I’m a big believer in the power of social media and I’m not just saying that because I’m ‘in marketing’. I’m saying it because I know for a fact that social media works if you know how to use it and, most importantly, measure it. That’s because I can honestly say that my business wouldn’t be at the stage it’s at if it weren’t for social media, the way I’ve used it and the fantastic people I’ve connected with as a result.
There are lots of books, websites, blog posts and training courses available that tell you what to do, but this blog post focuses on what not to do. Not least to vent my own frustrations, but also to educate those who are new to social media and to prevent mistakes that can put off followers/fans/connections and, most importantly, to ensure that they’re ultimately benefitting their business. I’d also like those who commit the sins I’m about to single out to reconsider how they’re using social media.
The post came about when I had an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. They did 2 things that made me angry – they said I was a friend when we’ve never met and they sent me a message selling me a ‘business opportunity’. Both annoyed me and I declined the invitation to connect. I considered sending them a message back telling them why I didn’t want to connect and I will do this next time. This led me to write this in case anyone thought this was an ‘OK’ thing to do.
So here are my (you may have more) 5 cardinal sins of social media (and here I’m talking Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn):
- Sell sell sell – I tell you what: there’s nothing more annoying than people who pipe up during a discussion on LinkedIn or DM (Direct Message) you on Twitter to sell to you. This can be during a discussion where somebody has asked for some advice. I can tell you that in most cases this isn’t an invitation to sell to them. The best thing you can do is offer advice to raise your profile and look like a helpful person to know. That’s how you earn respect. Platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn are not, to most people, a place to sell. They are a place to connect with potential customers (amongst other targets), interact with them, get them to trust, respect and like you, in the hope that they’ll think of you later. Sorry if you thought otherwise – it’s just the way it goes. Just remember that the best policy is around 80% interaction, helpfulness and ‘you’ VS 20% sales (perhaps even less of the sales). Surprised?
- Potty mouth – I can admit to swearing now and again. I’m not proud of it and I wouldn’t do it in front of my grandparents, never mind potential or current clients. There are some people who use Twitter, in particular, who swear a lot and if they’re on as themselves then that’s fine by me – it’s obviously just how they express themselves. However, if you’re on there as a respresentative of your business, or even if you’re on there as yourself, just think about who could be watching. Sure we all do it, but swearing can offend some people and put them off buying your services or even wanting to follow you in the first place. Is it worth it or can you express yourself in some other way?
- Automation and ‘lazy tools’ – Again, I’m talking Twitter in particular. There are some really useful tools that let you automate your account to some extent. You can have a DM automatically sent to all new followers, you can schedule your tweets while you’re working/on holiday/sick, you can use over 140 characters and have a link to the whole tweet or you can use tools that automatically find and follow people for you. All of these can be useful and I’d say can work for some people and have their place. However, if your stream is full of links, people have to continually go via a link to see the whole thing or your auto-DM is just too ‘salesy’, you run the risk of being unfollowed or not being followed at all. Make sure you mix it up a bit and interact as much as you can and take a look at your timeline – what would you think if you looked at it?
- Poor spelling/grammar – Now I know we’re not all fantastic at English, but if you’re trying to present yourself professionally to others it’s important to at least use a spell checker. If your spelling and grammar are really poor, perhaps consider other forms of interacting with people in your network, such as in person at networking events. Platforms such as LinkedIn are particularly important as it’s essentially a way for you to network as a professional and, although people aren’t generally on there to judge, first impressions really count. Equally, if you’re continually using text talk or poor English on tweets which makes them hard for your followers to understand, they’ll be skipped over and off their timeline before they can see how it relates to them.
- Don’t be a spammer – If, for instance, you have a business page on Facebook, you have the option to post up messages to your fans letting them know of special offers, success stories or new services. That’s great and a good way to keep the interest going. However, if you do this too often, there’s a good chance you’ll get your posts hidden or even lose fans. Not so great. Another thing that can get people’s goat is when someone tweets something like ‘We’ve got nearly 500 followers, please follow us’. I have to remind you that if someone sees that THEY’RE ALREADY FOLLOWING YOU! Sorry, but that one really gets on my wick!
Phew. I feel a lot better now. Hopefully this has been of some use to you. I try not to be negative in my posts but sometimes I feel these things need saying for the ‘greater good’. Social media sites are fantastic tools for businesses large and small and if used well they can provide great business benefits.
If you have any more gripes, annoyances or would like to vent your social media frustrations, then feel free to comment.
Until next time…