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Why we Need to Stop Marketing to our Friends and Actually Start Marketing

It was a dreary Sunday evening. I was browsing Facebook and a message came in. A friend of mine – who works in PR – sent a message to me and dozens of other friends as a group message. I don’t have access to the message anymore (I ‘left’ the group pretty much straight away – you’ll see why in a second), so I’ll have to paraphrase:

Hi guys, I hope you don’t mind but a client of mine has a campaign going live tomorrow and we’d really like it to trend. Could you all send a tweet out at 10am with [#campaignhashtag]? I’d really appreciate it.


We’re better than this.

A marketer’s clients

I’ve always joked that if you want to get an idea of who a marketer’s clients are, and they don’t mention them on their website or blog, then check their Twitter feed. Amongst the splattering of tweets containing links to cool articles on how to be awesome and how to take advantage of The Next Big Thing, there’ll be a random tweet from a builders merchants about their big sale at the weekend. It’s so out-of-place that it’s enough to make you go “…huh?”

And whenever I see this (and I see it quite often), I smile to myself and say “heh, must be a client of theirs…”

Marketing to our friends

When I say ‘friends,’ I’m lumping together more than just friends: peers, acquaintances… anyone who ‘follows’ us, whether it’s a follower on Twitter or a friend on Facebook. People follow/friend us for a number of reasons – here are just a few examples:

  • They may know you personally (which is usually the case on Facebook especially),
  • They may have something in common with you – e.g. you both work in digital marketing,
  • They want to learn from you,
  • They live local to you,
  • They want to get onto your radar – e.g. for networking purposes.

It’s very rare that anyone would want to follow someone just to find out what their clients are up to. Using the builders merchants example above, I follow the person because they’re a fellow digital marketer and I want to know more about them and learn from them – not to see what their clients are up to.

And yet so, so many people do it.

Marketers (whether freelance or agency) aren’t the only guilty ones, of course… the same applies to in-house folk. I recently saw a tweet go out by a big-name UK brand and it only had 3 RTs – and they were all from the personal accounts of the brand’s employees. It was tragic.

So what’s the alternative?

Market to the people who matter

I get it. You’re proud of your work, and you want to show it off. Or you want to reassure your client that you care. To an extent, there’s nothing wrong with that. But do you know what’s better and more important than sharing part of your client’s marketing campaign on your own Twitter feed? Pouring your time and energy into making sure that their actual customers share it on their Twitter feeds – that’s what your clients actually pay you for.

Before someone jumps onto my Twitter feed and cries “HYPOCRITE!”, there are exceptions. Admittedly I share the occasional bit of content from two of my clients: Computer Recruiter (my parents’ IT recruitment agency) and Welsh ICE (my coworking space). While a lot of my Twitter followers work in the SEO industry and are spread out across the world, lots of other followers are based in South Wales (where I live), and work in IT/digital and/or they’re freelancers or small business owners. Therefore their content makes sense to share on my feed, as it’ll be hugely worthwhile to those particular followers.

However I did do a small bit of work recently for a high-end fashion boutique. Their target market is middle-aged, middle-to-upper-class women with a lot of disposable income. I… don’t really have many of those types of followers on Twitter, so I didn’t really go out-of-my-way to RT their tweets. This wasn’t out of lack of loyalty or caring or anything like that – I work hard for my clients – but simply an understanding that RTing their tweets would’ve pretty much been a waste of time and effort. Put simply, my followers aren’t their target audience, and my job is to help them to get found by their target audience. So’s yours, with your clients.

The pledge

Marketers, we’re better than this. Join me in making sure that we’re not just sharing our clients’ campaigns willy-nilly on our social networks just so that we can tell them that it got an extra RT, or – worse still – rope in our friends to help us to get them trending. UGH. Seriously, please don’t do that.

Stop marketing to your friends and start marketing to the people that matter – the clients’ customers.

It’s time to stop marketing to our friends. It’s time to actually start marketing.

If you’re interested in learning more about online audience targeting then I recommend “Finding and understanding your online audience” by State of Digital’s very own Laura Crimmons. If you know of any other handy resources then please share them in the comments below!

[REVOLUTION image credit – Ian McBurnie]

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CIM-qualified Online Marketing & SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Consultant with 8 years of online marketing experience: 4 years' agency experience; around 6 months' experience working in-house for a national household name in the insurance industry; now freelancing full-time.