How NOT to Publicize Your Facebook and Twitter Accounts

Okay. I’ve seen this enough to make me annoyed to the point of writing a post about it. I actually noticed this disturbing trend about a year ago, but struggled for a way to describe why it was so wrong, but I’ve  got it thanks to Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee).

As I said, I started noticing this about a year ago when companies decided that it was finally cool to mention in all their ads that you could find them on Facebook and Twitter. Not understanding how social media works, most of these companies did the exact wrong thing. [Just for clarification, I'm talking about offline advertising here.] I know that you’ve all seen this before, but for illustration purposes, here’s what annoys me so much:



You’ve seen this before, right? Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just a local company (with a killer tagline that I created of course) promoting their business in an ad including their presence on Facebook and Twitter. My hat’s off to them, as they’re using all the marketing channels available to them. Why Facebook or Twitter might make sense for a glass company isn’t the point of this post. No, I want to talk about those two menacing little icons on the bottom of this ad. What are they there for? Presumably, I’m supposed to go to Facebook and Twitter and look up Ralph’s. Let’s say I do take this huge leap, where the hell do I find Ralph’s on Facebook? I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be http://www.facebook.com/ralphs or http://www.facebook.com/ralphsglassanddoor. And if it’s not one of these, what is it? The way that Facebook search works, I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t show up if I searched for “Ralph’s.” On Twitter, I know that it’s not going to be http://twitter.com/ralphs. So, how in the world do I find you on Twitter or Facebook? It’s one thing if you’re Red Bull and have a hugely popular page or account that has a super obvious URL or comes up first in search, but Ralph’s and the vast, vast majority of other companies aren’t Red Bull. You can also use the icons if this is an online ad where I can click the icons and be taken to your page or account, but I’m talking about offline ads where this is all too common. Now that I mentioned it, you’ll notice this in TV, print, and billboards (and it’ll probably really bother you).

This is a message not just to all the Mom and Pop shops out there. This message goes to every major brand in the world. Don’t do this.

Now, if I haven’t demonstrated why this is annoying and a poor use of advertising space yet, you probably need an analogy. This is where Gary V helped me. I heard his talk at SXSW this past year and he explained why this is such a poor practice with one simply analogy. If you don’t tell me where to find you on Facebook or Twitter and instead use an icon, it’s the exact same thing as doing this:

Compare this to the first version of the ad. See the problem with this? Would you do this?

Putting icons in your offline ads to represent your Facebook and Twitter accounts instead of actually listing the URLs is the exact same thing as using an icon of a phone in place of your actual phone number. It makes no sense. So, please stop doing this immediately.

Thank you.

EDIT: quick follow up…I decided to do a post in response to all the comments about how you SHOULD do this. Check out The Right Way to Publicize Your Facebook and Twitter Accounts.

40 Responses to “How NOT to Publicize Your Facebook and Twitter Accounts”

  1. BrentBillock July 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I come back to the telephone analogy again and again when my company is trying to form a strategy around social media. “What’s our telephone strategy?” is my way of making the point that we have to recognize the value of opening channels of communication with our customers whether or not each can be directly tied to a specific dollar value of sales.

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      Make sure you show them the picture too to illustrate the point that you can’t just bolt social media onto what you’re doing elsewhere.

  2. Sarah July 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    I think this is mostly a case of careless or lazy graphic design – online, the icons link directly to the brand pages, but in a most ads, they’re dead.  

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

      Now that I’ve called this out, look for this in ads on TV, print or billboards and I guarantee you’ll see it all over the place. It seems to be almost standard practice. Yes, online when the icons link to something, it’s okay, but elsewhere it makes no sense.

      • Leigh Fazzina July 12, 2011 at 2:16 am #

        A large percentage of TV ads and now Billboards have the little square Facebook and Twitter icons and they are totally meaningless unless they are a big brand and the lay person knows exactly where to find them. From your local car dealer, to a regional restaurant – everyone is slapping these lil squares up. In an online format they work because we can link to them. In Billboards and in TV ads, and in movie theater preview ads – they do not work. What is the point? 

        Ever since they started appearing in offline ads, this has been one of my biggest pet peeves and something I again just called “stupid marketing.” Whoever started this created a huge band-wagon effect, and for all those who jumped on the wagon, I ask why did you do so?

        I’d love to hear from a marketer/PR pro as to why you decided to include the “lil squares” in your offline advertising. What is your rationale behind doing so? And how do you track that effort? 

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

      Now that I’ve called this out, look for this in ads on TV, print or billboards and I guarantee you’ll see it all over the place. It seems to be almost standard practice. Yes, online when the icons link to something, it’s okay, but elsewhere it makes no sense.

