So you’re a wedding photographer. Or a wedding planner. Or a florist. And you have something that you think your favorite wedding blog might love — a photo from a recent wedding! A new product you just released! A promotion you’re getting the word out about! You turn to your favorite form of social media (Facebook! Twitter! Instagram!) and you get ready to make your pitch to your favorite publisher.
Now stop for a second. Social media marketing is powerful, but it’s still relatively new. It can be tricky and slippery, and none of us are really clear on what the rules are. As a publisher, I can tell you that I’ve seen it all, and there are a few common things that people do that just aren’t effective. I want to share these things not because they’re the Most Terrible Mistakes EVAR, but because I know that as small biz folks, our time for marketing is limited… and putting time and energy into marketing that’s ineffective isn’t a good use of your time.
At Offbeat Bride we get dozens of social media pings each week, and we deal with folks making a lot of the same well-intentioned, mild mistakes. Let’s pause for a second and make sure you’re not about to make one.
1. Do your homework first
Before you @reply your favorite blogger, make sure you know what their official submission process is. Before you send that picture via Facebook, look at the website’s homepage for a link that says “Submit” or “Submissions.” On Offbeat Bride, we get so many submissions that we’re very clear that unless you follow the instructions on our submissions page and use the official channels, we can’t even consider them. We don’t want you to be that guy with the amazing wedding that we don’t publish because you submitted it via PDF to our Google+ page.
Also familiarize yourself with a publisher’s paid placement options (here are Offbeat Bride’s!). I know we’re all broke, but if you want a publisher to share your latest coupon or giveaway or sweepstakes or whatever, take a moment to consider their business model. On Offbeat Bride, we have very clear policies that we don’t promote even the most generous giveaway unless it’s in the context of a sponsored post or social media blast. We’re all trying to make ends meet, and as a publisher my business model is all about helping businesses reach my readers (your potential clients!). Before you ask a publisher to help you reach potential customers for free, at least take a couple moments to be aware of their placement options.
2. Pick one: one publisher, one platform, one account
First, pick one publisher to reach out to. I understand that you’re trying to reach as many publishers as possible, but if you @reply me and five of my competitors in the same message, we’re probably all going to ignore you. Likewise, if you tweet the same message to different people all in a row, you risk looking like a spammer. Even if Twitter doesn’t think you’re spamming, I’m going to give you a gentle side-eye if I click over to your timeline and see that you’ve sent the exact same message to a bunch of other bloggers.
In a similar vein, you only need to reach out via one platform at a time, and via one account at a time. Hashtagging #offbeatbride on Instagram with the same photo from your business AND personal accounts doesn’t make me twice as likely to regram the photo. If you’ve already tweeted me an image, you don’t need to also send it to me on Facebook, and hashtag it on Instagram. Pick one publisher to reach out to. Pick one platform to do it from. And pick one account to use.
3. Be sparing with the hashtags
I love browsing photos tagged #offbeatbride on Instagram… I love seeing couple’s snapshots and keeping up with what Offbeat Bride vendors are doing. But it’s a bit overwhelming when vendors tag 10 photos in a row. Be judicious with your hashtagging — only do one or two pictures at a time, and let things breathe a little between tags. It’s a really fine line between sharing your stuff with a hashtag, and spamming a hashtag to promote your business. Always err on the side of caution with that fine line, especially if you’re not a paying advertiser.
4. Don’t use Facebook comments to promote your business
Again, most publishers’ business models are all about helping businesses reach their readers. If you leave a self-promotional comment on an Offbeat Bride Facebook post, you’re trying to work around my business model. I looooove the vendors we work with, but it feels pretty icky when vendors we’re NOT working with try to use my platform to reach my readers without checking in first. I want to work with you! But I don’t want you trying to spam my readers.
The first time a vendor leaves a Facebook comment that’s all about promoting their business, their comment gets deleted. The second time they do it, they get banned from commenting again. (I’ll admit that sometimes I screw this up — with the number of self-promotional comments that come in from similar businesses, I’ve been known to get tangled up about first vs second strikes. We all make mistakes, and I’m not exempt by any means!)
The moral of the story here? I LOVE working with awesome businesses to help you reach our Offbeat Bride’s million monthly readers… but using our Facebook comments to reach them isn’t the way that works.
Ok, so what’s the RIGHT way to get a free social media mention?
To reiterate: none of these missteps are terrible crimes against humanity. They just all are things that take up YOUR valuable time, and aren’t effective. And really, as small business owners, we’re all dealing with trying to do the most with the time we’ve got, to market our businesses as effectively as we can.
The perfect way to get my attention on social media looks like this:
- Be an advertiser already
- @Reply or hashtag me with one cool image, from one account
- If it’s awesome, I’ll retweet it or regram it
- Everyone smiles
As I said at the beginning, this stuff is slippery and subjective… anyone have any thoughts or questions?