In today’s world of digital marketing, it’s easy to get stuck in a Me Me Me rut without even realizing it. Are you following the 80/20 rule and spirit of serving others, or are you the “ask not what I can do for you but what you can do for me” person?
Every day in social media or some backchannel, friends and colleagues share Bad Pitches and Examples of poor netiquette. From really extreme examples of post-networking matchmaking cattlecalls to mild outreach misses where a person strings 25 tweets in a row to blast promote themselves, it’s clear people have figured out how to use social media for self-promotion, and equally clear they don’t really understand how to use it well and successfully.
Here’s the bottom line rule: if you wouldn’t do it in person, you shouldn’t do it on the Internet.What does that mean?
It means the same guidelines of polite communication you use every day are in play online.
Here are five classic mistakes I frequently see in digital marketing and better methods to achieve your online goals.
1. Big favor out of the blue
I can’t imagine walking up to a mere acquaintance I rarely (or never) speak with in order to ask them to do me a big favor. So why do people do this in social media? They shouldn’t. Although the rules are a little looser online because we generally foster loose connections and acquaintances, it still doesn’t mean it’s okay to blast every member of your network with a request to work for you and help you achieve your goals.
Better method: Invest the time to foster relationships with friends and allies in your network. Support them and their efforts consistently. Be a good connection, and citizen. Then, if the day comes you need to ask for support, you’ve got a ready-to-roll group who can support you.
2. Random and confusing request
We’ve all received that online equivalent of “lookee what I did!!” It’s cute when it’s your kid with a sweet drawing to pin up on the refrigerator. It’s not at all cute when it’s a random connection making a confusing request. Who is this person, and why do they think I should pin their drawing on my fridge? Or worse, some outreaches neglect to actually state the request, as if this sort of skirts how awkward and rude they’re being by not outright saying what they expect from you. Hint: nope.
Better method: Make sure who you contact is an okay person to contact, and that you’re using a method of contact that’s good for them. Be personal and clear. Let them know why you’re contacting them specifically (as in why this will interest them), share any upside for them, and be clear about what you’re asking. Keep the ask realistic! Then make it as easy as possible for them, such as sharing details they can use.
3. Putting a person on the spot
Oh that awkward infuriating moment when you’re publicly included in an effort or asked to do something. All eyes are on you and you don’t want to be boorish, even though you’re in this position because of boorishness. Or, that moment when a friend asks a favor but it’s something you’re not comfortable with. Nobody enjoys this, and yet we do it frequently in social media.
Better method: Keep big asks private and individual. Do let friends know they can opt out with no hard feelings, if necessary. Keep your ask reasonable, and employ every polite persuasion you’d use face-to-face. Although we rely heavily on body language to refine our communication with others in person, we lack that online. So you have to very careful and artful when making a request for yourself.
4. Just a face in a crowd
I can tell when I am lumped in a big, random, every person outreach blast. Just because you have my name doesn’t mean I’m on board with everything you’re doing, or have any bridge whatsoever to the rest of the people you know. Don’t be the pearl-clutcher who walks up to a fellow twin set person and assumes this is someone who wants to hear and will agree with a snobby sentiment. Know your community…as individuals.
Better method: With modern tools and social media, it’s very simple to know when someone is on the same page as you. Do some due diligence if you need to do a broad outreach, and ensure you are reaching out to the right people. Then make sure you do it the right way (see numbers 1-3 and read number 5 twice).
5. Wham bam…not even a thank you ma’am
Suppose you do everything right in 1-4. You’re a rock star at community building and the spirit of sharing, serving, and reciprocity. Do you take the time to express appreciation and gratitude? Probably the biggest thing commonly missing from a social media outreach plan is the follow-up.
Better method: Track the shares and support you receive, and follow-up with those who made an effort on your behalf. Express your gratitude and let them know how well things went towards achieving your goal. Give credit where it’s due: to those who helped you.
Use the same courtesy and artful communication online that you do in person. I can hear the rolled eyes and DUHs from here. And yet, like I said, I see examples every single day that fail this. Then folks are confused and angry about why social media isn’t working, is failing them.
The fail doesn’t lie in social media itself; the failing result is because their communication is out of balance in some way. They’re too focused on what they want to get out of social media and from their communities. Focus instead on making yourself a valuable asset within social media, a resource to the individuals in your communities and networks.