Social Media Strategist
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Social Media marketing, strategy and professional development blog for Jon-Stephen Stansel, a social media strategist living in Austin, Texas.

Six Social Media Marketing Gimmicks That Need to End Now

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Nothing Says "We Put an Intern in Charge of Our Social Media" like...

-By Jon-Stephen Stansel

The social media marketing blogs are full of gimmicks promising to increase engagement and grow followers quickly. Most of them are bunk. There are no shortcuts in social media. Nothing can substitute for quality content and genuine engagement. It's time for some real talk. These social media hacks and tricks don't work and are making you look like an amateur. If you are using these shortcuts to create content or generate buzz, it's time to stop.


1. #MotivationMonday, #ThursdayThoughts, #FridayFeeling

These and other similar weekly recurring hashtags might seem like a way to create engagement, but what do they really accomplish? Whenever I see brands post using these hashtags I think, “Someone’s boss told them they have to post something every single day.” I’m going to be blunt here. These tags are just lazy social media. They don’t add anything to the conversation. Sure they trend weekly, but is anyone actually searching these tags? Are they getting your content to more people? Do people really want motivation or inspirational quotes from your organization? Are you truly engaging your followers with good content or are you just adding to the noise?

2. Complicated Contests

If the contest has more than one step, it’s too complicated. “Like and share this post, tag 3 friends in the comments, then take a selfie in our store using the hashtag #ThisIsADumbContest for the chance to win a 2% off coupon for your next purchase of $500 or more on your third visit this month.” Seriously, if you are going to run a contest, keep it simple. One step and that’s it. If you can't explain the contest in the span of Tweet, it's too complicated. Make the contest easy to enter and have a clear purpose for running it.

3. Snark for the Sake of Being Snarky

Okay, it worked for Wendy’s and it worked for Merriam-Webster and in some instances, a little snark can be useful. But do people really want snark from brands? Recent studies say no. And even for the brands that snark has worked for in the past, it won’t be sustainable. Also, snark does not equal humor. It's easy to be sarcastic and insulting, it's hard to be genuinely clever. Using snark is a major risk that can come back to hurt you. Are you sure your snarky comments are legitimately humorous and not just mean and angry?

Instead of trying to do what got attention for a small handful of brands, focus on being helpful to your followers. See what they want and react positively to and build your voice from there. 

4. Using the Same Unsplash Photos Everyone Else Uses

Unsplash is a fantastic resource to find amazing royalty-free images. And don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Unsplash. I use it all the time. The image from this post is from there. (Thanks, Unsplash!) But, if I see that photo with “social media” spelled out in Scrabble tiles one more time, I’m going fire off some angry Tweets that will make the even the worst trolls hide under their desks.

By all means use Unsplash and other photo libraries. But take the time to dig and find photos that haven’t been overused. Or better yet, edit the photo and make it your own. The bulk of the images used in this blog where taken from Unsplash and then edited to create something new. 

5.  “Humans of” Thinking

I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve had that started with “We should do something like Humans of New York.” Humans of New York is great. They tell compelling stories with great photos and have a distinct voice. But you know what? They’ve done it. We don’t need another one, just like we don’t need another We Rate Dogs or Kid President. These accounts have created their own unique voice, style, and brand. They have built something and found an audience for it. Make your own thing.

6. Snapcodes as Twitter Avatars

Who are you kidding? Seriously, stop. Just stop. If you think this is a good idea, see who does it.


So, what gimmicks would you add to this list? I suppose one could add "blog posts with bulleted lists of items and sensational headlines." The first step is to admit you have problem...