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To Get Ahead in Social Media Marketing, Don't Send Life Preservers Made Out of Chum

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are a great way for people to go online and try to find answers. Not only can you ask around to friends and colleagues, but often you can reach experts and even celebrities, some of whom might be willing to pitch in and shed some light on your dilemma.

This is a great thing, at least most of the time. Unfortunately, it occasionally leads desperate marketers to go around offering "assistance" that's little more than a pitch for their product. No matter what your issue is, their answer is to buy whatever they're selling and hope that solves it.

Tempting as it might be to blanket sites like Twitter with subtle hints to buy your products, that's not a good long-term strategy – even if what you offer could actually fix the issue at hand. That's because people go online looking for answers, not commercials. Here are a few ways to be genuinely helpful on social media sites while still getting your marketing message out there:

Explain the problem first. A lot of people don't know why they're experiencing the troubles they are. If you can help explain what happened to lead to the situation, start there.

Refer to outside sources. Don't ask them to take your word for it, backup your device with documentation on other websites. When people can see that you know what you're talking about, they're more apt to follow your recommendations.

Mention your product or service, but also why you're mentioning it. If the best possible thing someone could do to fix their problem is buy from you, go ahead and say so, but also tell them exactly why. Not only will this make you seem less slimy, but it might be indexed by the search engines and found by others with a similar situation – leading to future sales for you.

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