Marketing “Hacks” You Should Never Use | Captain Coder

Marketing “Hacks” You Should Never Use

Marisa VanSkiver / March 21, 2023

marketing hacks to avoid

Imagine a Friday evening, sitting at a table with other marketers, laughing about the things we often see less experienced marketers try. Tactics and marketing “hacks” that haven’t worked in years (or were never a good idea to begin with).

This was actually part of a recent Friday night. We started joking about someone we know who has tried to use many of the tactics that we’ve all grown to hate. Whether because we’ve been on the receiving end of these terrible, many times unethical marketing “hacks,” or because we simply feel bad watching people get taken advantage of.

Here’s the thing – I know that it’s easy for a DIY business owner to get suckered into some of these tactics. Shiny Facebook Ads or posts in groups tell you that they made THOUSANDS of dollars following these systems!

But what can actually happen when you use any of these tactics? You can end up destroying your brand, reputation, and even violating the law.

Today, we’re going to cover the worst offenders and the ones that if someone tells you to try them, then you need to run away as fast as possible.

1. Scraping Emails from LinkedIn or Instagram

I can’t tell you how many cold emails I get in a day. I’m listed as a CEO on LinkedIn (because I am a business bitch, as Kelly Kapoor would say), which gets me targeted by all sorts. Throw in the fact that I work in marketing and am a coder, and well, my inbox is full of a huge variety of annoying sales people.

You know the emails I mean. The ones that tell you that if you don’t want to hear anymore from them that you just need to respond “unsubscribe” (Uh, bud, I never subscribed in the first place!) or the ones that send you lots of emails to “get this back at the top of your inbox.”

I’m not sure who is actually teaching these tactics, but the worst thing you can do is to cold pitch someone who never gave you any indication that they’d actually be interested.

Grabbing an email off of a social media site so you can slide into their inbox unwanted? That’s just annoying and honestly it’s considered spam. And you bet your ass I mark all of them as such.

The Right Way to Do This

We want genuine connection. It’s a slower tactic, but the best way to build sales through social media networks like LinkedIn (and even Instagram) is to connect with people and just be genuine about it. Get to know them a bit, talk to them like a person, and slide into their DMs by responding to a story or something they shared.

Show you actually are interested and care.

I’ve stopped adding people to LinkedIn almost all together because I was getting pitched as soon as I added someone. Half the time they’d not even read my bio and the pitch didn’t even make sense.

Just, be a human. Do unto others as you would want to be done unto you.

2. Adding People to Your Email List Without Permission

The worst offenders in the email scraping from social media sites add you directly to their newsletter lists.

You’ll know these because all of a sudden you’re getting a bunch of email marketing from someone you’ve never heard of.

At least with these it’s far easier to unsubscribe from the list because there’ll be a handy “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email.

When I get these, I often report it as spam as well because even in the States we want you to opt in to email marketing lists.

When too many people report you as spam (or even report you directly to your email marketing service like Mailchimp), you can actually lose your ability to send email out at all. Don’t be that guy and get blacklisted. It’s very hard to clean up.

The Right Way to Do This

Having an issue growing your email list? I get it. But the wrong way to go about that is to add people who didn’t give you permission to do so and then piss them off.

Instead, offer some kind of incentive or freebie in exchange for their email. We’re so conditioned to this tactic now that most people will understand that they’re signing up for your list to grab that awesome thing.

Just make it awesome enough that people will hand over their email address to you.

And then respect the awesome power of having their personal email. That’s far more personal than following you on Instagram.

3. Inviting All Your Friends to Your Pages

Oooft, the amount of people that I know that have not only used this tactic, but have recommended it to paying clients is astounding.

Look, the amount of people that follow you is a vanity metric. If you have 400 super devoted followers who engage with your content, that’s worth far more than 10,000 people who never hit that like button.

A common mistake is inviting all of your friends list (which Facebook does make all too easy to do) to like your new page.

Your friends won’t all buy from you and many of them are just the wrong type of people that you want following you all together. They won’t interact with your content and that will make you look bad in the algorithm.

Worst is the fact that Facebook uses your followers to target similar people when you run ads, at least in part. So if you’ve got Great Aunt Myrtle and that clique of girlfriends from high school following you, chances are people like them are going to see your ads. Not the right people.

The Right Way to Do This

Some of your friends absolutely are the right people. When you start a new Facebook page or Instagram account, absolutely reach out to people who align with your ideal customer, or might work with people like your ideal customer. Ask them to give you a follow and engage with their own content when appropriate.

And yes, Great Aunt Myrtle is probably going to follow you anyway. That’s fine. Let her cheer you on! Just don’t also invite her bridge club to the page.

