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Asking Your Audience to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ You Without Question Completely Misses The Point

by Tim Rimington | January 9, 2012

With all the recent retail Sale activity this year, I began to notice more and more businesses adopt online social marketing by blindly asking their customers or passers-by to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ them. This subject came up at a BBQ recently where conversation shifted to the retail Sales and what everyone present had purchased, what bargains they’d picked up, where and how. Then someone commented on how many retailers “arrogantly” ask their customers to ‘Follow’ or ‘Like’ them, as if they expect their adoring fans to blindly assist growing their audience because it was "trendy" or the "in thing" to do. And let’s be honest here, how many retailer Facebook pages actually have something of value once you get there having taken the time to log in to your account, and ‘Like’ them? Most retail Facebook pages that I visit are crammed with unimaginative “sales speak” with little in it for me. As a consumer I want a damn good reason as to why I should help promote your business – give me something in return, and make it interesting, fun and worth my while!

This isn’t too dissimilar to a name-brand retailer handing you your purchase in one of their branded carry bags, ready to advertise their company as you walk out their door. I actually recall being told by a customer back in the day that they took exception to me expecting them to advertise my store for free by carrying around our store’s shopping bag! Perhaps to some extent the guy had a point.

As I wandered around shopping malls doing my Christmas shopping, I saw plenty of hand-out print catalogues with a broad “Like us on Facebook!” or “Follow us on Twitter!” request. The requests were also painted on retail store windows. It was probably my grumpiness of repeatedly bumping into other shoppers, but I thought, “Why the heck should I?”. That one line peddled by so many retailers, seemingly ad-infinitum, “Like or Follow Us” had lost its meaning on me – everyone was asking me to do it without a hint or suggestion as to why, or what was in it for me. In the eyes of retailers, had I merely become a drone that followed my Master’s demand without question?

One of the earliest lessons I learned in retail was to make my customers feel special, give them personal attention, build relationships so that they're more inclined to visit my store over the competitors across the road. In an online world, VIP Member Clubs go some way in achieving this, and they work best when they’re “sold” as a way for Members to learn about specials and offers that non-club Members don’t see. Take a few moments to complete an online or in-store form and I’m signed up ready to receive offers that I’d otherwise miss. Simple. Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours - but give me reason!

A retailer’s requests for their customers to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ them should be handled in similar fashion. In my opinion, retailers need to tell customers the benefits of joining their adoring audience, not blindly demand it. Offer-up 3 bullet points listing too good to refuse carrots – but tell me what’s in it for me. Offer me a 12-hour window to purchase my favourite widget at 20% off, or hand me a Promo Discount Code if I Re-Tweet you to my 500 Twitter followers. Rewards, rewards, rewards!

My rant is not aimed at all retailers because there are many who “do get it” and understand how this should work. But if you’re simply asking people to follow or like you, it’s not likely to be enough and I’ll bet my last sandwich that your “campaign” isn’t achieving anywhere near what you’d expected.

Have a plan and engage your audience with rewards – but tell them at the start why they should bother to do so in the first place. A Facebook ‘Like’ and Twitter ‘Follow us’ icon does not constitute a social media campaign. Same applies to e-newsletter sign up forms on your website: “Sign up for our newsletter” should be followed by an appropriate and worthwhile carrot.

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