by Don F Perkins
Checking my twitter notifications one day and there it was, a follow notice from a local funeral home. I began to wonder – do they know something I dont? Am I about to kick the can; to shuffle off this mortal coil? Well it’s been over a year now, and I’m still breathing so I have to assume that it was simply another case of some poor small business owner completely missing the point of social media marketing.

If you are a business owner you want to get my attention. I get it. The problem is, all attention is not good attention. Social media is not a digital billboard friends! It’s not a big electronic yellow pages phone book! Social media is a massive conversation in front of all the world and we consumers? Well, we got rules.

Social Media Rule #1 – Don’t be creepy

So if you do embalming or you make adult diapers or something, following strangers on twitter might not be your way to win. Social media is also not a place to pitch your goods. Social media is a good place however, to figure out some very helpful data on me, if I am your target customer. Listen and see what I care about; what circles I run in; who I hang with. When you get to rule #4 you will see that this kind of demographic data is an amazingly helpful benefit of social media marketing channels.

Social Media Rule #2 – Be helpful

Many businesses make the mistake of talking about their products all the time on social media. We don’t care about your product, especially if it’s embalming. Every business meets a need and has competition. Let’s start there. Somebody somewhere cares about what you do and why you do it. Think about the need you meet, why I should care and how you can be more helpful to me than your competition. We all have things (too many things) to do today, and no time for hearing your product pitch. Help me solve a problem though, even if it’s a problem I didn’t know I had, and you have my attention.

Social Media Rule #3 – Be human

I almost never follow brands on social media. I like to interact with people not faceless brands, and not just any people. I like to talk to people who are interesting, entertaining or who teach me how I can be a better version of me. Again – social media is not a digital billboard for schilling your widgets. It’s a chance for you to interact with the community and join conversations on the things we all care about.

Social Media Rule #4 – Tell me a story

Nobody like a lecture. We all had to sit through more than enough of these in college. Yet we regularly pay good money to hear a good story, whether it’s books, movies, theater, etc. The best social media marketers weave their brand into a good story that people not only remember, but identify with. Stories meet us on so many levels while lectures simply put us to sleep.

Social Media Rule #5 – Make me a hero

The sad truth is, we will all need that funeral home one day, but randomly following me on twitter as some funeral home is not the kind of thing I am going to like, share or identify with on social media. Social media marketing for funeral homes (or any number of other not-very-sexy businesses), however is not impossible. If you can figure out the emotional problem behind the physical problem then you can build community and conversation around that emotional problem. For example: a funeral is about honoring a loved one who has passed. How would I be feeling if I had a loved one who was terminally ill? Would I be sad? Would I be scared? What would I want most right now? How can you make me feel like I’ve done the very best I can to honer that person and make them proud of me? How can you make me look good and feel good through this tough situation?

Social Media Marketing Intentionality

Social media marketing is a tremendous opportunity for many businesses to learn more about what their customers like, build buyer personas, to grow a following, to increase their reach online and even build strong partnerships with other businesses. Just don’t be lazy and insensitive about it. Be thoughtful and intentional and have a plan. Don’t go around creeping people out on twitter like that funeral home!


You might also like:

12 Shocking Social Media Horror Stories – James Martin, CIO Magazine

10 Social Media Mistakes That Small Businesses Make – Brad Shorr, Forbes Magazine

8 Social Media Mistakes That Are Killing Your Brand – Jayson Demers, Entrepreneur Magazine