4. Doing “Follow Trains”

Ah, the hellish landscape that was Facebook group ideas in 2020. We all wanted connection, so follow trains exploded more than I had seen in a few years.

The basic idea was that everyone dropped their Instagram handle (or Facebook page link) and then everyone in that group could go follow each other.

You just boosted your followers by 100+ people, congrats!

Ok, not really. Follow trains are notorious for getting you followers who again, are not your ideal customer, and worst, people who will forget who you are two seconds after they hit that follow button.

It’s worse than inviting your friends list because at least they had a minor chance of engaging with anything that you put out there.

The Right Way to Do This

Look, there’s not really a “right” follow train. Just avoid this one at all costs and run when someone recommends it.

If you do want to boost your follower numbers, you’ll need to get outside your own content and engage! One way to do this is to go follow the people who have careers that you want to emulate and engage in their comment sections. Leave some insights and share your expertise (just don’t step on anyone’s content toes, that’s no bueno). You’ll be surprised at how often their followers will come to your page if they like what you’re saying.

5. Asking for Reviews from Non-Customers

Reviews on platforms like Google and Facebook help customers decide whether or not they’d like to work with you. Not having any reviews at all can look a bit negative because that means no one likes working with you, right?

While we all logically understand that’s not true, a lot of business owners get really concerned when they have 0 reviews on these public platforms.

So how did you shortcut that? Well, it made sense to go ask your other business buddies and BNI group members to go and leave you a review, right? Even if they’re not a customer they can talk about what you’re like???

This is one of the worst things you can do. Reviews should be literal third party proof and should be an authentic representation of your business.

When you ask someone who isn’t actually a customer to leave you a review, they’re basically lying. That’s a quick way to erode trust, especially when all your reviews are super generic.

It’s also a way to get you in trouble with review platforms for misleading consumers.

The Right Way to Do This

Instead, ask your actual customers to leave reviews. Send an email to someone you know is super happy and ask them to leave you a Google review. Give them the exact link to your Google My Business page and make it super easy for them to actually follow through.

If you work with clients on a regular basis, after about 6 months of working with them, send them a feedback request. Then if you like their review, ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing that on Google as well.

The biggest thing you have to do is simply ask. But only ask people that were your actual customers.

6. Using Clickbait Titles and Headlines

People don’t like being tricked. Sure, those fancy titles make us click, but when they’re misleading they can make people angry.

You know what I’m talking about. You clicked that news article or Buzzfeed post because you thought you’d be reading about one thing but then when you read the bulk of the article you find out that the headline doesn’t really match the copy.

While a clickbaity headline can work to bring people to your website and get them to you know, click, it can erode trust and make you a bit of a joke (see Buzzfeed).

The Right Way to Do This

Yes, you need to write headlines that encourage people to click, but make sure they always match the content of the actual article.

My own headline of Marketing Hacks You Should Never Use is intriguing but fully matches what the article about.

Just leave out the tricks.

7. Writing Your Content for Google

This hack hasn’t worked for years, and it certainly won’t keep working for much longer.

Google is who is ranking your website in their search results, but it’s the people clicking on your website that Google cares about.

When you write your content for search engines, your actual audience won’t connect with it. No one wants to read keyword-stuffed, poorly-written content.

Not only that, Google’s algorithms get more and more sophisticated all of the time. They read your content much like a user can and can deduce the context of your copy.

Plus, if someone comes to your website, doesn’t find the answer they need, and leaves, well, that’s going to take you down in the search results.

There’s a ton of reasons that this just isn’t the right thing to do.

The Right Way to Do This

Just write for your customer. The person that matters is the one that’s actually going to spend money with you.

I mean, Google isn’t buying from you after all.

Your entire website – blog posts included – should be written to benefit your ideal customer and show them how your services can help them solve their problems. Sure, you’re going to use some keywords but that’s going to make sense in context.

Focus on quality of writing. Google will understand and rank you accordingly.

Not All Marketing “Hacks” Are Equal

I get it; we all want to get quick results. You just want to grow your business so that your income is stable, you get that freedom you’ve been looking for, and you can have better control over your time.

The downside to marketing is that a lot of the high-quality tactics simply take time.

Hell, even a good social media strategy can take a year to really take hold and start paying you back.

But the reality is that much in life, there are no real shortcuts to marketing. The above hacks are shortcuts that people have taken and just don’t get caught (all the time). That doesn’t mean that they’ll work for you in the long term.

In fact, they’ll often do you more damage than good.

Focus on building the right foundation. Create good content. Put your customer first. The rest will fall into place.

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