August 12, 2013

How I shamelessly abuse social media to my advantage


How spending a few dollars on Facebook can turn you into an influencer

Guest post by Dennis Yu
CEO, BlitzMetrics

dennis-yuIam a member of the public, and thus a member of the press. So when I get terrible service, should I complain? The levers of power have been tipping toward the public, thanks to social media:

• A hotel treats me wrong (it’s happened to you, too), so I write about it.

• My best friend had a problem with his Toyota, blogged about it, and ran a Facebook ad for $20, targeting executives of Toyota in Japan.

• A cruise line screws up its Fourth of July cruise, so this author writes an exposé on Business Insider.

• An airline accidentally kills a woman’s golden retriever, so she uses her blog and Facebook account to warn others about neglect.

We resort to this only when we’ve exhausted our regular channels. Complaining on social media should be a last resort, since it’s basically jumping the line. When you’re a journalist, blogger, or an influential person in other ways, you wield a megaphone. Even if you’re not one of those, running Facebook ads gives you that same power for a few dollars.

Rent the megaphone

Megaphone-300x235A lot of people will file a complaint or go to the Better Business Bureau when this happens. Try that and let me know how it works a few weeks later, counting up how much time and money you spent chasing wild geese. Then run Facebook ads with workplace targeting (targeting folks who work at the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or wherever folks need to see your message). Target executives at the offending company by following these easy steps.

Because you’re targeting just a few dozen or a few hundred people, it can be done for a few dollars and in a few minutes. The next day, the general manager of the dealer calls to profusely apologize. Folks in Japan at Toyota HQ have seen the ad and are asking what happened.

Of course, as members of media, you and I have to be careful not to abuse our status. Yet with Facebook ads targeted by workplace, any consumer now has this lethal weapon.

We’re all the press now

Sure, you can get a message into Mark Zuckerberg’s mailbox for $100. But why not target employees at Facebook for far less and reach a couple of thousand people, too?

  • We attended a mobile hackathon, wrote a post about it, and targeted Facebook mobile engineers. Matt Kelly and James Pearce noticed it and liked it.
  • An intern decided to “play a trick on his boss” and ran ads targeting me. See what happened.
  • B2B firms target the press to get more coverage and show up in the Facebook newsfeed.

An army of advocates

Jim Williams of Influitive shared this with us: “Xactly‘s advocate marketing program generated hundreds of recommendations, follows and shares on LinkedIn, and a single advocate challenge resulted in nearly a hundred new Facebook fans and Twitter followers.”

Customers are already talking about the companies that they love or hate online, but advocate marketing programs allow marketers to better organize those customers, tying their activity to sales and marketing initiatives and results.

Have a grudge or complaint? Would you spend $5 to scratch this itch?

Dennis Yu is CEO and founder of BlitzMetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News and CBS Evening News. He has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. Reach him by email or visit him on Facebook, Twitter or his blog.

How to run an effective Facebook campaign for $5 (

• The danger of buying Facebook fans (

‘Brand Advocates’: How to enlist armies of loyalists (

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6 thoughts on “How I shamelessly abuse social media to my advantage

  1. I just had a discussion with the CEO of a prominent company who publicly complained on Facebook and his blog about poor service from another company. He called them liars. He believes that this is how social should be used. When should we do it versus not do it?

    • Good question (and good piece, Dennis). Seems that public call-outs are still the norm. The Facebook ad approach you suggest appears more suited to a specific action you’d like a company to take, no?

      • JD– totally agreed. The Facebook ad action I outlined is designed specifically to bypass the run-around and get immediate resolution to your problem.

  2. Excellent article, Dennis. I think it has to be used with some discretion, however. Especially when its about an individual. I’ve read articles where a small issue tweeted by an influential person resulted in both of them losing their jobs. I’ve complained to hotels & received responses and even comp’ed nights so I, too, use this to my advantage but only when I think it’s necessary to be heard by higher powers. It seems social media departments at corporations are more willing to make things right than any norma customer service. That’s probably because one is public (tweet, etc) and one is private (phone call, email). I never thought of the whole Facebook ad strategy though. That’s brilliant. I think customer service will get more public as people realize that they can actually get help.. typically faster and more satisfactorily than going normal routes.

    • Arnold– you’re totally right. The social media groups at most companies are more responsive, are closer to management, and are better trained. Often, they are an extension of PR, so they’re more sensitive to feedback.

      I predict that these “jump the line” channels will eventually merge with phone, email, and other channels, such that there’s no longer preferential treatment.