Social media is a giant cocktail party. I am not the first person to point this out, as the existence of this book would suggest (I haven’t read it but since the author’s title confirms my opinion, I am inclined to believe it’s brilliant). I recently attended an interesting presentation at the Business Innovation Factory by Francois Gossieaux, author of The Hyper-Social Organization: Eclipse Your Competition by Leveraging Social Media. His main theme was that in order to successfully leverage web 2.0, you need to understand human 1.0. According to Gossieaux, businesses should worry less about what the latest and greatest technology can do and think more about the fundamental human behavior it can facilitate. He argues that humans are instinctively social creatures and the same basic principles apply online as they do in face-to-face interactions. I could not agree more. Yet so many social media marketing efforts ignore common courtesy and exhibit behavior you couldn’t get away with at a cocktail party. I must admit I am guilty of committing some of these sins myself, but hey, we are all still learning the best way to play in the world of social media, aren’t we? Here are five personality types that are sure to ruin the party.
1. The Blowhard
Nobody likes the guy who only talks about himself and never asks you a single question. Yet this is the way many companies interact with their customers, like a lunatic standing on a chair shouting into a megaphone about how great they are. Would you do this at a cocktail party? No, so don’t do it on the web. Traditional marketing (think TV advertising) relied on this one-way approach because that is the only form of communication the technology enabled. Social media facilitates a two-way conversation. Respect your consumers’ intelligence, time, and opinion. Create content that is interesting, entertaining, and engaging. Listen to their response and then react accordingly. It’s give-and-take. These are the elements that make for good conversations at a party and they all apply online. Don’t be the lunatic standing on the chair with a megaphone.
2. The Creeper
Picture this: you attend a party, have a few drinks, eat a few appetizers, and generally enjoy yourself. Two days later you get a phone call from a number you don’t recognize. You answer and a strange voice says “You don’t know me, but I was watching you at the party. I noticed you drank gin and tonic and were a big fan of the chicken skewers. Let’s get together some time.” If you are like most people, you would decline this invitation and probably wonder how they even got your phone number. This is essentially what companies do when they aggressively push themselves on consumers who have not asked to be engaged.
3. The Flake
It would be considered very rude to wander away from somebody in the middle of a face-to-face conversation. Yet, this is what companies often do online when they write a blog, release a video, or send out a tweet and then do not bother to respond to customer comments. This would be like clinking your glass to interrupt the party, telling everyone the hilarious tale of your recent unfortunate incident with a skunk, then making a beeline for the exit and driving away. If consumers are commenting on your content, then take the time to respond.
4. The Cornerer
I have a friend who is a great person to hang out with one-on-one but not my favorite person to attend a party with because of their tendency to attach themselves at the hip and talk my ear off, making it difficult for me to converse with anyone else. It’s important to give people some space. In terms of social media, this means avoiding the urge to constantly bombard them with push marketing. One of my most satisfying online activities is unsubscribing from email blasts. To be honest, there are an extremely small number of things in life I want to get updates, offers, and reminders about on a daily basis. Your business probably isn’t one of them. Determine when and how your target would appreciate hearing from you, and limit it to those occasions.
5. The Pull String Toy
There are some people who seem fascinating the first few times you meet them… until you realize the first four stories they told you are the same ones they tell over and over again. Once you realized it’s a canned spiel, you get tired of listening to it pretty quickly. The same is true when companies promote the same content ad nauseum. The story gets old pretty fast. Similarly, an auto-response is a major turn off as well. The best social media campaigns constantly provide fresh value.
Don’t be one of these types, whether in person on online.
Chris Dolan is a Business Innovationist at Creative Realities, Inc. the innovation management collaborative. You can follow him on Twitter @theChrisDolan.