I'm compiling a list of the biggest mistakes marketing professionals make when planning, writing and commissioning social media content. The results will be announced at next week's Online Marketing Show. If you have a strong opinion to share on copywriting 2.0, then this is for you...

You are cordially invited to enter a social media experiment with me.

I’m speaking at the Online Marketing Show 2007 next week on the subject of the seven deadly sins of writing for social media.

From the last twelve years at Sticky Content spent writing and editing web copy for companies and organisations of all kinds, I know what I think the seven deadly sins are.

I’d list them, in no particular order, as:

1. Not setting a strategy before you start. “We should have a blog” says the CEO. And so it begins…

2. Going for volume. (ie Myspace) over a targeted, specialist community (ie brickshelf.com for LEGO enthusiasts).

3. Ignoring the rules of engagement. Posting corporate salespeak on messageboards, for example, or ‘digging’ your own stuff. Wasting people’s time with irrelevant blog entries about your new pet…

4. Not having the resource, the skills – or possibly the staying power – to maintain your content; to respond quickly and appropriately to negative comments/questions/reviews, or to participate in debates about your products or services.

5. Failing to be transparent and to fully disclose your connection to a product/company.

6. Expecting it to be easy. Building trust online takes time and requires brands to be both open and generous – to freely share their expertise and to work hard to create genuinely interesting and useful content. 

7.  Ignoring best practice in web writing. Providing good quality content in web-friendly formats which is usable, easy to find through search engines and written to brand guidelines which encompass social media.

What I want to know is: do you agree with my list?

Is there anything you’d add? Or remove? Because the main thing I love about social media is that it is the chance to combine your own opinion and expertise with that of your peers, learn something new and engage in a bit of a skirmish…

So if you feel strongly about the writing you see on blogs, wikis, bookmarking and community sites etc, or if you just want to take issue with my list, then please post a comment.

And if you’d like to see the result of our combined efforts, the presentation is at the Online Marketing Show at 3pm on Wednesday 27th June at the Business Design Centre, Islington.

Catherine Toole

Published 19 June, 2007 by Catherine Toole

Catherine Toole is Founder and Managing Director of Sticky Content, and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (11)

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Michaela Carmichael

Michaela Carmichael, Marketing Freelance Consultant at Freelance Marketing Consultant

Hi Catherine,

I agree with your list, and I'd put this as no 1:
Transparency and honesty are essential.

the I'd add:
Social Media is the NOW medium and people want stuff for free. So make sure you have things to give away; downloads, competitions, tickets etc - appropriate and relevant to your audience and message of course! This will help build relationships and keep the fickle ones coming back!

Targeting influential bloggers is essential - but they aren't journalists and don't have to do anything you ask them at all! There are lovely examples where bloggers have posted the requests to show up/down the corporate that have tried to influence them.

Make it interesting - after all some one has to read it in the end :)

Good luck next week.

about 11 years ago


Lyndon Antcliff

More and more I am running into people who want to get into social media, but have little idea about what it really is.

Interesting times.

about 11 years ago


Kara Tupy

I think your list is great. I would definitely put transparency/honesty at the top of the list. At the same time, rookies entering into the social media space need to realize that its still a marketing tactic and there will always be ways to manipulate public opinion to get the results you're looking for. The trick is to learn to play by the rules AND get what you want without compromising the integrity of your brand or transparency in the process.

about 11 years ago

Catherine Toole

Catherine Toole, ceo at Sticky Content

Transparency/honesty has been coming up a lot. Especially stories of brands who have tried to shove sales messages onto social networking sites and have been humiliated. Any examples you have come across of this would be very gratefully received.

about 11 years ago

Michaela Carmichael

Michaela Carmichael, Marketing Freelance Consultant at Freelance Marketing Consultant

Some Examples are:

Walmart's camper van - where they forgot to mention that Walmart was sponsoring the camper van.
Coke/Menthos - Coke never commented/ignored the issue - a lost opportuntity for them.
Kryptonite bike lock - how to break it with a biro
Microsoft/Vista & expensive laptops; some blogged on Vista others on being bribed.