  3. Sarah July 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    I think this is mostly a case of careless or lazy graphic design – online, the icons link directly to the brand pages, but in a most ads, they’re dead.  

  4. C Ferrell July 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I understand the premise of this post, but I don’t think most people do this they way you describe. When you create an icon like this, the specified hyperlink can (and should) take one directly to the account itself and not the social media channel’s homepage. The symbol should intimate to the user that they are one click away from *your* social media. In fact, I think on the Web, spelling out a long, convoluted URL is antithetical to what digital communication is about: brevity and efficiency. I don’t want (or need) to know that your Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/ralphsglassanddoor.htm. I just want to go there, hence the handy, linked icon. 

    For example, I link to my Twitter account in my email signature with the simple Twitter “T” icon. This is because if someone decides to follow me, they will want a simple, one-click way of getting to my Twitter account, whereupon they can hit “Follow” and be done with it. If I were to provide the handle only, I’d be asking that person to copy and paste my handle, go look it up on Twitter and then follow me. If I were to provide the handle and hyperlink it, I lose style points and clutter my signature with yet more copy for people to ignore. 

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

      Casey, I agree that it’s fine online (and I probably should be more explicit about that, so maybe I’ll update), but I’m talking about OFFLINE ads. Look around at TV, print, and billboards and you’ll see these meaningless icons everywhere.

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

      Casey, I agree that it’s fine online (and I probably should be more explicit about that, so maybe I’ll update), but I’m talking about OFFLINE ads. Look around at TV, print, and billboards and you’ll see these meaningless icons everywhere.

  5. C Ferrell July 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I understand the premise of this post, but I don’t think most people do this they way you describe. When you create an icon like this, the specified hyperlink can (and should) take one directly to the account itself and not the social media channel’s homepage. The symbol should intimate to the user that they are one click away from *your* social media. In fact, I think on the Web, spelling out a long, convoluted URL is antithetical to what digital communication is about: brevity and efficiency. I don’t want (or need) to know that your Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/ralphsglassanddoor.htm. I just want to go there, hence the handy, linked icon. 

    For example, I link to my Twitter account in my email signature with the simple Twitter “T” icon. This is because if someone decides to follow me, they will want a simple, one-click way of getting to my Twitter account, whereupon they can hit “Follow” and be done with it. If I were to provide the handle only, I’d be asking that person to copy and paste my handle, go look it up on Twitter and then follow me. If I were to provide the handle and hyperlink it, I lose style points and clutter my signature with yet more copy for people to ignore. 

  6. Kellyf July 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    This might be a daft question can you not attach a link to the icons that would take you straight to the relevant pages?

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

      You can if it’s an online ad, but what about an offline ad? That’s what I’m talking about in this post (Note: I did just update the post probably after you read it to make this fact more explicit).

  7. Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    But that is a funny visual.

  8. Pharma-IQ.com July 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Recent Transformers 3 print ad does this but had the smarts to add some text next to the icons – companies are just to eager to have those “cool” FB & Tw icons aligned with their product!

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

      Of course they did. It’s a billion dollar marketing budget…why not throw them in there?

  9. Kathie Manchester July 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    You could also use QR codes, which for an offline add works since you can scan it and find it right then and there instead of having to remember you want to later, or worst still, you can’t find the piece of paper that has the .url address on it. Ever try to type a long .url on a smartphone? Go to QR codes…the best of all worlds.

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

      Fair enough about typing a long URL. How about a shortened URL then? I’m not at all a fan of QR codes (see here: http://www.businessinsider.com/death-to-the-qr-code-2011-7). I think they don’t really have a place at this point and technology has passed them. This might be a solution for print, but how do you safely put a QR code on a billboard (though companies still do it, but a bit unsafe for fellow drivers)? How do you put a QR code on a TV ad? Are people going to pause your ad to snap a code off their TV? They’re too busy fast forwarding the ad to pause.

      One crazy consideration…and I might get kicked out of the advertising club for this…don’t include every possible thing you can imagine in your ad, which means leaving out the icons (and the QR codes). Just get the one important message out there and don’t clutter everything. Alternatively, give me one simple URL (get a custom shortened one if you want) that then links to every site and account you want to promote.

      • Leigh Fazzina July 12, 2011 at 2:07 am #

        QR codes on Billboards…. can you only imagine? Crash, bang, boom! (sorry, had to say it.)  And really now, isn’t’ it a no brainier that QR codes won’t work on TV or on a movie screen for the matter?

        I think many marketers are so quick to “catch up” in this digital world, that they aren’t really thinking through what is ‘really’ realistic? Ill say it again frankly, that a lot of what is occurring is just stupid thinking really. 

        Is this lack of intelligent and realistic thinking happening because people feel like they need to move at the speed of light? I do wonder where it comes from.

