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Engaging with potential customers through social media is one of the key tactics I urge clients to undertake. Blogging, getting involved in forums, creating social spaces and visiting consumers in their own webspace, social media effort enjoys a great deal of success.

Of course, by virtue of being online, the majority of such engagement is made through written copy, with a small amount taking place through online video. While the potential for such marketing is huge, it is frighteningly easy to get wrong, risking reputation and consumer wrath.

Here are my main concerns when it comes to online copy – as always, leave a comment if you think I've missed any.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar

I hate listing this one in case someone then spots a howler in my own copy…

Badly spelt or punctuated content does not make a company look good. If the first time someone encounters your brand they see mistakes, they will assume the company is equally careless with its product or service.
Some people are experts in a field but cannot spell, or they can't use grammar possibly, or worst of all – they can't write well.

This does not mean they should not bring their expertise to the web, it just means they should have their copy proofed before publishing it.


I usually say that pitching is the worst thing a company can do in a social space but I changed my mind on this recently.

Failing to state your commercial interests when you are commercially active in a forum or other social platform is really problematic. If you attempt to criticise your competition or praise your own firm then that is even more problematic.

If an appeal to your better nature doesn't stop you doing this then ponder the following: if the consumers find out, they will let their peers know. Having the blogosphere united in condemning you is not the best way to market yourself.


Because of bloggers like me encouraging firms to use social media marketing, many companies decide to get involved but with no real understanding of what they hope to achieve.

At best, this will make you look a little lost online. However, if you make irrelevant posts or get involved in lengthy and aggressive arguments, you can actually damage your brand.

So, if social media is your platform of choice then do not rush straight in. Give some thought as to exactly what you hope to achieve online and then target your time accordingly.


Here is the bit where I implore you not to pitch in a social space. It just alienates any would-be customers and also makes your copy less effective.

Think about it. Would you have read this far if I had opened my post with: SEOptimise knows how important social media marketing can be to our clients and that is why our staff are on call every day of the week… yadda yadda yadda.

Not only would you not read on, you'd feel a little betrayed that a post you thought was going to inform you has simply advertised at you. That is not a good way to leave potential customers feeling.

Heavy handedness

In an online world, people will sometimes criticise you. They may knock your services, they may mock your opinions, they may even assert their own companies' superiority. Not everyone is as well-behaved online as I urge my customers to be.

However, unless really problematic slander is taking place – do not make legal threats. I have noticed a series of blogs recently criticising one company specifically because it has issued a number of forums with take-down notices when posters have criticised its service.

These negative blog posts would not have been made had this company simply politely responded to such criticism or ignored it. Unnecessary legal threats will gain negative blogosphere coverage and a reputation as a bully.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 7 April, 2009 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (5)



Totally agree when it comes to negative blog posts or forum threads. Just look the other way and within a week or so they have been buried by fresher content and totally forgotten. If a company wades in with a reply it just brings it back to the top again and more comments will appear. It can be tough, but I think it is the best approach in the long run.

over 7 years ago


Tim Norman


You make some very valid points here which can be stumbling blocks for many companies entering the social media space. Adding to your point about ‘Purpose’, I think it’s also important for marketers embarking on a Web 2.0 strategy to have exactly that – a strategy. It shouldn’t be a ‘me-too’ afterthought and it needs to be flexible. There are so many tools out there now and they won’t all work for every company. Marketers should accept that their initial plan may not work and they will need a ‘plan B’ ready, not only to sustain relationships with their online audience, but to continue to demonstrate value to the budget holder. It’s amusing that the key to being successful in the virtual world is being realistic.

over 7 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

All good manners. I'm sure I've been guilty of some of these myself (and may well err again).

It's amazing how crass one can be when you're sitting alone at your computer.

Reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon:  On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog.

over 7 years ago

David Iwanow

David Iwanow, SEO Product Manager at Marktplaats.nl

Great points, you also need to add responsibility, who has their neck on the chopping block for reviewing posts to ensure they dont violate company guidelines, offend suppliers, annoy product managers...

This person also needs to have this task included on their job role/responsiblities and be given the resources to ensure they do the best job possible.  Graphic design will be required, legal may need to to be consulted before articles go live and IT department will need to be proactive with cms/blog access for them. 

As for requests to take down articles, responding by laughing and falling off the chair is often not appreciated as a correct company response.  You need to ensure more than one person has access to the blog/cms so offending comments/post can be edited to reduce overall anger.

over 7 years ago


Ian Truscott

Nice post, I agree - one thing I would add to your transparency point, aside from transparency in who you represent and your motives - is to be yourself, be a person.

In my experience, the social web seems to be much more people centric and people will respond to you being you rather than a faceless corporate. There is also the old saying that 'people buy from people' and the social web gives you a great opportunity to engage in this way. 

over 7 years ago

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