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”.

likelikelike

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:

Husband-fix-fail-4
“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


Google Plus is a PR Fail

Recently Google made headlines when it began requiring people to post comments on Youtube from their Google+ accounts (and if you didn’t have one, why of course you should make one). This week they made news again by showing the first signs of merging their second most popular service, Gmail, with one of their least popular services, Google+.

The internet has no shortage of reactors and detractors, or people grandstanding about using cookie tricks or changing to alternate services entirely.

haterz

Personally I find Google’s moves to be predictable, inevitable, and welcome. Here’s why:

Let’s talk about inevitable. Since before 2007 Microsoft realized that it had numerous various products which would serve their customers better if they were horizontally integrated. Hotmail started working like Outlook, Outlook like Hotmail, then for a less specific master account they created Live. Now you can sync your Microsoft Live account between your Windows 8 log in, your browser, your Bing search, your e-mail, your cloud.

What you’re seeing with Google now is simply the same. They have all these disconnected services: Gmail, Maps, Youtube, Search, Drive, Chrome, Chrome OS, and Android. It makes perfect sense to do what Microsoft did and unify these under one master-type account. Enter Google+.

But *how* Google+ entered the market is not one of Google’s bright spots. The original social media offering was limited, buggy, and awkward. I think this may have been the result of Google’s development model, which is to shape their services based on intense user feedback, versus Microsoft which tends to stack it’s teams with mega-experts like the New York Yankees (with some of the resulting conflicts of the Yankees too).

Those models generally mean that Microsoft puts a strong product out front, but is limited in it’s response to customer input. Google on the other hand, tends to put a weak product out front then innovate aggressively based on feedback. The Google method can lead to a great product, but with a tarnished reputation.

And in my opinion that is what we have with Google+. After a few years of aggressive improvements, it’s now a stellar social platform. I prefer it over Facebook hands-down, and I was not an early adopter.

I prefer it over Facebook hands-down, and I was not an early adopter.

Now that they are connecting their services, I’m afraid Google is again taking a PR hit. I don’t feel like they’re really selling it to the public like Microsoft did.

But people need to realize, it is unreasonable for a company to keep it’s services disconnected from each other. And it’s especially ironic that some of the people complaining about Google’s moves are the same people taking advantage of Microsoft Live. And don’t even get me started on Apple ID.

I think Google is currently in an awkward pinfeathers stage as it gradually molts into a unified product. While that happens, people will continue to react.


Who Really Has Time for Social Media in the Professional World?

Before you’ve tried it, it sounds easy. You just sit down, maybe even with a service like Hootsuite, configure your company Facebook page and schedule a couple posts. No sweat, right?

But then you notice, the posts kind of look alike and, a week later, they’re getting no attention.

So you up the game a little bit, do some googling, see what’s trending in cat pictures, and before you know it you spent an hour writing one post.

Out of a new sense of panic you find a Youtube video and a meme to fill out your schedule. Still, little or no interest generated in your audience.

But you are a professional: You have customers to keep happy. So Facebook takes a back seat while you do what puts food on the table. A month later you’re talking to another professional and Facebook comes up in the conversation. With the mental image of the whopping 3 likes on your company page (two being you and your spouse) you say, “Yeah I tried that, but it didn’t really work.”

From that moment on, if you see a local business with 3,000 likes or even a major company with over half a million likes, you feel a twinge of resentment. How can they do it? You think. It has to be their big budget. You console yourself. But then you read an article in a trade magazine and,  oh great, there is a sole-proprietor in your industry that has 30,000 likes and booming business. HOW?!?!?

If you want to be on a success trajectory in your social media. you have two perfectly legitimate choices:

1, you could take the time to educate yourself more on how to do your own successful social media, and carve out some time to organize yourself and establish a production rhythm.

Or 2, you could hire it out.

You may have just read number 1 and said ‘that’s time I don’t have.’ then read number 2 and said ‘…and that’s money I don’t have.’ I’m here to tell you you’re wrong on both points.

I can tell you you’re wrong because I’m not making a bent penny from this blog post.

First of all, you can do it yourself if it is really a priority. That means doing some reading, organizing some content sources, and preparing set time to write and schedule content and to reply to interaction. Also a must is a small budget for promotion. You would be amazed how far even $50 per month can take you.

Regarding contracting out to an agency, it will still require some of your time and attention. There is no getting away from the fact that your business is the topic of the content and that you will have to provide some information and maybe photos to an agency. However an agency is well trained and methodical, they have content curation, they have brand monitoring, they have fancy software, they have content specialists who are pretty fast at delivering quality content, and they know social  media really well and usually have the numbers to prove it.

Hiring out doesn’t eliminate the need for you to make some of your own posts, or respond to interaction, but it takes the heavy lifting off your shoulders and usually grows your following at an optimal rate.

How much it costs depends on your budget. There are definitely recommended budgets, and you will get more when you spend more, but often a service plan can be tailored to your budget. Think about $500 per month as a starting place. If you can commit $500-1000 additional for campaigns, it would be money well spent.*

*Obviously I can’t speak for any agency. Prices and quality may vary substantially. I know at least one agency that recommends $9,000 per month. Again it is money well spent but not many small businesses can afford that. Don’t be ashamed of a small budget. Agencies balance their time over several clients.

As a side note, if you are tempted to try an agency for just one month. They have heard that a hundred times, and they will tell you what they have told everyone else 100 times. You can do that, but social media is relationship building. A short run is more like 3-6 months. Social scales exponentially, so by using them for one month or two you are actually robbing yourself of the highest value months.

So now like any smart businessman you’re thinking, $500 per month for three months, plus one big campaign… $2,500. If you’re starting to think you could hire someone part time for minimum wage for the same money, abort thought! Remember that in hiring an agency they are trained, researched, practiced, have professional accountability and development, and are tooled up.

The time lost in finding your unqualified worker, setting them up on a computer, and them getting up to speed to the extent that your social media is on a positive trajectory (if that ever happens) will be to the tune of weeks if not months.

Agencies want to retain your business just as you want to retain your customers. They will do their level best to return value for your investment because they want to keep you as a customer.
It doesn’t matter which route you take, so long as your actions are substantial enough to yield real returns. Anything short of that is indeed “not working for you.”

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How to Not Use Social Media

So you don’t have time to maintain a social media effort for your business? If so, the worst thing you can do is simply ignore it. Someday you will employ social media, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. What you don’t do now can negatively affect what you do later on.

1. Secure Your Brand

Make certain you claim your company name. On Facebook this means more than setting up a company page, you need 30 “likes” in order to claim a vanity URL (e.g. www.facebook.com/your_company). Get some friends or colleagues together and do a little 24hr “like bomb”, then claim your vanity URL. Who knows, if it goes well you might decide it’s time to launch into social media anyways. Don’t forget Google+ and others: To see what is available on what sites, use a tool like namecheck.com.

There is a risk-management aspect to this too. Sometimes competitors decide it is a great idea to hijack your brand. Unless you have an actual registered trademark brand, it will be nearly impossible to reverse it, and even if you do, you’ll pay out some billable hours to your attorney.

2. Keep your directory info up to date

Even if you don’t make a single post, make sure your about information and contact information is up to date. This is to protect yourself from your customers having a negative experience.

And that’s it. Just two things. It will require a little time, but there is too much risk in doing nothing.