Don’t Be a Dick: How to Destroy Friendships and Your Business Through Poor Social Networking

Let’s get one thing clear up front: Your friends who assault your social news feeds aren’t stupid. They hate bad marketing as much as you do. But they’re enthusiastic. They’re putting themselves out there.

The problem is the way they do it is so irritating you want to de-friend them and petition they be banned from the internet. You aren’t stupid either. You also hate bad marketing.

You’d think that, as citizens of the internet, they too have experienced the annoying head buzz of blatant, chincy self-promotion and would swear it off, as you no doubt have done already—repeatedly.

But they’re enthusiastic, and here is the scary thing: you could become enthusiastic too.

too-much enthusiasm

One day you wake up, and you have a business opportunity. It’s great, but you have zero marketing. Pushed by the need to make a living and pulled by the desire to succeed, you turn to the place where you have the loudest voice: your social network.

And the cycle perpetuates.

Effort is noble, but there is no nobility in assaulting people with conversion demands. People must be won over thoughtfully. In social media, marketing to friends is not about getting them to engage you, but for you to engage them.

You Can Do Social Right

There is good news: you can leverage your social network to drum up business or spread the word. But it requires more than a goldfish level of aforethought. It requires a strategy that puts your audience ahead of your own needs. That’s the whole secret, right there. That, and keeping in mind that your glorious product or service is not the answer to their needs. Not in the context of Facebook.

So how do you put your audience first so you can make some money?

First consider your approach. Rather than assaulting your friends with a full frontal attack, seek to position yourself. That means that, in a way, they find you. But, that doesn’t mean being passive. You still have a lot of work to do.

What do people already like doing? Think about Facebook specifically? What actions make you smile, or interested? I’ll save us the classroom banter and hand you the one I’m looking for: celebration.

“Yay, I survived my first semester of college!” … you click “like”.

“Yay, we had a baby!” … you click “like”.

“Yay, I transferred to a better part of the company.” … you click “like”.

Now here we go:

“Yay, I officially launched my new business today! So excited!” … you click “like”.


See what I did there? It is easy to celebrate with people. It is one of the several activities we like to do. When they posted about their new company, they met your need to celebrate and you liked it. And they didn’t spoil it with a crappy commercial in the message.

Without overdoing it you could do what we sometimes call a diary entry:

“Drove by a house with a dried out lawn. Could have used the ole Cumberbatch Landscaping touch. Maybe I’ll drop them a card.”

You can also position yourself in your friends mind as an expert.

“Just a friendly reminder that this years tax laws allow for a marshmallow exemption. Carry on!”

Also, you can prove expertise by answering questions.

Notice a distinct lack of a call to action. There is a time and a place to straight up ask for someones business. Social media is not the place.

One of the best ways to get social attention is to be clever. Post a meme or interesting image and relate it to your business:

“People like this are job security to me.”

That passes what is called the “cleverness test”. The cleverness test says: will this post make someone feel smart or clever by sharing it? Here is a real life example of a post that was so clever I had to reshare it:

Cleverness test, passed.

But remember one really important thing: Don’t demean customers! This also seems obvious, but people do it, and it’s bad. Don’t do it. And consider not doing it to a potential customer either.

Also important: Don’t be a dick. (You knew that was coming at some point.) The smartphone image above was posted in the spring when everyone was thinking about warmth and travel. If you posted it in a conversation about popular smartphone apps, you’d look like a smart-ass downer. Don’t do that either.

Incentives are probably the most aggressive thing you could do without becoming an irritant, and even then you have to be careful. If you offer real value toward a good product or service, they actually pass the cleverness test.

“Refer a friend and get your next photo shoot half price.”

Milquetoast offers don’t pass the cleverness test. Especially early in your business, go extreme. Why not? If you can cover expenses, work for free some of the time! That’s not to say have crappy low prices. Have high prices that authentically reflect your true value, but also consider huge booster promotions to break the undertow of your obscurity.

“Get a coupon code for 15% off…” STOP

So Lame

Make it a real offer, and consider limiting the available quantity. That will add urgency and make the sharers feel even more clever.

