Watch any recent superhero movie and you’ll hear the adage, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That certainly applies to the power of social media. Use it wisely and you move closer to your business goals. Misuse it and you risk appearing to your peers – and to potential business prospects – like a social media jerk. This article originally appeared on lightningstrikestudios.com. If you’re reading it anywhere else, it’s stolen. Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are six ways to avoid being a jerk on social media. (We’re going to focus on LinkedIn and Twitter, but the principles apply wherever you interact with people online.)
1 – Don’t try to trick people into following you
Here’s a common strategy for building a follower base on Twitter: First, you follow a bunch of people. Since some people automatically follow back anyone who follows them, at least some of those people will follow you. But since you want to keep your follower-to-following ratio high (supposedly it looks better) you unfollow anyone who hasn’t followed you back within a couple of days, at which time you repeat the process with a fresh batch of prospects.
While this strategy works – it can quickly increase your follower count – it also shows that you don’t really care about the people you follow. Instead, only follow people you really want to follow, and don’t worry about whether they follow you back or not.
The process on LinkedIn is a little different. LinkedIn allows you to send connection invitations to individuals whom you would like to have in your network. The problem is, some people send these out randomly to people they don’t really know and who don’t know them. Instead, send connection invitations to people with whom you already have at least a casual relationship. If you must send an invitation to someone you’ve never met, give them a reason to accept. Include a message introducing yourself and explaining why you want to connect and how it might benefit them.
Focus on earning followers and connections by posting valuable content. Will it take longer to build your numbers? Absolutely, but those who do follow you or connect with you will be more valuable, doing so out of a genuine interest in your content, rather than from a knee-jerk follow-back reaction.
2 – Don’t tag people for no reason
On most platforms, when you post a message you can include another user’s handle or username. They then receive a notification that they’ve been tagged or mentioned. You might do this because your post originated with them or refers to them. Or you may tag someone because you sincerely believe the post will interest them and you want to draw them into the conversation.
Don’t tag people just to get their attention in the hope they’ll follow you or share your post. If you tag someone, make it plain in your comments why you’re tagging them.
Recently, someone used my Twitter handle in one of their posts, thanking me. How nice! Except … I had had no previous contact with this person. I wasn’t following them and they weren’t following me. I had nothing to do with what they posted, nor had I ever expressed any interest in it. They tagged me – apparently – simply to get me to follow them. It didn’t work.
3 – Don’t misuse direct messages
Imagine you have just met someone at a conference and exchanged business cards. A few minutes later you receive an automated phone call prompting you to buy their products. Would you appreciate it? Probably not.
Twitter and LinkedIn – as well as many other platforms – allow you to send private messages to your contacts. There can be many legitimate reason for these. Perhaps you want to set up a meeting. Maybe you’re exchanging contact information and you don’t want to make it public. Some people, however, use this facility to send automatically generated messages trying to get the recipient to subscribe to their newsletter, read their blog, or buy their products.
Like automated phone calls, these messages are simply annoying. If you send a direct message, take the time to write it yourself. Make it personal. You’ll be more likely to get a response.
4 – Don’t dox people
Doxxing is the practice of publishing someone’s personal information online without their consent. Besides being illegal in some jurisdictions, it’s downright rude. People value their privacy and if they wanted to post their home address, phone number, and other personal information online, they would.
If you dox someone, don’t be surprised if you discover business prospects no longer trust you.
5 – Don’t spam your followers
Look at the social media streams of some people and all you’ll find is post after post hawking their services. While it’s fine to use these platforms to promote your business – that’s one of the main reasons for their existence – if that’s all you do you’re not giving people a reason to follow you.
How much of your content should be promotional? The 80/20 rule is a good place to start. 80% of your posts should be value content – content that informs, educates, and engages – while 20% should promote your brand or business. And if you can make that 20% engaging as well, so much the better.
6 – Don’t expect everyone to agree with you
You have an opinion on an important subject, perhaps something related to your business, or maybe some current social or political topic burning up the airways. If it’s the latter, your business social media stream probably isn’t the best place to discuss it. But even if it’s the former – directly related to your business – you need to be careful how you address it.
Don’t expect everyone to agree with you, and don’t resort to insults, threats, or other abuse to get your point across. Doing so just makes you look immature and ignorant. And who wants to do business with someone like that?
Keep your online conversations respectful and professional. Disagree without being disagreeable.
Use your power wisely
Social media can be a powerful business tool, but using it properly takes time. It can be tempting to take shortcuts, and in some cases it makes sense. You may manage to increase your number of followers or gain new clients. But take the wrong shortcuts and you risk alienating the very people you’re trying to attract. Good manners, on the other hand, may slow the process, but you’ll form stronger relationships and, in the long run, be further ahead.
At LightningStrike Studios, one of the services we offer is managing your social media presence. When we do so, we’re careful to avoid tactics that could undermine your reputation and make you look like a social media jerk. If you’d like us to help you manage your online presence, contact us.