Building your marketing strategy and using it to shape your digital identity means making an endless amount of decisions. Trying to lay the foundation of a bulletproof plan can be daunting, to say the least. While it’s a blessing that technology lets you carve out your niche and tell a unique story to your customers and audience, this means you must thread the needle with your decisions if you’re going to achieve your goals.

Using social media foolishly.
There isn’t a “right” way to use social media, but there sure are a lot of wrong ways. Launching a Facebook page and then not maintaining it, or filling it with unoriginal content, won’t likely engage your followers. Another mistake is to not engage with your followers when they try to engage you. Remember, your social media presence exists in a news feed filled with photos of babies, music videos, and grumpy cats. If your content isn’t remarkable or interesting, it’s not going to be read. The flipside of this is that social media gives you a wonderful opportunity to “give” to your fans. Give customer service. Give stories and multimedia. Give industry insight. If you’re at a loss for what content and strategy to employ with your social media accounts, those are good places to start.

About those QR codes.
If you’re a dork like me who reads communication and technology academic journals for fun, you were probably drooling over them when they first came out. Finally, a means to hyperlink analog things in the real world with digital information using technology! Unfortunately, they aren’t great for advertising. Apparently when you include them on ads, no one really cares. That doesn’t mean that QR codes are a complete bust. It just means if you use them, you should be creative. Often, a QR code will take you to an advertiser’s website, so it should come as no shock that a QR code drives traffic about as well as a banner ad. A few ideas to consider: the people who know and care about QR codes are a very specific demographic. That alone is an opportunity. Also, QR codes link to a web page. If someone scans and clicks, you have his or her attention. Now what? QR codes bridge the gap between an offline reality and a digital environment. There’s always potential when you’re linking those two worlds.

Popups. Yes, Popups.
If you’re going to use popups, they should always give—not take. A welcome message, a discount, a story—anything that adds value can be acceptable in certain situations.  But please, don’t immediately ask users to join your email list or follow your social network. If you’re building your site correctly, those options should be easy to find on every page of your site. New site visitors want to see your content first before they decide to start a relationship with you. Let’s say you sign up for a dating website; would you start a relationship with the first person who emails you, or would you go out for coffee first? Exactly.

Surveys (This will only take 5 minutes).
Measuring your website performance is critical to tracking the progress of your communications strategy. Often, the best people to ask are outsiders to your organization (i.e. your customers). But, if you’re going to do a survey, please don’t prompt it by covering up your content with a survey pop-up for a first-time visitor. Keep it brief if you can. If you want people to fill it out, provide them with an incentive. A discount on an order. A chance to win an Apple Newton. Anything to make it worth the time you’re trying to borrow from your customer.

The worst thing you can do is give someone with no stake in your organization a matrix of options on a 1-10 scale. How much thought do you think they are really putting into your survey? You could find yourself relying on bad data to make decisions. If you really want to know how your audience feels, connect with them. In 2013, you can do focus groups without having to physically rent a room. FiveSecondTest is an awesome place to get free feedback too.

Logins (for purchasing)
I understand that, from your perspective, you want to collect as much data on your customers as you can and use it to manage your relationships with them. It helps you do a better job adapting to their needs. But, it should be opt-in when you’re doing e-commerce. Don’t lose a relationship with a customer just because you want them to connect with you; that feels forced. The numbers say that forcing new customers to set up logins before purchasing often makes them abandon their cart. Give them the option to buy without setting up an account with you.

Seriously? Logins (for social)?
The great social media war occurred between 2004-2008, and while many bravely fought, only a select few survived. If Google+ struggles to capture your social media activity, then the proprietary one on your website probably isn’t going to take off, either. In reality, you should set up your social engagement with one of the big services like Twitter or Facebook. Their API’s are widely used, there’s lot of documentation out there—and frankly if your audience is anything like me, they really don’t need another username and password combination. Seriously, my LastPass list has over 100 logins on there, and it grows by the day.

Not hitting that sweet, sweet groove with emailing.
If you have to ask, you are probably emailing people too frequently. I can’t tell you what the right formula is for emails. What I can tell you is that Huckberry is my best go-to example of a company that does it right. They send out emails at most, once a week. They have really original products, the email is well designed and polished, and they always include a “gift”—links to interesting stories they post on their blog.

One final thought.

Sometimes, there’s a tendency to separate your communications and marketing strategy from the product when you frame that strategy. Don’t. Your product has an innate marketing component to it, and that’s viewed and used as an advantage in some of the best campaigns and strategies out there.