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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4 Responses to “What NOT to do on LinkedIn—or other social media sites!”

  1. lpophal says:

    Thanks Tyler – yes, you make some good points and it’s interesting to hear that you’ve noticed the quick “ad response” you’re getting from your own social media interactions. Your own experiences and perspectives as a “consumer” are useful to apply when attempting to communicate with other consumers!

  2. Tyler says:

    I could not agree more with this blog post. I am all for using social media as a business tool to connect with and interact with consumers, but as you stated, some companies and organizations are taking it too far.

    The key concept I took from this post was “making a relationship “ with the consumer. Creating and building a relationship with people is the basis of social media. If that is the overall goal of businesses than they are doing this the right way and are far more likely to have success. I have been bombarded with ads almost instantaneously after connecting with someone on Linked in, or Facebook for that matter, and it really gave me a negative connotation of how the company conducts business. Rather than wanting to form a relationship I wanted to terminate one.

    Social media optimization is all about doing things for the right reasons and developing and maintaining relationships with people. By using it for marketing activities you begin to walk on a tight line in regards to consumer response. There are right ways and wrong ways to do it and this blog post is giving some very sound advice on how to do it the right way.

  3. lpophal says:

    Hi Helen – great points. I agree. Online communications principles are the same as traditional principles and making personal connections is key. Appreciate your post!

  4. Helen Kirch says:

    I agree with the ideas in your post. I think it’s important for businesses and brands to monitor how they are marketing to different groups. I personally think automated responses should never be used when trying to make a personal connection. If a brand wants to connect with me, it should be no different than a person trying to connect with me. A connection needs to be genuine and personal in order to succeed. If a person I didn’t know sent me the automated message request on LinkedIn, I wouldn’t respond. Same goes for a brand. What would connecting with you do for me?
    The same message goes for other social media. While Facebook only connects one way (consumers can “like” a brand’s page, the brand can’t “like” them back or be their friend), Twitter has the ability for a brand to follow consumers back. It’s important for a brand to follow consumers and potential consumers so that they can feel heard. Brands should sent personalized tweets to potential consumers so that they know why following back would be beneficial to them. I feel that brands are not really using twitter like this, which is a lost opportunity. People will be more likely to engage because this tactic is something they haven’t seen before that feels more genuine. Social media has the ability to personally connect with consumers like no other media can, so brands should take advantage of that to make people feel important. You’re right in the point that creating and maintaining relationships is a better way to create happy consumers than just trying to drum up business.

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