Last summer, Morgan Stewart of ExactTarget quizzed 2,400 people on their attitudes toward marketing and made an interesting discovery. "70% of consumers who visit Facebook at least once a month and are a 'fan' of at least one company or brand, don't believe they have given those companies permission to market to them," he writes in an article at MarketingProfs. "Moreover, 40%  of those 'fans' don't believe marketers are welcome in social networks at all."

It seems that Facebook users often associate with brands as a form of personal expression—in the same way they might wear a shirt with the Polo logo. As far as they're concerned, they haven't given anyone permission to do anything.

Accordingly, Morgan says, marketers should stop acting like marketers when they log on to Facebook. And here are a few of his suggestions:

  • Align with them rather than sell to them. TripAdvisor, for example, launched the "More than Footprints" campaign by pledging $1 million to charity; it then invited fans to vote on the dollar amount to be given to each of five pre-selected non-profits. As a result, TripAdvisor netted "500,000 new members, measurably improved existing members' overall impressions of the brand, and generated extensive press coverage," notes Morgan.
  • Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Negative comments come in two varieties: those you can address (e.g., "The manager at your store was rude"); and those you cannot (e.g., "You suck"). "Don't engage unless you can be helpful," he advises.

The Po!nt: They're just not that into you. Don't treat your Facebook fans as if they've opted in to an email campaign—because in this context, they haven't.

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