Keeping it real … fake: Social media marketing “don’ts”

I got a shiny, snailmail brochure today touting a famous research organization’s upcoming workshop. One track offers expert advice on social marketing to “Generation Y.” According to the blurb, selling to this audience requires a “non-traditional approach” that includes “adding YouTube and Facebook to your marketing mix and leveraging user-created content.”

Yawn. It sounds so 2006, I’m already asleep.

1571468887_2aceebdd2b_m.jpg As I said in an Oct. 2007 blog post, if it gets to be 2008 (Mr. or Ms. CMO) and your product isn’t in the top 10 search results on Baidu, embedded in South Korean social networks, wrapped around a Brazilian YouTube video, certified carbon neutral, and bookmarked on a Google phone, better get out the cardboard box and start packing your stress ball.

Yet I’m sure hundreds of CMOs will shell out thousands to attend the yakfest, hoping to gain an edge and keep their jobs.

Why does it seem that all of these events are led by Baby Boomers who’ve never skated, surfed, played Tekken 6, or shopped at Karmaloop? I say spend your $2,000 to come on down to Jax Beach and holla at these kids surfing by the pier on spring break instead.

According to the South by Southwest interactive festival Web site, a similar panel at that conference discussed and nominated “ten terrible ad campaigns that abused the ideals of people-powered media.” The campaigns the panelists roasted included:

• Businesses pretending to be bloggers.

• Businesses pretending to be journalists.

• Businesses pretending to be “Joe Blow” in order to flog their products in blog comments.

• Bloggers and vloggers who turn out to be paid floggers.

Trouble is, the panel voting on “The Worst of the Worst in Social Media Marketing for 2007” included reps from companies that oh-so carefully arrange for product pitches on blogs.

As Jack Nicholson said, “My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.”

My advice to those who want the scoop on social media and reaching the elusive GenY:

#1: Don’t lie.

#2: Don’t have others shill, lie, and pretend to be authentic for you. You will be discovered, and you will probably regret it.

#3: Be authentic. If you are a zillion dollar global leviathan, own it, be it, learn to love yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not. It’s as repelling as grandma wearing Zoë Bikini. You don’t want to see it, and neither does GenY.

Did any of the companies mentioned in this blog (except of course my fulltime employer, MarketingExperiments) pay me for it? Not a chance.

For more on this subject, check out the MarketingExperiments Creed – our attempt at an in-house reminder to keep it real. And let us know if you’ll be dropping by the beach. Our own GenY crew just got a new grill and they’re waxing their boards for these killer waves.

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