Badvertising: Social Studies

Penn State had an interesting idea for gaining social media followers—asking unlucky drivers to follow them on Facebook and Twitter on the back of parking violation tickets. How can businesses be strategic about increasing their follower counts?

The words "social media" spelled out in tiles beside a smartphone open to Facebook
Source: William Iven, via Unsplash

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we shift gears a little and ask the question: Does every company need to be on social media? As usual, do not try this at home!

Penn State: Don’t Forget To Like Us (After You Pay Us)

Imagine that you’re visiting a friend at Penn State University. When you get back to your car, you see a fresh parking violation ticket stuck on your car. “Well, that stinks,” you think, as you flip it over and you see this:


(Photo via Jeff Helffrich / Pinterest)

“Like you on Facebook? Follow you on Twitter? I don’t want to ‘like’ you, I want to punch you in the damn nose!”

As funny as it seems for Penn State’s parking office to ask for likes and follows, it does beg the question: should every business be on social media? Do mom and pop shops, small neighborhood stores, parking lots, actually benefit from a social media presence?

And do people really have an interest in following, say, the Facebook page of a Las Vegas funeral home?

It’s Free Advertising. Right?

In theory, it’s free—but then, so is repairing your own car. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, you risk turning your car into a planter. A proper social media presence takes time, resources, and a solid marketing strategy to build and maintain a following. Somebody has to deal with customer feedback and continually share content, be it a professional copywriter or Carl in accounting.

So, is social media right for your small business?

The words "social media" spelled out in tiles beside a smartphone open to Facebook
Source: William Iven,

What Do The Experts Say?

According to a recent report by Social Media Examiner, 92% of marketers who work with small businesses believe that social media plays a necessary, if not integral, role in their marketing strategies.

However, a recent Forbes article it cites a survey by Manta, one of the largest online resources dedicated to small business, which shows that around 61% of small businesses don’t see any return on their social media investment.

So, Now What?

Like anything, it gets down to doing things right, and social media is no exception. Unless you want to spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out various media platforms and software and drafting copy, it’s best to hire professionals: a marketing firm with copywriters who will craft your content and reinforce your brand.

Successful social media engages, so give your followers a reason to follow: offer incentives like coupons, loyalty rewards, or specials. Yes, that means making a strategy, setting goals, and spending a little money. If done right, your social media presence can be a rewarding experience that makes customers want to come back and share your content with others.

Granted, it’s still weird that Penn State’s parking office wants you to like them on Facebook after they ticket you.

Jim Yoakum

Jim Yoakum

Jim recalls a priceless piece of advice that an English teacher once gave him. Throwing a dictionary onto his desk he said, “All of the words are in there, Yoakum, just put them in the right order.” Putting the right words in the right order has been Jim’s goal ever since, and he has honed his skills over the years to include award-winning copywriting, the scripting of three produced movies, the authoring of numerous novels and non-fiction books—and even a stint as writing partners with the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. He is also US Curator of Chapman’s archives. To make himself even more insufferable, Jim has also produced comedy CDs and DVDs. While Jim does not lament his misspent youth, playing drums in a rock ‘n’ roll band, he does however wish he had back all of those brain cells that he ruthlessly killed.

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