Most Businesses Get This Wrong on Social Media

Photo via: GraphicStockThere was a funny email one of my acquaintances shared on social media last week. In it, a person she didn’t know proposed marriage and then in the next sentence suggested, “Maybe we can get to know each other better.”
To any rational person this message seems out of order and out of context. Sadly, I see a lot of businesses take on this same inappropriate, rushed approach to engaging their customers or potential customers, but without the offer of a binding commitment.
Stop Proposing to Your Customers Before You’ve Met
Put simply, building a business relationship on social media is not that far removed from doing so in person. You don’t propose before you’ve met. This happens often on Twitter. The business follows someone they think might need their goods or services. The person follows back.
What this may mean to the person who follows back:
    I have a liberal follow back policy and follow anyone who’s not a bot.
   We have a few mutual followers so I want to see what you’re sharing to find out if I want to interact with you.
  You’re in my physical community.
  You might be a good fit for MY business.
   I might be interested in your product or service.

Notice only one of these options (and there are probably many more) involves an interest in what you’re selling. However, that’s not what most businesses believe it means.
What most businesses assume when they get a follow back:
S/he loves me!!!!!!!!!!!!
This assumption drives some ridiculous behavior. Here are a few common mistakes businesses do to put the proposal in front of the customer too soon:
Blast an Impersonal DM to Them
This is one of the most ill thought out strategies in social media. Let’s go back to non-virtual life for a moment. You work up the nerve to approach the person you’re interested in. You mumble out a date suggestion and to your surprise, they say yes. Then you pull out your baby album, shove it in their face and tell them you’re glad they accepted because if they took a look at your album they’d realize what beautiful babies you’d make together.
While you may think that no one would ever do that, that is exactly what you are doing when you follow up every follow with your latest e-book. You don’t know why someone is following you. It may be out of politeness or reciprocity of you following them.
Instead, pace yourself.
Content marketing, which a lot of businesses believe they are doing when they produce an e-book, is about providing content that is meaningful/valuable to your audience, in a format they will enjoy, when they are ready for it. Notice there are a whole lot of qualifications based on their preferences, not yours.
Ask Them to Share Prematurely
When you first start a relationship with someone, they are generally reticent to share with you. They don’t know you or the type of person you are. In social media, the same can be true. Don’t ask your new followers for a favor first. Instead, work to earn their interest and build a relationship based on you providing valuable information (in their eyes and on their time schedule).
Over-exaggerate the Sentiment Behind a Share
We all appreciate shares of our content. There’s a nice ego stroke in them. Some customers and followers will indulge you with extraordinary social proof of the value of your content. When someone shares your content and RTs or posts with an added compliment of “Brilliant article by…” or something similar, by all means thank them publically. You can even try and further the conversation by asking them how they feel about the topic. This may be the beginning of a terrific conversation.
But what most businesses do is “like” it and then retweet. This is fine when you’re receiving a legitimate compliment. However, a share without a compliment is just a share. While it’s still appreciated, and is appropriate to thank someone, their share is not cause for you to retweet it. Others will wonder why you are retweeting your own retweet. It looks like it’s the first and only retweet you’ve ever received.
Building a relationship on social media should follow the same social guidelines you should practice in real life:
Keep your ego in check.
Don’t make it about you. Find out what the other person wants, needs and dream about.
Take it slow and give them what they need with no expectation of return.

Be human in your interaction. See each follower not as a sale but as a person you want to get to know. Have patience and be consistent in your interactions. Retain a helpful attitude and provide them with the resources they want, not the ones you want them to have.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager’s Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.


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