Social Media, Opt-In Marketing, and When Valuable Isn’t Enough

Please!What would happen to your marketing programs if every channel required explicit opt-in and opting out or unsubscribing was just a click away?

Although it may seem absurd, this question is relevant today for two reasons:

  1. Congress continues to consider privacy legislation every year, and although not well understood, it is broadly supported by constituents. In need of popular support, this Congress may finally take on extensive privacy reform.
  2. More importantly, social media is much closer to an opt-in channel than email. On Twitter or G+, the difference between spam and consensual contact is much clearer than it ever has been in email. On Facebook, it is the only option.

Preparing for opt-in marketing requires recognizing your audience is in control. Your audience holds the power to block all future communications at any time, and this raises the bar for communications.

Be Uniquely Valuable

Being valuable to an audience is a challenge. But in an opt-in marketing world, simply being valuable does not ensure success. You must develop a relationship or provide unique value.

Earlier this week, I unfollowed approximately 300 accounts on Twitter. Two things were notable about this. First, it only took an hour and I didn’t unfollow purely based on rules (I highly recommend Tweepi). Second, I unfollowed a number of accounts that provide valuable information. The problem was, we did not have a relationship and they provided information that was similar to other accounts I already followed.

Hand Over Content Control

Your audience needs to be able to control what they receive from you, both the content and the frequency. Giving the audience control can make the difference between keeping a connection with new terms and losing one.

When I unfollowed Twitter accounts earlier this week, I unfollowed a number of accounts that were simply too noisy and took others off lists they were dominating. Although some had good content, because of the volume, it become noise. I would have kept some accounts if I simply had the option to reduce frequency or focus their content, but that was not an option.

Companies like Cisco and Intel manage multiple social media accounts, allowing people to opt-in to accounts with a specific focus. Google+ circles have the potential to offer a new way to give the audience control over content (although it can’t be used for this with the current implementation yet).

Most businesses are not ready for an opt-in marketing world, but if you claim to deliver value to your audience through marketing, considering it is a valuable exercise.

Your Turn

In an opt-in marketing environment, what would you change about your communications? What is keeping you from making those changes today? Share your feedback below or with me on Twitter.

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