The digital marketing mistakes that could damage your brand

Instagram on iPhone

Ever posted content you put your all into creating? And when it went LIVE, it got just a handful of likes? And they weren’t even from the people whose attention you really wanted to get? Just a few friends, family and relatives hitting that “like” button to remind you that they were cheering you on?

It’s scenarios like this that make brands and businesses look for the easy way out in a cutthroat, competitive digital space. But few fully understand how social media shortcuts and digital faux pas can alienate customers and followers, and  even lead to reputation and financial losses.

Here are seven tips for ethically and graciously building a community online, without the tricks, gimmicks and embarrassment.

1. Create your own content and if you can’t, give credit
Always try to create your own content. But if you post something you didn’t create, be sure to give credit to its owner. As a business, posting content that misleads followers about your actual expertise or product could result in embarrassment or tarnish your reputation. And if you’re curating content, say so; but remember to give credit where it is due.

2. Respect watermarks and tags
While we’re on this topic, if the image or video you want to use has a watermark or a tag, don’t crop it out or try to remove it. It’s one of the few avenues content creators have for gaining recognition for their work and building a following online. Think about how you would want other users to repost or share content you spent valuable time creating. And also think of how shady your brand could look for attempting to pass off someone else’s work as its own.

3. Value your customers over profit and publicity
If you run a business, always ask your clients’ permission before posting photos or videos of them using your product or service. Consider this in businesses such as beauty, fashion, finance and health in which discretion and privacy are especially important. Asking for permission first builds trust and lets your customer know you value him or her over making a profit or publicity. If he or she declines, accept it graciously and move on.

Quick tip: If you’re tired of clients turning down your requests for photos or videos, try offering an incentive. Running a promotion such as 15% off their next service might win you a “yes” for a quick snap.

4. Build legit lists
When you’re eager to get the word out about your product or service, it’s tempting to grab contact information from other people’s contact lists to get your campaign started. But that’s just wrong and even illegal in some jurisdictions. Do not send commercial messages to people–for example, by email, text or direct message–without their consent. It’s a sure way to make them mistrust your brand from the outset.

5. Honor your customers’ preference for privacy
When customers ask for a way to opt out, honor that and make it easy for them to do so. It might be a code users can text to stop receiving SMS campaigns or an unsubscribe link or button in your emails. Even large companies are still getting the hang of this (see my Twitter conversation with a Caribbean telecoms giant below). But whether you run a fledgling brand or one that’s well known, remember that respecting your customers’ preference for privacy is not a courtesy, it is essential.

6. Get creative
Create content so appealing that you don’t need to use underhanded tactics to get noticed. Set aside time and a budget to take photos that accurately reflect your brand. Spend time working on messaging for your posts. When you have an authentic voice and presence online, eventually it will resonate with the right people and, more than likely, that ones you built your brand or business to attract.

7. Be patient
Creating takes time. And perfecting what you create takes even more time and practice. But don’t get impatient. Every piece of content that’s rejected or that fails to engage your followers gets you one step closer to nailing it, and building the vibrant community you want online.

Now, this list of tips isn’t exhaustive but it might be a good starting point for getting your act together in the digital space. I hope you’ve found them useful. Got thoughts on this? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Disclaimer: The author has no legal experience, and this post does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an attorney or other suitably qualified professional for guidance on online privacy, consumer or intellectual property law.

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