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April 22, 2009
Sleazebaggery - How NOT to Market Social Networks

Reunion.com borrowed a sleazy porn-like come-on to attempt to convert me from a freebie member to a premium spender. It's a bait and switch tactic that gives marketers a bad name, pissed me off big time and offers lessons in worst practices for social network marketing.

They start with a e-mail that's a phony as a three dollar bill. The Subject line uses my e-mail address and says “Your Ex-Has Searched for You". It certainly got my attention. In fact, I madly started cataloguing through my memory banks asking myself which one of my many ex-girlfriends or wives would try and track me down. I had momentary thoughts of either amorous reconciliation or protracted litigation. But when I logged in the site showed zero inquiries. So I instantly knew the whole thing was bogus.

Lesson 1: Don't lie. Be consistent. Don't let your marketers distort your service. If you are going to pitch me on the basis of data, use real data.

The "TO" line read "Your Old Friend" with "reunitetodayforgood2allthepluto.com" in parentheses. In real life the click took me to reunion.com. So while I knew it wasn't really my old friend, I was still disappointed.

Lesson 2: Be real or be gone. Bogus addresses and false fronts are a huge turn-off. Even if I valued the service and the connections once provided by reunion.com, I'm now convinced they are sleazebags. And I'll tell everyone I know this opinion. Spammers suck. Don't be one.

The colorful internal call-to-action was catchy, conveyed urgency and did indeed prompt action. The red line said "Someone is looking for you." The orange line said "Don't keep them waiting. Click Here." Now even if this arrived on a day i was feeling, lonely, nostalgic or hopeless, this simple messaging works. The problem is the boomerang effect. I'm taken in. I click. And I go from happy expectation to blind rage in a nanosecond.

Lesson 3: Don't Waste Good Technique. These guys invested time and money to turn me from a registered and passive user into a vocal critic and enemy. What do you suppose the ROI on that marketing spend effort was?  What started out as a potentially effective usage stimulation campaign yielded a kill-off-your consumer result. Repeated hundreds of thousands of times how do you suppose they justify it to their management?

Lesson 4: Social networking relies on trust. Trust is a direct function of familiarity and truth. The strength of your appeal is a function of your willingness to play fair and be straight. If not, you deserve the scorn and the hatred you deserve.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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