Also, don’t make an offer your first move. If people feel the need to research what you’re doing first the offer will lose momentum. When you have done good positioning as I described earlier, your friends won’t hesitate to take the two seconds needed to share your offer.

Last on my list of approaches, consider soliciting input. Asking a question is a common technique of social engagement but you can put a finer point on it when it is among friends:

“Going to the trade show today: Red tie, or blue?”

Leverage Social Proof

Social proof is evidence that other people actually like your service. If you are small, avoid things like displaying total number of likes. That is actually anti-social proof. In fact, I’ve seen 12,000 likes serve as anti-social proof when competitors are boasting millions.

Zero People Like This

But, leveraging modules like the ones that let you see which friends like your page, it only takes one to speak volumes. Have you seen an ad on Facebook, accompanies with: “So-and-so and four other friends like this.” You sometimes pay attention.

This article isn’t about social proof, but it is a marketable by-product of good social marketing. One that particularly applies to your circle of friends, because they are more likely to recognize each other.

Asking for likes is another no-no. Think about it: do you like it when people ask you for likes? You don’t. Draw your friends to your page and they will decide to like it. They know how.

Force Like

Here Are the Real Secrets in List Form

So think of this as your little black book of secret ideas:

  • Celebration
  • Diary
  • Expert
  • Clever
  • Offer
  • Input

Dat Enthusiasm!

Remember that enthusiasm is good, but it must be properly channeled or you will do stupid things, make no money, and lose all your friends. There is no limit to what and how you post, but never forget the underlying mandate that the post itself (rather than the subject of the post) must serve the audience.

As a starting point, try posting one of each of the six types of posts described above.

Oh, and did I mention: SHARE THIS TO 15 FRIENDS RIGHT NOW

Are Image Sliders Good for Your Web Site?

Web professionals including myself are all guilty of riding the wave of slider popularity. When they were new, image sliders (also known as carousels) were seen as an interesting way to add life (movement) to an otherwise static web page.

They caught on quickly with business leaders who, as a species, get excited about “cool” things.

As with any design fad, the leading-edge web designers moved into new best-practice, while business leaders lag behind in their best practice knowledge. To this day it is common for them to require user interface professionals to do things in ways we now know to be outdated or ineffective. We can’t entirely blame them, as it is us that got them onboard with it back when it was considered best practice.

But sliders as they are commonly used are both illogical with current UX thinking, and quantifiably proven to be ineffective.

As the science of user experience improves, we are learning that it is more important to guide users with page content than with page structure (navigation). As we pour more and more effort into crafting the best content possible, the problem with sliders become self-evident.

As per best practice, we put the most important content at the top, “above the fold” as we say. This is content that is essential for the user to know where they are, what the site is offering, and why they should stay.

But how important is content that slides away?

It’s not.

Even if it is important…

It’s not.


Because it slides away.

Thinking along the same lines, how important is content that slides in? It’s not. Why? Because it wasn’t there to start with: other content was. Also, it too will slide away.

What content in a slider really says to the user is: this is kind-of important content that we don’t care if you see or not. And frankly users never care about kind-of important stuff.

How do we know this? User behavior research bears this out every time someone looks into it. At best people assume slide 1 is important. Response to subsequent slides is effectively nil.

So is there any use for sliders? There is: They still make sense in a gallery type setting. They also still have application in rotating backgrounds (where they aren’t acting as content per se). In fact, small sliders within content areas can be a valuable tool for observing users trying to locate certain parts of content, but that’s a topic for another article.

What should we be using instead of sliders in the “hero” area of home pages and landing pages? This is for the very most important hook. It’s for the title, supporting line, and image(s) that will keep users on your web page for the rest of your pitch. It’s definitely not content you want sliding away!


Stop Believing SEO Can Help You

People love simple solutions. It is human nature. A turnkey process that works is gold in business. There was a time when there were turnkey SEO solutions that worked.

That time is gone. The faster you realize this, the less damage you will do to yourself.

Imagine you have a speedy delivery van service. Every day your van would go 75mph down the highway to make its deliveries. Then one day the speed limit was changed to 55mph. But, knowing how well 75mph worked for you, you keep doing it.

But then you get pulled over, and a $280 fine. But you really liked how driving 75mph worked for your business, so you keep driving that speed. Every day you get a $280 fine until your license is completely suspended. Then you’re really SOL.

