Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Social Appending: How Far We Have Come

New Tool Makes it Easy to Find Prospects on Social Networks

image In my most recent ClickZ column, I reflect back on my days as a marketing cog in the corporate machine, a time in which the practice of “appending” was considered “black hat.”

Appending is the practice of adding contact information to records in your prospect database. If you have someone’s name and company, you could “append” their email address and mailing address through a number of services that keep that kind of information.

Companies that sell mailing lists often provide this kind of service.

The thinking was that the prospect hadn’t given you permission to contact them through these other channels, and that it violated the “submit button contract” that is implied when they completed an online form.

We’ve come a long way

Oli Gardner has an interesting info graphic on the Unbounce blog. The graphic highlights a tool called FlowTown. This is a social appending tool. Marketers can use it to find the social media accounts of their prospect list, and begin marketing to them through those social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn.

This is where those of us who have been around the block groan, and then secretly cheer.

Why this is different

While appending has not been considered a best practice, it happens. In fact, the best way to do this is to send ask your prospects for permission after appending the data; sending them an email asking if they want email messages, for example.

Many social media platforms allow us to easily “unfriend” or block unsavory marketers. This puts the opt-out capability in our hands. So asking for permission ahead of time is less of a problem.

But there is a right way to inject yourself into someone else’s conversations. It’s called a Content-oriented Social Media Strategy.

  • Only “append” people who have expressed an interest in your industry or products. This is how you know your content will be relevant.
  • Begin with non-promotional content. “How-to” and “10 Ways” style articles test well.
  • Use social landing pages, such as a blog or Facebook page to “keep it social”
  • Measure what you send. Stop sending content that doesn’t generate clicks, shares or comments.

If you’re going to jump into the social conversations, do it right, or it will backfire in a very public, viral way.

Who else would like this article?
  • http://twitter.com/bosilytics Thomas Bosilevac

    As a marketer working in that ancient world of Direct Marketing, this is certainly not a new concept as your article suggests. While the laws in place to protect privacy are more enforcable on a information aquisition concept, I wonder how this will change when the amount of free, public, and creative commons data is out there about consumers.

    Let it be known, in my niche of web analytics, this data is used for CRM purposes but also to create segmentation by intrests, location, network, etc.

    The fact about FlowTown is that I must have an email address before any value is derived from the tool. The way it should be. As always … the web only knows what you have told it. Ever.

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Thomas, As a consumer feel that FlowTown crosses a line. If I give you my email address, I don't expect to get junk mail from you. Likewise, I am pretty selective about my social networks, and don't see an email address as permission for you to friend or DM me.

    As a marketer, I have to make a decision about what 'permission' means. As marketers, we can get away with much more if we're sending out entertaining, informational or helpful messages. Too many of us do not, however.

    Brian

  • http://twitter.com/smartwoman Vicki Flaugher

    I am a bit of two minds, as I sense you are too, Brian. The feeling in my gut tells me Flowtown goes too far yet I am not blind to the marketing angle. I can even see how your more gentle approach of content-oriented social media strategy is a kinder one. The problem for me is that initial asking for permission email is still spam email. It's unsolicited and derived from information that I did not purposefully give a person to use (at least not for the purpose they are using it for). But, again, the devil on the other shoulder says “hey, come on, your email is everywhere on the web”. I might generally forgive a person who used content to offer me something via Flowtown methods (I wouldn't spam the email but I would unsubscribe) but if I could determine they reached out unsolicited, I'd likely go unfollow and unfriend them (and report them as spam) and be done. Heavy sigh…it seems like such an attractive method yet I still can't get rid of the creepy feeling. I'll try to keep an open mind…