How Not to Advertise on Social Media

Photo by patriziasoliani/Flickr, Art by Alex Alvarez/Fusion

Social media is, of course, primarily what its name suggests — a way to communicate with others and share information, from the protests in Venezuela to a short, yet stirring, clip of a cat falling off of something and onto something else. But it, like most things, can also provide a way to trick, annoy, (or convince, I guess) people into buying a product or service. Now, there is a way to do this seamlessly, naturally, and as a compliment or logical end to a conversation people are already having. And then there’s a way to do it very badly.

Take recent efforts to use Tinder, a dating app, as something that is not a dating app, but, rather, an app that interrupts your efforts to tap nearby ass with ads for television sitcoms and magazine articles.


Like. Just look at this ad for The Mindy Project, presented as the dating profile of its titular character, Dr. Mindy Lahiri:

That one, at least, seemed to understand why people were on Tinder and how they were using it. But, then, look at this marketing push by Glamour magazine for its new columnist, Girls actress Zosia Mamet:


Cute ads for sure, but they prove distracting when they pop up in your search for someone to cuddle with within running distance.

Here, then, are some unsolicited tips on how to advertise by letting you know, gently because I love you and would swipe right for you, what not to do.


Do Not Interrupt People's Attempts to Get Up In or On It


You are on Tinder to hook up. And you are making yourself a little vulnerable when you’re on a dating/hook-up app, because you are essentially telling a whole community of people you do not know (and some people you might not want to know) that you are looking for affection and/or booty, and thus opening yourself up for possible rejection. It takes guts or self-delusion or some important balancing of the two to do this, and it can be tough. So the last thing you want to see is a cute girl or dude who is nearby, interested, and does not have mutton chops, who then turns out to not be a person at all, but an ad.

Don't do that to people. Do not blue ball (or vermillion vadge, whatever) an appful of people who are looking for love. Let them be.


This holds true, more broadly, for any type of ad. Do not deceive people into interacting with your product or service. Sneaking up on people to give them a million dollars is fantastic. Sneaking up on people to tear off your Scooby Doo villain mask and ask them to read your article is a letdown.

Do Not Embarrass Yourself


If you're a person who routinely refers to himself, or herself, as a thing that does not exist — like, say, a Twitter guru or a media prophet or a text offender — resist the urge to promote your own Tweets. This is especially true if you have been unable to build a sizable following of Twitter followers. There is a reason for this, and it is most likely that people do not want or trust the product your are selling, which is essentially yourself. If you have actual, useful advice or information to share, find a platform that allows you to reach a targeted audience instead of yelling into a crowd of people who just want to talk about Scandal.

Know your audience, yes, but also know yourself.

Do Not Waste People’s Time


There is an ad that I receive for office-appropriate yoga pants, integrated right in the middle of my Facebook feed so that it is nearly indistinguishable from the stuff I already don't want to read from people I actually know.

And here is the thing about that ad:

Nobody cares about office-appropriate yoga pants.

Facebook and similar sites know an awful lot about their users. (For example, Pandora knows quite a bit more about your political leanings than you might have expected.) And while knowing this information helps improve your experience on a site, part of that means helping advertisers know what things you're likely to want to look into getting for yourself. So to have all that information at one's fingertips, only to then litter people's feeds or dashboards or whatever with products nearly no one is interested in, is just wasting the time of everyone involved.


In short: Make and sell things people want and read. Find out who is interested in the things you make and sell. Go after those people using language they already use in places they're already hanging out in a way that does not make them want to chuck their second screen directly at their first.

And offer a ton of discount codes. I mean, if you want.


Share This Story