That is the world of SEO right now. People doing what they used to do are not just ineffective, but penalized or potentially blacklisted. This is serious stuff.

The tragedy is this news is not what a spunky CEO wants to hear. Its the internet, after all; there is no such thing as consequences on the internet. Everyone knows that, right?

Try to tell them that a link farm is a bad mistake, and they’ll cite all these “successful” companies that provide the service. Well yes, people will happily take your money. We’ve established that people love turnkey solutions. There will always be someone willing to take your money who don’t care about your reputation.

There is such a thing as Search Engine Optimization, but it doesn’t look like what it used to look like. It has evolved to be more gimmick-proof, which is good for internet users as well as companies putting out genuinely good content (and forking out money to Google). More on that later.

The bottom line is: don’t sink your own boat using methods that used to work but will now get you penalized. If you are talking to a boss or client, stress the urgency of not being penalized. In most cases being penalized by Google is not a bell that can be un-rung.

You can also talk about the need to stay current with the times, focusing on the best practice of now. Often that is even part of your job description even as they tell you to do something obsolete. Its a battle of perception vs. reality.

Assumptions Wanted: Dead or Un-Alive

In my blog post Online Content: Dogs Are Not Horses, I began by mentioning the danger of assumptions. I’m here to tell you they are more dangerous than they think.

Assumptions are not just the poison pill of outdated marketers and executives, they affect everyone, even, yes even, the social media expert! Yes, I catch myself making assumptions regarding social media content or strategy that seems intuitive to me, but I later learn is counter-productive.

Snap! Is there any hope for anyone?

The answer is in the long fancy term: mitigation. We make so many decisions and judgement calls there is no way to eliminate them. Who in any industry can achieve that? But we can educate and challenge ourselves so that we have the fewest assumptions of anyone in the room. That’s a good start.


Read. Read and read and read. Read this super-fantastic yet redundant blog. Read books with a better than 4-star Amazon rating.

Analyze. Let your reporting tools confront you. If you went down the wrong track, it’s more professional to admit (to only yourself if you’re lucky) you were wrong. Label your assumption as an “experiment” and call it conclusive: that you eliminated a possibility and are pursuing another, because you are.
It’s not always easy. There have been times I’ve looked at the statistics and started to experience the 5 stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, remorse, and acceptance. Your ability to confront your own assumptions will determine whether you are a professional in the truest sense, or a mistitled lackey. The key isn’t to always be right the first time, but to have the right response to feedback. That can require courage, but will have positive career implications for you in the long run.

Online Content: Dogs are not Horses

I see it again and again; an executive, or a manager, or a sole proprietor, making an assumption about their social media or web site content. Often they follow a pattern of logic, steeped in sometimes decades of experience and best practice. The problem is, it’s best practice in their area of expertise, not content.

Let me tell you a true story. For a couple thousand years civilization has been very focused on horses. They were for a very long time the means of getting around. When you went a-courtin, you would borrow your dad’s Mustang to impress the girls. Generally anyone who was interested in transportation knew at least a few things about horses, and probably a lot.

Now we’re in the age of the automobile, and horses, while still abundant, are the thing of niche enthusiasts. Many of these same enthusiasts also breed the higher lines of champion dogs, which led to something that negatively affects dog’s in general to this day: their quality was and sometimes is based on physical features of horses.

This illustrates a classic rift in experts. The equestrian dog breeder can point to extensive knowledge acquired over dozens of generations. The relatively new experts who explore dogs as dogs see progress in a different light. They have the advantage of specialization without equal benefits of general or multi-generational experience.

This brings us back to our crusty old marketing managers, some of them multi-millionaires, having built companies with billions in revenue, staring down an upstart web content editor with starkly different ideas. If the old school wins, you get something that is neither a dog nor a horse and everyone loses. Often this is exactly what happens, and the company deems the web and social projects as ineffective, not realizing they guaranteed that result before the project started.

The key is a mutual respect. The seasoned executives must grant the freedom and have the patience to let the professional content producer to their job according to their specializations’ best practice and strategy for maximum long-term results. Content creators should look to veteran executives and managers for business experience and understanding of their industry.