        • Jonathan Richman July 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

          Absolutely there are QR codes on billboards. I see them all the time. Bob Gilbreath (@mktgwithmeaning) did a great post about this trend: http://www.marketingwithmeaning.com/2010/11/17/questioning-qr-codes-on-billboards/. 

          This is a trend that I can say truly makes zero sense.

          • Leigh Fazzina July 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

            Let me rephrase…. How the heck will a QR code work on a billboard? I can’t even imagine! Does Oprah know about this? She is the one who so heavily promoted her “No texting while driving campaign” and can you only imagine people whipping out their phones to capture a QR code on a billboard. Not ot mention using your phone in many states while driving is illegal…. 

            How is this **supposed”" to work anyway? And from a distance perspective lets say I stood at the bottom of this billboard and tried to capture it – how the heck does that work?  I hope someone can explain this because as you say – make 0 sense.

  10. Leigh Fazzina July 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Jonathan, I am LOL over here because every time I see the little Facebook and Twitter squares flash in a TV ad (or on a billboard like I saw driving to the beach this weekend… Hello?), I laugh truly say in my head “What stupid marketers and PR people!” Frankly stated, adding these icons to such ads is the stupidest move I have seen marketers make. Dumb Dumb Dumb. And so simple to correct. Your analogy (Or GaryV’s) is the best way to describe it.

    My hat is off to you for bringing such a stupid move to the attention of many. Now if you can get Advertising Age to write about this, that would be great. 

    Cheers! 

    • Jonathan Richman July 11, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

      If only Advertising Age would print something like this…seems too logical for them.

      • Leigh Fazzina July 12, 2011 at 2:01 am #

        Perhaps I will pitch it to them for you. ;)

  11. Kevin Dugan July 11, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Can we throw QR Codes in here too?

    Maybe not.

    But I think that part of this is an aesthetic/graphic design issue too. No, small biz aren’t known for worrying about this. But something to consider.

    Vee is right. But he is discounting Google in his analogy. To quote a hot sauce tagline: “I use that sh!t on everything.”

    • Jonathan Richman July 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

      Definitely throw in QR codes. I responded to a few comments asking if QR codes are better. Personally, I’m not remotely a fan (scroll up to see my comments). That doesn’t solve the problem, which really comes down to wanting to put everything in a single ad versus communicating one thing well.

  12. Shauna July 12, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Hi Jonathan, Do you have an example of how an ad wanting to encompass social media should look? Would be great to show a ‘this is how it should look’ picture when pitching!

  13. Shauna July 12, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Hi Jonathan, Do you have an example of how an ad wanting to encompass social media should look? Would be great to show a ‘this is how it should look’ picture when pitching!

    • Jonathan Richman July 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      Great question. I’m working on a post about this right now. I wasn’t going to do one, but it appears that there’s some demand for it, so stay tuned.

      • Shauna July 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

        Thanks Jonathan! Much Appreciated. I’m sure I’ll see it pop up on twitter or google+!

        • Jonathan Richman July 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

          Here it is: http://www.doseofdigital.com/2011/07/right-way-publicize-facebook-twitter-accounts/

  14. cedennis July 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but most businesses *do* have a telephone strategy, in that all calls should be answered by the third ring, all messages must be responded to within 24 hours, there is a uniform greeting and closing, stuff like that.  But no, there is no silver bullet, money-making strategy with social media, other than be engaging to your customers & prospects.

    • Jonathan Richman July 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      Good point. I guess this illustrates the “throw the icons on there just in case” mentality.

  15. Gerry July 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Easy way round this is to stock a QR code on the offline ad. Then people can instantly connect with you. Agree that URL needs go on to though.

  16. Jonathan Richman July 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    But how will showing the icon help them get to your page? Let’s remember that most pages on Facebook or account names on Twitter aren’t really obvious to guess, so you have to search (and usually don’t find). Who is going to do this? It’s one thing if you’re Red Bull (people just try facebook.com/redbull and find it), but most brands don’t have a simple URL like this.

  17. Jonathan Richman July 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Completely agree with all of this. Can’t discount the “cool factor” as the rationale. Scary though.

  18. Linda Coles @ Blue Banana 20 July 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    You are spot on! Great, share your sites but give me the short address that is memorable too, make it easy.

  19. Rich Young August 6, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    I think you’re over reacting just a tad. I find nothing wrong with showing these icons sans URL in offline copy. What it does is tell us is that they ARE on FB / Twitter. That’s all we need to know. A vast majority of people will immediately google “‘Ralph’s Door and Glass’ Facebook” and within .22 second have one click to Ralph’s FB page. You keep questioning how will people get to the FB page without seeing a URL and it’s very simple – Google. Even my 71-year old mother knows to do this.