13 Trick-Or-Treat Rules for Social Marketers
13 Trick-Or-Treat Rules for Social Marketers
13 Trick-Or-Treat Rules for Social Marketers

First of all, I agree with Jason Falls that list posts are not the gold standard. However, sometimes the stars line up, and a list just pours out. So this list is the candy that I’m handing out this year, and I appreciate you stopping by the homestead! Since I’m a zombie this year, I’ll be needing your brains for the next few minutes, so hand them over, grab the closest wad of candy, and slow-walk with me through these 13 (insert spooky sound effect) rules of trick-or-treating/social marketing.

It’s okay to pretend, but be true to yourself

HalloweenYes, you are dressed up like a WWE superstar; no, you may not DDT your friends. Halloween is an excellent time to play and push some boundaries, but at the end of the day (night), authenticity is still the champion. In social, we often must – or just want to – pretend to be something we’re not. Be true to yourself, your brand, and what you stand for. Because the costume will come off, one way or another. And you really want to have something on underneath.

Have a plan

There are always more houses; there are always many, many more houses. Set the plan, stick to the plan, and execute the plan. There is a law of diminishing returns at play here, and those lights just over the hill might not be worth going for. As social marketers, we love-love-love shiny new lights (and they always seem to be just over the hill, don’t they?). If you decide to climb that just-one-more hill, you’ll absolutely see another one. And another. And another. Remember: your goal is traction, not distraction. Stick to the plan.

Pace yourself

It’s going to be a rough November 1st if you eat every piece of your candy on October 31st. Since you’ve been sneaking candy for the past week, you can feel the storm coming. There is a constant temptation for binging in social when the idea, campaign, or creativity hits: create all the stuff, curate all the stuff, post all the stuff. Just remember that whatever engine you start must be maintained, and it’s awful hard to nurture once you’ve run out of juice (Yes, my costume is mixed metaphors this year). Feel your excitement, embrace the adrenaline, but pace yourself. It’s a very, very long way to a finish line. And that candy has to last you 364 more days.

Hit the easy houses first

Every neighborhood has those houses that are must-visits, whether it’s because of the amount of giving or the quality of treats. Every kid knows to hit those homes early. Consider these marks the low-hanging fruit; too often, brands completely overlook them. Hitting up the hard or obscure houses might be a nice mini-hipster challenge, but, at the end of the night, your haul isn’t defined by cool, but by effectiveness. Shoot for the challenge later, but focus on your loyal core first; oftentimes, they are the ones most excited about what’s going on. Don’t sleep on quick wins, and they won’t sleep on you.

Skip the dark houses

It’s an unwritten courtesy rule on Halloween: if the lights are on, the house is fair game; if the lights are off, move along. Consider the lights-policy an opt-in trigger. In social, we are very familiar with opt-ins; we live and die by them. However, many in our audience (those who at one point opted in) are now living in dark houses. Skip them. Have the maximum impact with those who are lit up, and you will see the lights come back on around them. Ultimately, that’s more candy for you, and I know you want more candy.

Don’t talk to strangers

Sure, technically knocking at the door of an unknown house already breaks this rule, but what I teach my kids is a quick “trick-or-treat”, a thank you, and on to the next house. No lingering. October 31st is a bit of an exception, but in life, and in social, it’s a good idea to ignore the strangers. Back in 2010, Josh Galt put this into my head (based off of a Seth Godin post), and it’s been a tactic that I have discussed with most of my clients. Trying to find and converse with strangers is a bad idea if it comes at the expense of your loyal core base. Know your audience, converse with your audience, nurture your audience, and the strangers won’t be strangers for long.

Check your candy

I’m not overly concerned about razorblades in the neighborhood candy, but there is still a wisdom to giving the loot a solid once-over. And as content-curators, we need to do the same. The web is awash with fake news sites, parody pages, and rumor networks, and their viability is directly tied to duping you. Before you click to tweet some sweet link, check that candy out. It just might be sour.

Don’t go rogue

In my neighborhood, we trick-or-treat in groups. But every year, there are runners. These rogue kids (yes, mine have been among them) are cause for much hollering, flashlight sweeping, and stern reminders throughout the night. I usually don’t mind delivering the sternness, but it just feels wrong to reprimand a princess, pirate, or Peppa Pig. Similarly, it is always awkward to watch a brand, which is not a real person, have to apologize like a real person. Remind yourself that, though social can feel very much like an out-of-control party, you still must live with the consequences. Stick with the group, don’t run off on your own, and always have a contingency plan. Going rogue is only one small step from getting lost. And you don’t want to be lost on Halloween (insert another spooky sound effect).

Play by the rules

If the bowl on the front porch says to please only take one candy bar, then just take one candy bar. Why? Because you don’t really need two (or five) (or seven). There are etiquette rules on Halloween; there is trust out there in the streets. Sure, the temptation is present to cross the boundaries, but, in the end, social is not a zero-sum game. The candy bowl is big enough for us all. Treat your network with respect and dignity, and don’t violate trust just for a blip on your analytics report. Honest candy is the most valuable candy, and penny candy is cheap. Don’t be penny candy.

Measure your results

If you really want to master the trick-or-treating game, measurement is key. That might sound a bit hardcore, but knowing optimal start times, routes, preferred costumes, ideal group size, etc. can create efficiencies and increase your ROI exponentially. Now, I’m not suggesting that you ditch the slow walkers or tailor your makeup per house…but I guess that depends on your ultimate objective. In social, segmenting your audience, setting baselines, and establishing measurement around performance is the only way to truly show the impact social has in the customer journey (watch this blog for much more detailed information on this in the near future; it’s really good stuff). Sure, Halloween is a night just for fun and games, but social marketing is not. If you don’t want ghost stories told about your brand, fix your data problems and start measuring social marketing effectively. (Incidentally, SME Digital can totally help you with this; investigate more here.)

Be thankful

Be genuinely thankful to those giving to you. There is no better time than Halloween to practice appreciation, and there is no better channel than social to do the same. Be supremely thankful to anyone who answers the door, opts in, and extends their hand.

Be generous

Be generous. Always. Enough said.

Be safe

It’s a crazy world out there. My hope for you is safety, offline and online, always. Social is a year-round trick-or-treat bonanza. Embrace the fun, the spirit, and the playfulness. Don’t play it safe, but always be safe.

Turns out, I’m a nice zombie this year. So I’m giving your brains back. Use them to add to this list, ask any questions, or share a scary story. The comments section is yours for the taking, tricking, or treating.

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About the Author

Matt Hollowell
Matt is a lifelong student of design, marketing, publishing, and content creation. His passion sits at the intersection of content and design; in fact, you can often find him there with a cup of coffee in one hand and a notepad in the other. As SME's Creative Director, he supports both the brand and clients, which helps to satisfy his lifelong love of never knowing what's coming next. When not at his desk, you'll find Matt serenading his two amazing daughters, reading gritty British poetry, or obsessively listening to podcasts. Send him your podcast reccs here: @mhollowell.

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