My First Ever Online Marketing Campaign (Was An Absolute Failure)

Bob Dylan Fail imageI recently got into a bit of an… umm… ‘altercation’ with a South Wales-based business (who shall remain nameless) via Twitter. They followed me and then sent me multiple copied and pasted @mentions basically saying: “we’ve followed you, so the least you can do is follow us back.”

I politely told them that this wasn’t a good approach to social media, to which they replied telling me that while they appreciated the feedback, they were annoyed at me for doing it in a way that was public (i.e. not via DM or email instead). I informed them that in a social media space, others wouldn’t afford them that luxury (and would be a lot harsher than I was), and reiterated that I wasn’t having a go – I was only trying to help. They then unfollowed me (charming… but quite funny).

But it’s true. I wasn’t having a go. I was trying to help. I was speaking from experience.

You see, my first ever online marketing campaign – years before I got my start in SEO – was for myself, as a solo musician. In early 2006 I released my first CD (Bad River, a 5-track EP) and wanted to promote it online. So I did it via the social media website I was most prominent on at the time: MySpace (my MySpace profile is still there by the way).

At the time, tons of bands would leave messages on each other’s pages saying “LISTEN TO OUR MUSIC!” or some such. I foolishly took the ‘well if they’re doing it, I can do it too’ approach but tried to be smarter (and less spammy) about it. I only targeted people I was ‘friends’ with, as I thought that would be a softer approach than targeting strangers – my logic was this: if they’ve ‘befriended’ me, they must want to keep up-to-date with my news. O-ho-ho… how naïve I was..

Not only that, but I prefaced my ‘ad drop’ with a little message. Unfortunately I cannot find a live example anymore (I think MySpace changed its comments section in one of its later redesigns) but it basically said something like: “Just a quick message about my new CD. Hoping you don’t mind me sharing this…” I can’t remember the exact message but I thought I’d worded it well – it basically said no worries if you want to delete it but thanks if you’re happy to share. A bit cringe-worthy really. What I thought would be a nice, polite gesture evoked a very different reaction to what I was expecting…

Then I dumped this image (which linked to my music site when clicked):

Bad River EP banner

I had 1,000+ MySpace ‘friends’ at the time (while I didn’t go around adding randoms, I would still accept randoms’ friend requests – an approach that I avoid these days, especially on the likes of LinkedIn), so I dropped the message on a few hundred pages. Instead of prioritising and only doing a few (e.g. people who lived locally to me and might’ve seen me live), I did pretty much everyone. I actually had to do it across a few days, as I hit the limit on the number of pages you can comment on per day a few times. I tried to personalise the message for people I knew, but ultimately I copied and pasted image HTML onto their pages.

I know what you’re thinking… it was stupid. On reflection, it was. I was naïve.

I had a few people get back to me with a less-than-positive attitude. “WTF is this?” “I don’t care about your bullshit.” Etc. etc. I even had one person say that the prefaced message I’d included was an attempt at guilt-tripping – that people would be less inclined to delete it or that I’d make them feel bad if they did. That wasn’t my intent, but obviously that’s how it came across.

A lot got deleted or never went live in the first place. But a lot made it onto pages – a lot were live on people’s profiles for a good few years, especially if they didn’t get many comments or it was an abandoned profile.

Most importantly though… How many CD sales did I make from my efforts? My first ever online marketing campaign?

I think it was about 3.

Hahaha. Yep. It was a complete waste of time and it bugged the hell out of a fair few people – it probably did more damage to my reputation than provided anything positive.

To be fair, I should’ve known better. I’ve been an Internet user since the 90s, so it’s not like I was new to it and simply didn’t know anything about spamming or anything like that. The worst part is that I’d justified it mentally – it thought it would be ok to do, and it wasn’t until afterwards that I’d realised that it really wasn’t cool.

On the plus side, I’ve learnt from it. It’s made me realise that time should be spent on activities that could make more of a difference, whether it’s improving networking, branding and ultimately ROI. What if I spent that time putting on a gig instead? I probably could’ve sold more than 3 CDs and strengthened my position more locally. Or I could’ve hounded record companies instead. Or got to know more musicians who are similar in sound/style to me.

It’s also fed into my way of working in SEO. I wouldn’t dare do something like that now. In fact when it comes to things like guest blogging, I much prefer getting in touch with someone I already know rather than target a stranger. And it’s the approach I’d advise to clients, too (if they already have connections – if not, then starting making some)!

But there we have it… Hopefully that business on Twitter will realise the error of their ways and reevaluate their approach on social media. More than ever, you can’t just bombard people and expect it to go well, both in terms of reputation and ROI. I learnt that the hard way.

[“Subterranean Homesick Fail” image credit: Jeroen Mirck]


  • Emma

    May 24, 2013 at 10:05 am Reply

    I’m still laughing at the fact you own “” – amazing.

    Nice story – you live and learn!

    • Steve

      May 24, 2013 at 11:34 am Reply

      Haha, yeah… 🙂

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