Be Good to Be Good: Leveraging Social Media with Integrity

Everything is Transparent.

Mashable recently posted an interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh who said, “…as we’ve grown our Zappos Insights program, we’ve realized that the stuff we’re doing — focusing on company culture/core values (employee happiness) and customer service (customer happiness) — is having an impact beyond just Zappos…”

As I read the interview, one thing really stood out. The brands seeing real success with social media have a common thread, honesty.

Customers are watching, and whether marketers like it or not, consumers are always judging their motives. Most likely, the motive for adding social media to the marketing mix is to drive sales, which ultimately should be the objective. However, that objective sometimes leads to social media marketing efforts that appear self-serving, and the most important people in the world, customers, take notice.

Social Media Takes a Different Approach.

Marketers have gotten use to talking about how awesome they are over the years through TV spots, print ads, banners and so on, but that chest-beating doesn’t carry over as well into social media.

Social media is essentially conversation. Imagine going on a date with someone who spent the entire time talking about themselves. Sure you want to learn about the other person, but if that’s the only focus, there probably won’t be another date, right?

The same rings true with social media. Talking about yourself is okay, but anything you say should be driven by a focus on the consumer. Retweet what they’re saying, ask them questions, discuss topics that don’t necessarily directly apply to you. Talking about yourself is okay, but remember that there’s more than one involved during a conversation.

The most important piece is engagement, which goes beyond short comments like “Cool,” and “That’s great!” It involves an actual dialogue, which means commitment on the part of the brand because engagement is easier said than done. Anything else isn’t effective social media marketing.

Bribery Results in Moochers, and Who Wants That?

How would you feel about a friend who started hanging out with you because you said that if he did, he might get an iPad? Chances are that friend probably doesn’t hang out with you too often and wasn’t ever really a friend in the first place.

Incentivizing followers and fans works the same way. Sure an incentive might increase the numbers, but most of the people gained through incentivizing aren’t of any real value. They may be unfamiliar with the brand and even dislike it, meaning that numbers are inflated by individuals not bringing value to the business.

Instead, focus on ongoing engagement with those who have raised their hands as genuine fans of the brand and be on the lookout for potential advocates by monitoring the online conversation. Engagement means different things on different platforms, but the key is to communicate with your customers. In addition, use your Web site and other platforms to cross promote your various touchpoints.

Give to Give

Brand partnerships with and donations to charities are a great way to give back. However, many have taken the misguided approach of stipulating fanning/ following/ reposting for the donation to take place.

Give because your brand wants to, not because someone has been persuaded to take an action for the brand’s benefit. It’s okay to let customers know about your donations, and you can even use your platforms to encourage them to give to a charity as well. However, requiring consumer action before giving appears selfish and self-serving, and consumers see right through it.

The Payoff

Engaging in real conversation, staying away from bribery and giving for the sake of giving brings brands the ultimate online currency, credibility. Customers who trust a brand they do business with are customers for life. Just ask Zappos.


  • Be good to be good. Let your consumers know when you give back (humbly, of course), and let them decide where things go from there.
  • Don’t bribe. It only inflates your numbers with people who are most likely moochers.
  • Commit to conversation. Social media is a commitment and engaging in on-going, responsive conversation is key to success.