A short diatribe on Social Media pitfalls and pet peeves

This entry was posted by on Friday, 19 February, 2010 at

You all know I am active in the social media world, both personally and professionally. You also know I have opinions and I am not shy about them. I’d like to take some time here to discuss a few missteps I often see in the various social networks which may cause you more harm than good if you are trying to build or maintain relationships in these spaces:

1. Don’t shout… converse! Social networks are not your personal advertising stream, they are ways to connect with others of similar interest and build relationships which you may not have otherwise had the opportunity for. This means engaging in conversations with your network; listening AND speaking. Twitter is not a bullhorn, Facebook is not a one way street. If you are looking to use these sites to their advantage, you MUST stop shouting your message and take the time to listen to your audience; begin engaging in conversations around your space, and soon you will find that perfect cadence which your audience is looking for.

What does this mean in more concrete terms?
For Twitter, it means you need to watch your follow list and absorb what is being talked about. It means putting out your opinion and ideas about other’s updates. It means taking a look at your own feed and not seeing one way posts just pushing out your message, but rather seeing @replies and discussions occurring.

For Facebook, it means replying to comments left on your updates. It means commenting on other’s updates. I am sure you can extrapolate this all for other networks as well… the key is to engage in dialog; after all, networking is a two way street.

2. Provide context to your updates! Without any context, many updates lose all their value. Imagine an update that only says “Wow, what a busy day!”, where’s the value there? Ok, I can surmise that you are having a busy day and may not have time to talk to me about something trivial. But imagine how much more value that update would have carried had some context been applied like “BUSY DAY! Working on new social media strategies”. Now I can see that you are indeed busy, but more importantly your project may be something I can help with or would be interested in seeing the results from, even reusing it if appropriate; so I may tweet back “@you Hey! I’d love to help or see what you come up with, let’s collaborate!”… and bingo, now we’ve got a conversation and possibly even lightened our collective workloads by collaborating.

Too many times have I seen Facebook status updates similar to: “worst day EVER!” or “Not sure I can handle this”, with no further context. Not surprisingly, there are often somewhere between 5 and 20 comments on that status, all effectually asking the same question back: “What’s going on?”. Rarely, however, do I see the original poster reply back with any explanation of the context surrounding the first update. This leaves all their friends in the lurch, so to speak, reaching out to try and help, but without context there is no way to know what anyone could do. Now imagine that same update as”Not sure I can handle changing my tire on the freeway”. Immediately friends can identify something tangible to assist with, and the poster may even see a comment come back like “tell us where you are and we’ll pick you up” or “I have AAA, and will call a truck for you”.

Context, my friends, is important. It can mean the difference between radio silence from your followers, and an overwhelming flow of support helping you do things you never knew you could accomplish. Really, the line between the two is so small, it may just be the difference of a single word in your update that opens the floodgates of conversation or assistance.

3. When someone asks a question; reply. I hit on this in number two, but it bears repeating and being called out on its own. If someone comments on your update or @replies to one of your tweets, do the courtesy of replying. Even if the reply is “I don’t know”, at least you will be engaging in conversation and showing that you are listening to your friends and followers. This also goes back to number one as well, where if you aren’t replying, you are in that paradigm of shouting your message and telling your followers that you’re not listening to them. By not replying, your followers will begin to think that you aren’t interested in conversation, that you’re only interested in pushing out your message. If your followers get to that point, you’ve just lost any benefit you may see from playing in the social media spaces, and even worse, will likely begin losing followers to the point where the audience for your message has dwindled to completely ineffectual levels.
The net result of this: if you ignore your followers, they’ll ignore you.

2 Responses to “A short diatribe on Social Media pitfalls and pet peeves”

  1. I totally agree with everything you’ve stated. Many of my friends leave cryptic status updates that seem to beg for a fishing of comments. The down side to this is oversharing. I consider social media to be a giant party, I don’t broadcast anything on my status bars that I wouldn’t proclaim in a public setting. Generally, I don’t air my dirty laundry in public and chose to keep my social media interaction light, fun and engaging. Anything personal is taken off-line. Oh, and don’t drunk update…that’s serious bad news.

  2. Yes, there is indeed a NEED for balance… there are things I simply don’t care to know about others, and things I don’t care to share about myself. I try to lead a transparent life nowadays, as I have found that works for me, but still, transparency doesn’t mean I share everything 🙂
    At the same time, I try and update in ways that can elicit conversation or add to other conversations. And like you, Holly, I also take the giant party approach, as it is the best and safest tack to take when you don’t know who may be reading…. best to just assume anyone can read and post accordingly.

    And thanks for the comment! It is very nice to see when others agree or disagree with what I’ve written. Helps me feel that even when wrong, I can still bring value to this space.


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