers like a bunch of mindless zombies that are being force-fed blatant advertising messages.

If this sounds like the approach that your organisation takes then it is definitely time to make an adjustment.

The two main methods of social media marketing

We can break social media advertising in two techniques:

  1. Using the built in advertising solutions provided (usually some sort of pay-per-click model).
  2. Putting advertising messages into your time-line/feed like any other status update or tweet.

While there is occasionally a time and place for using option two above, it is generally not the way to go. Unless your followers are in fact zombies.

When you do opt to use the time-line for marketing purposes, it is best to use it as part of a broader narrative. That way it is still a communication strategy first, then a marketing strategy second.

Think like your followers

To get inside the mindset of your social media followers it is useful to create personas. But even if you don’t want to go to the effort of creating personas, you need to get inside the head of your typical fan or follower.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What made them follow you in the first place?
  • What content do they enjoy most?
  • What type of content triggers unfollows?
  • Do your social media images look too much like banner ads?
  • What type of post encourages the most likes or comments?

You get the idea.

It’s important to review the social media engagement of your users with your unique situation and your overall marketing objectives in mind. Put the data into context.

If you are in tune with your target audience then they will be unfazed (negatively) by your marketing messages.

For example, people who follow an online golf store’s social media accounts will be a little more tolerant of even aggressive advertising. This is because golfers like to see what new products are available. The products in ads are often just as interesting to them as any other golfing content. Regardless, that doesn’t mean they want to see an endless stream of ads.

Respect your social media fans. Take them for granted and they can turn on you, with devastating effect.

Using sponsored updates/tweets

This paid method of advertising, in reality, is a hybrid of a standard social media post and a paid ad.

As you will have noticed when using social media yourself, users have the option of providing feedback on your paid updates. Not only can they dismiss your ads, they can complain! Keep this in mind when you decide to interrupt the user’s social media experience with one of your advertising messages.

Ideally your paid updates will be so interesting that users will share them, just like any other status update. This also makes the ad seem far less intrusive.

Try to avoid using sponsored updates too often (keep it subtle, remember). This can be hard to resist when you are seeing great responses to your campaigns, but overusing them will eventually annoy people.


If any of this has hit a nerve with you then you need to give your social media marketing strategy an immediate review. You can start making positive changes right away.

When hired as a social media marketing consultant I look at the history of the accounts in question to get a feel for the current state of play. I really don’t want to see a bunch of ads dressed as posts during this audit. All too often, however, this is indeed the case.

When you do put advertising messages into your time-lines, be subtle. Your goal is to make these ad ‘updates’ engaging and valuable to your fans and followers.