Social media marketing can be very effective if done the right way, but if it backfires, the fallout can be pretty undesirable. Such was the case for this Digg story, which compared multiple web hosting companies and watched as these hosts handled the traffic spikes that resulted from the Digg effect.
Note how I bolded a specific term: web hosting. Digg is the social media network of tech geeks, and the Digg statistics should not be too surprising: 39% of Diggers publish their own blog. That means that 39% of Digg’s 1million+ members have considered web hosting, and the winner of the most reliable web host was a company that … apparently was pulled out of thin air.
A few weeks later, a surprising blog post was published that outed the marketing firm and hosting company that sponsored the particular study. It turned out, with investigation, that the “experiment” conducted was not apparently legitimate. One of the non-convinced individuals who found the Digg story took the liberty to look further into this company, Burton Hosting, and the study. Even I could have looked further. In my past positions as a web hosting administrator, I’ve heard of no-name hosting firms, in addition to the obvious well known hosts such as Rackspace, midPhase, MediaTemple, 1&1, HostPC, KnownHost, LiquidWeb, BlueHost, DreamHost… but where and who the hell is Burton Hosting, and what the heck made it perform better than highly reputable hosts that Burton was compared to in the study?
And it turned out that the whole thing was a viral marketing sham, too, which was discovered by numerous Digg members.
The issue at hand is not the fact that the company was virtually unknown. There were far more important issues that needed to be dealt with first. You can’t throw a kitten in a cage full of tigers without getting hurt. You can’t take your first driving class on the highway without learning how to drive on local streets beforehand. People should know who you are, or else you’re going to raise eyebrows.
Brand awareness is important, especially when it comes to a web hosting firm that was advertised on a multitude of technology websites.
Next time you proceed in a social media marketing campaign, follow some ideas and steps:
- Know your market. Study the demographics and know who will be researching your products.
- Know your social media source’s demographics. Digg is predominantly full of young male technology enthusiasts, whereas Netscape is more political in nature.
- Learn who your competitors are. Find out where they are advertising their products.
- Seek out communities that address the needs that your company also addresses. In web hosting, there are hundreds of different forums and sites. Get acquainted with them and with their customers.
- Let the community know who you are. Introduce yourself, engage in the community, and let them learn about your brand.
Your ultimate goal is to let word of mouth marketing work the right way for you and not against you.The best thing you can do is work with your client to understand the competition and their avenues of advertising. Jump in on those avenues too, and subtly introduce yourself and your offerings. What’s your unique selling point? Why should people want to work with you? Start off being generous: offer incentives to your earliest adopters. (Free hosting for 2 months? Sure!) But don’t jump into a 12 foot pool without learning how to swim first.
This social media gaffe is not the first one that has been discovered, nor will it be the last. People will continue to use social media for their gain. I wouldn’t fault anyone for that. However, the important thing is to have a solid experiment — you need to address the possible loopholes in your experiment. You need to have a thoroughly compelling social piece.
Those who engage in social media have an inherent thirst for interesting information. They seek information that satisfies some type of curiosity. When it comes down to it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with engaging in such a way with any social community as long as you have the intentions of the community at heart. Don’t fool them, or they’ll end up fooling you.