The downside of audience participation

If you are like many of the credit unions we work with, your marketing budget can become a point of concern. One of the greatest ways credit unions, and a lot of other companies, stretch their marketing dollars is by turning to social media. Everyone knows word of mouth is great for a brand, in addition to giving free advertising.

What company hasn’t asked customers, or members, to like or follow social pages? Or maybe even run a promotion that convinces members to interact with their brand—in effect creating online word of mouth.

Well, the thing about any advertising is that it needs to stay fresh. For social media this means fresh ideas for engaging current followers, as well as finding you new followers and credit union members. This is where companies can get into trouble. Ideas that initially come across as free or low budget to engage members can bring unintended consequences.

In 2012 Walmart had an idea to increase likes for their local Facebook pages by awarding the Walmart location with the most likes a visit from Pitbull. Thanks to online efforts, Pitbull ended up visiting Walmart’s most remote location in Alaska, where the population was almost 10 times less than the number of likes their Facebook page received.

Yes they may have received a lot of free attention, but was it really the best use of the money they spent to promote and send Pitbull there? Many of those liking the Facebook page will never actually visit the location, and their likes have since dropped by almost half.

Probably the worst examples of crowd-sourced marketing are when brands are given eye-opening reviews of their company—reviews that the rest of the world takes notice of. A British ferry company learned about their customer dissatisfaction when names for a new ferry were met with ideas like “Incompetence Afloat” and “Spirit of the WalletSucker.” The NYPD also faced negativity when they asked people to share police stories using #myNYPD on Twitter. Instead of the feel-good moments they were looking for, the hashtag became a way for citizens to publicly air their grievances.

So what can credit unions learn from all this? Most importantly, know your audience. For example, if you have a current problem with customer service, don’t ask members to publicly share experiences about customer service. This is not to say you should ignore problems within your organization. It means you should directly address these concerns first—and without crowd-sourced campaigns—before you ask members to join the conversation.

Instead of asking for members to completely control the conversation, you can provide guidance that creates interest without allowing outliers the ability to amplify their voice over the majority. Before you launch your campaign think of various scenarios that may arise and how you will deal with them. Above all, be vigilant about the feedback, entries or comments you’re receiving and deal with them promptly. Addressing concerns quickly shows you are on top of business, and builds trust and positive attention—which, after all, is really what marketing is all about.

Ben Prager

Ben Prager

Prior to forming Prager Creative, Ben worked with design studios, branding firms and advertising agencies to push great strategy and design for all his projects. His experience with all aspects ... Web: Details