What NOT to do on LinkedIn—or other social media sites!

We’ve been fairly active in social media for quite some time and manage several accounts for our own marketing efforts and to experiment with techniques that we can use to help boost clients’ awareness levels and levels of engagement online. We’ve reached that point where it is more common for people to reach out to us to connect than it is for us to be actively seeking new connections. To manage our connections, we have some guidelines in place to determine whose invitations to connect we accept and whose we ignore.

While, we do much of our business regionally, or nationally, we do also often work with local clients. One of our criteria for accepting invitations to connect is that the individual represents a potential prospect business opportunity or collaborator. With this in mind, I recently accepted an invitation from a local independent healthcare provider from the area to connect on LinkedIn. Within literally seconds of doing so I receive a direct message filled with promotional information about the business’ service offerings. Clearly an automated response.

Now, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with automated responses—we selectively use them for ourselves and our clients at times—what was wrong with this response was that it was a marketing response, rather than a legitimate attempt to form a relationship.

Yes, social media is a marketing tool. However—and this is a very important however—if more of your online interactions are focused on drumming up business for yourself or promoting your products and services than about engaging with others to form ongoing relationships, you’re making a major mistake. If you’re doing this, what is likely to happen is exactly what happened with the local business person who attempted to connect with us on LinkedIn—we immediately “disconnected.”

That may not be a big deal in the larger scheme of things; after all, there are a lot of people out there to connect with. What is more of a big deal, though, is the impact of this marketer’s actions on their brand and reputation. This interaction did not leave a positive impression. Quite the contrary. And, particularly in this case, where the individual’s likely market area is local, that can be a big deal. Further, in this case, the individual was attempting to promote B2C (business to consumer) services on a B2B (business to business) social media site. Wrong audience. Wrong platform. Wrong approach.

Social media is not about rabid marketing – it’s about building relationships; marketing, yes, but in a more subtle way. Developing a relatively anonymous bad reputation on social media sites is bad enough, but doing so in your local community is not so anonymous and  not likely to help build the kind of reputation this individual is hoping for. While this individual’s actions may be more misguided and naive, than nefarious, they provide a good example of what NOT to do when attempting to connect with people online.

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