Innocent in Mcdonalds - where feedback was responded to even when it was negative
Coke/Menthos - Menthos addressed the issue, there are over 2000 videos on YouTube, 600+ images on Flickr - they engaged with the consumer


about 11 years ago


Scott Bauman


Your list looks good. I'd think about adding something about goals and, by association, measurement. One thing that I think will help sell social media to execs will be the opportunity to set realistic goals and, using powerful measurement tools, deliver real metrics. Maybe the sin is "Failing to establish measureable goals and clearly tracking and reporting results."

Let us know how the presentation goes.


about 11 years ago



I agree with your list (although I think 2 and 5 should swap places)...

Question (to anyone who can offer an answer or opinion): is it OK to post your own content to social media sites, as long as you don't go overboard by "digging" your own content, etc.? Obviously as marketers we want to put our own content out there to "get the ball rolling" as it were, and we need to be honest about who we are when were posting, but also not try to artificially inflate ratings, reviews, etc. Where's the line or the grey area?

about 11 years ago


Rob Webb

>More and more I am running into people who want to get into
>social media, but have little idea about what it really is.
> by Lyndon Antcliff

A Luddite replies...

One of the issues with what is now (fashionably) called "Social Media" is that it is such a terribly immature medium. Even where organisations know what their strategy is (and I agree that's crucial) they cannot know how the medium will evolve. And internet evolution runs, as we know, at the speed of a very fast thing going, well... very fast :-)

However a lot of this Social Media is little more than a set of glorified discussion forums/Bulletin Boards - and these have been around for a long time (remember Usenet anyone?) Although they may be hard to recognise at first I beleive a lot of valuable lessons have already been learned by Those Who Went Before. These people are often easilly recognisable by their grey hair and, in their native un-botoxed form, wrinkly skin. Some of them (like me) are in their dotage you see.

And they often ramble off-topic too!

Getting back to the point. Dig out old Usenet sites that were run by companies to promote themselves and their products. See what mistakes were made. Avoid them.

Now I need to get back to my rusty Zimmer Frame.

Toodle pip!

about 11 years ago


Dwight Stickler

Measurement and Objectives/Goal Setting is a definite must to add to this list. There is no such thing as marketing without metrics and goal setting. Well in the strictest sense of the word anyway.

Marketing is a science that is driven by objectives. The only way to know for sure that it is working is to measure your results. But that is not the real problem with marketing without metrics. Marketing without metrics is like cooking without tasting. There is not any way to improve your results without being able to measure them in some concrete way.

It also makes it much easier to sell marketing expenditures to the C-Level if you can show how your campaign either saves money and time for the organization or how it is making money.

about 11 years ago


Michael Benidt

What a great idea you have to ask before you speak! Incredible!

#5 - The Issue of Transparency is incredibly important. The Poynter Institute deals with the issues of ethics and journalism - and transparency is a huge topic for them. Just do a search like this in Google or Yahoo:

transparency site:poynter.org

and you will find a ton of thoughtful articles about the issue.

Martha Stone wrote in a key background article for Poynter, called “Interactivity and Transparency:"
“Transparency has a second important virtue: It signals the journalist’s (substitute speaker, teacher, writer, business owner, corporation president - our addition) respect for the audience. It allows the audience to judge the validity of the information, the process by which it was secured, and the motives and biases of the journalist providing it.”

about 11 years ago

Michaela Carmichael

Michaela Carmichael, Marketing Freelance Consultant at Freelance Marketing Consultant

Two US other campaigns that went wrong:
Heinz on YouTube (users submitted their own naughty versions of tomato sauce ads)
Chevrolet on YouTube (users cut the commercials to make the cars look like env unfriendly gas guzzlers)


about 11 years ago

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