The Top 5 Online Marketing Tactics that are Ineffective and Annoying

If you’ve ever been in charge of marketing a product or service for a company (or personal use), you’ll know that it can be difficult.  I had a recent internship where social media management and marketing were large parts of my daily routine, and Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram were necessary components of developing our brand image and marketing push.

All in all, I did an alright job when everything was said and done. Grew some followers, gained a bit of website traffic, and didn’t post anything that made people angry. Job well done, right?


The more I think about my past internship, and with the beginnings of new social media management via the This Online World Twitter and Pinterest, the more time I spend wondering what constitutes “good” social media management or online marketing. I mean, I can use a hashtag, and I’m fairly consistent with posting content.

But none of that matters.

I’ve grown social media presence for a business, and it never really amounted to much referral traffic to our website. In hindsight, I’m not very surprised. There’s a difference between growing a loyal following and developing a symbiotic relationship in which value is exchanged between parties and spamming daily hashtags to boost irrelevant followers.

Ultimately, if users are annoyed, alienated, or made to feel irrelevant and unimportant by any element of your social media or user acquisition strategy, you will not see much benefit from your online marketing efforts. In fact, you may even lose viewership.

I plan on making a future post on some of the best social media/online marketing practices for building a brand and growing an audience, but first, let’s cover some online marketing tactics that need to be put to rest.

Automatic Messages/DMs on Twitter:

If you auto direct message on Twitter, or any social media platform for that matter, please stop. I used to run a Twitter page that catered to sailing and boating enthusiasts. This is what my direct message list always looked like:

Twitter automatic DM
The Yacht Club Fitness E-book is my favorite

There’s a variety of auto DM styles featured here, but they are all terrible. The humble welcome, the immediate sales pitch, or the coy “feel free to contact us if you have questions”….All these messages do is clog a user’s inbox and make them feel like they are part of an automated process and not much else.

It’s easy to get caught up with social media optimization and automation, so I understand why Twitter DMs and other annoying marketing tactics exist. But as a general rule of thumb, put yourself in the end user’s position before making a change to the user experience. No one likes spam, and no one likes automated messages.

Immediate LinkedIn Sales Pitches or Spam:

LinkedIn is one of the most expensive PPC or CPM platforms available. However, the cost of advertising on LinkedIn is often justified. HubSpot is a big proponent of LinkedIn advertising, or at least testing the platform, and breaks down the results of advertising with LinkedIn for 1 year quite nicely. With LinkedIn, HubSpot saw CPCs of $5.74, whereas platforms like AdWords or Facebook can drive traffic for much less.

HubSpot Linkedin Advertising Results
Image courtesy of

Interestingly, when you analyze the spending data from $1000 campaigns, LinkedIn actually has a cheaper cost-per-lead compared to AdWords. The difference comes from LinkedIn having a 6.1% conversion rate in this example as compared to the AdWords conversion rate of 2.58%. I’ve seen similar results with a few of the free $50 LinkedIn advertising credits I’ve used in the past: high CPC, but higher conversions.

The reason I bring up just how expensive LinkedIn is in terms of advertising is to express how highly LinkedIn and LinkedIn users value their user experience, platform, and advertisement quality. It’s expensive to advertise on LinkedIn, but your advertisements are theoretically being displayed to targeted, driven business professionals who are willing to invest in their skill set or company by using your product or service. The conversion rate proves this point.

Now, consider what your automated and impersonal LinkedIn sales pitch or spam looks like on a platform that promotes selective, high quality advertising. There’s just no contest.

If you connect with someone on LinkedIn, DO NOT immediately follow up with a sales pitch, automated or otherwise. LinkedIn (and really any social media platform) is about establishing a relationship in which value of some sort can be exchanged. Don’t hurt your brand or personal image by trying to snipe a few conversions with automated LinkedIn messages or spam.

Using Social Media Automation the Wrong Way:

Social media automation tools are great, but only when they are used correctly. Programs like IFTTT or Buffer allow social media managers to automate their posts to various social media platforms and schedule when they share content. Buffer in particular is an excellent time saving tool that I have used in the past, especially when out of town or on vacation (gotta keep the content coming!)

However, when social media automation is used incorrectly, your platforms can suffer. IFTTT in particular is a very easy service to get wrong. IFTTT allows users to link their social media platforms, so that a single post on say, Facebook, will also be posted to other platforms. If you don’t put much thought into it, you might end up with a Twitter feed that looks something like this:

Navionics Twitter

It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t look great. Everything is simply reposted from the Navionics Facebook page and doesn’t include photos or unique text. This frankly boggles my mind since Navionics is a rather large marine electronics company, but I digress.

If you want to see a good example of social media automation in action, check out Neil Patel’s Twitter account. The majority of his posts are scheduled with Buffer, but his posts aren’t just an afterthought that is automatically spewed out from his Facebook page. They have photos, their own unique captions, and promote user interaction and sharing.

Ultimately, social media automation is a marketer’s best friend. But, do your reading and making sure you aren’t taking shortcuts with your automation process.

Overly Aggressive E-Book Pushing or Email Grabs:

There is nothing I find my irritating than being bombarded with an e-book offer or email grab the second I visit a website. Everyone and their grandmother has written an e-book these days. We get it, e-books are in, but please, if you are a content creator please acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of readers probably don’t want to read your “101+ ways to become rich overnight without lifting a finger” e-book garbage.

Take a website like This is the email grab offer they have at the end of all their posts:

Fair game. The email grab is at the end of the post, and while their guides are a complete waste of time, this offer doesn’t detract from user experience.

But guess what happens the second your cursor moves towards the x or back button?


This garbage pops up. It’s an aggressive and exaggerated claim that I just decided to ignore 10 seconds ago when I saw the same offer at the bottom of the website. Why am I being shown it again?

Don’t be like nichehacks. Place your e-book pitch or email subscription option wherever you want, but don’t mess with user experience.

Gating too much Content:

The issue of gating content can be a tricky one. On one hand, creating high quality content is an expense for businesses, and gating content behind paywalls or forced-advertisements/surveys can be a way to generate income. On the other hand, if you gate too much content or don’t have the reputation to back it up, you might find your gated content strategy backfiring.

I’m not surprised or angry when I visit a website like The Economist and find the majority of their content to be gated. There are ways to bypass paywalls, but that’s besides the point. The Economist is a reputable news outlet with great content, so the premium doesn’t feel wrong or rub me the wrong way.

But if I visit John Doe’s random fitness blog and find his recipe for protein banana pancakes makes me fill out a survey to read the rest of the stupid article, that’s a different story.

Unless you are truly creating magnificent content and have a large viewership, tread carefully when gating your website. Any return you gain may come at the sacrifice of irritating your audience and losing their viewership.

Economist Gated Content

The Takeaway:

When it comes to promoting a product or brand image online, I argue advertisers and content creators should spend more time considering the user perspective.

Developing an online brand or marketing strategy shouldn’t seek to be a 1-way street in which consumers are used and sucked dry of value. Rather, think of online marketing as being a symbiotic relationship in which both a business and individual can find value.

Be authentic, treat consumers with respect, and please don’t ram your e-book down our throats.

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