How NOT to do online marketing

There’s an iconic South African brand that I follow on Facebook. I follow them for a number of reasons: the brand represents so much in terms of comfort (food) and growing up in South Africa and they have an interactive and engaging Facebook page. And I follow a lot of different brands because I enjoy learning from them.

South African products

This particular brand held a Valentine’s Day competition where, if you answered a question they posed, whoever gave the best answer could win a branded item. The prize wasn’t massive – in fact, it was really small. But there were over 150 responses to their question! And I was one of them – in my personal capacity. I was disproportionately thrilled when I won one of the prizes! Who doesn’t like to be acknowledged and made a winner?

This brand did a brilliant job creating interest and engagement with their Valentine’s Day campaign. They used images, questions, fun facts, tips – they did everything right. They managed to get people talking and interacting (which increases their organic reach on Facebook). I’m sure this campaign spread from social media in to real life too, and had people talking about it. It was that good.

Connecting on social networks

Overall I was really impressed from a professional point of view, and from a personal point of view as a consumer. And then, they let me down. After drawing me in, engaging with me, making me feel special by replying to my post, and choosing my response as a winning answer, they managed to undo all the hard work they’d done. They broke my personal and professional heart.

They (the Digital Agency who manages their online platforms) sent me an email with an attachment that I was asked to complete with all my details including my Identity Number (I think this may be a legal requirement in terms of the Consumer Protection Act). What an effective way of throwing a wet cloth over my excitement! And then, the content of the actual email.


It was a long, generic letter that they clearly use to communicate with all their online-giveaway winners. But it was impersonal and, to be quite honest, I felt used. They’d worked really hard to get my attention on Facebook, get me engaging with them and then… that’s it. The relationship ended. And the very worst thing was that they addressed me as ‘Dear Lucky Winner’ – I didn’t even have a name! I just feel that after going to all that trouble to engage with people and create a connection, it’s such a waste not to use their names, especially as it would have been so easy just to refer to the post and see what our names are.

This incident can teach us much about online engagement, which was why I chose to blog about it. Digital communication is such a dynamic field. Despite the constant updates, changes, revisions, progressions and additions, there are some rules that should always be followed:

  • It’s called social media – so be social! Connect with people; ask questions; answer them
  • Don’t automate your responses. You can’t create a connection by digitising responses. If people go to the effort of talking to you, talk back to them!
  • If you have a social media account, keep it active. Don’t create a Facebook page or Twitter profile and leave it dormant – rather don’t have the page at all
  • Do create social media pages! (All you competitors have them.) This is probably the first place people will look to connect with you. And then respond to them.
  • Keep you content fresh and relevant. Don’t be scared to share information with potential customers. You’re not giving your intellectual property away for free – you’re investing in relationships



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