I was doing social media for a client earlier today when I came across a group of posts on LinkedIn. Almost all of them were complaining about the same thing: most of the posts on the group were overly promotional and didn’t promote real discussion.
I contemplated that and came up with a couple of answers, which I shared with the group. Why does so much of social media revolve around awkward and thinly veiled attempts at self-promotion instead of open invitations to real discussion and outreach?
First, of course, is the fact that just about everyone is on social media because they’re hoping to get some business. This happens at real live trade shows and networking events too. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that — everyone has to make a living. It’s just that all the promotion can get a bit tiring.
On the other hand, I also know it can get frustrating to constantly provide “engagement” and other indirect messages without ever being certain of what makes the phone ring and what doesn’t. I’ve had to remind myself, and clients, that to an extent it all makes the phone ring — a potential client checks your participation out on social media before calling you. They check your blog, your website, and your reviews, too. They are probably looking into all of it.
So while you can’t point to a specific social media post or blog post to say which of them got you the sale, it’s a sure bet that your chances of making that sale would have been smaller if it hadn’t been there, which means it’s really okay — you really don’t have to do much direct promotion.
Yet there’s also the problem of knowing what to say. There’s a lot of pressure! Social media has often been compared to a party. Well, at most parties you’re not told, “Now you have to make sure that every word out of your mouth is useful, informative, insightful, and sparks discussion.” No pressure or anything, right?
So what’s the result of all this pressure? A lot of awkward self-promotion. Everyone knows they have to say something, and saying something is better than saying nothing, so they’re left trying to push their services as the only alternative to staying silent.
Saying something is better than saying nothing. Still, you don’t have to stay stuck in that mode forever.
For example, you don’t always have to be the one starting the discussions. This takes a lot of the pressure off of you, especially if you can’t think of anything to talk about.
Instead, you can respond to other people’s discussions. People do post honest questions. Go ahead and answer them. They post requests for website reviews. Go ahead and review their websites for them. Why not? They post their own blog posts — it’s okay to go right ahead and comment. Say what you liked about it. These people are used to hearing crickets chirp every time they speak. The fact that you’ll take the time to say something will be appreciated. You will be seen as a positive contributor to their little community — and should you have a really good blog post to promote or a discussion to start, you can expect to get more attention for it, too.
Get into the habit of checking in each day. Sometimes you might not find a thing to say as you read over what everyone else has had to say. Other times you might find that you’ve found the perfect place to make a comment.
You DO have something to add. And people will appreciate you for adding it.
Don’t pressure yourself to put out X number of Tweets per day, X number of comments, and X number of group discussions. It just doesn’t work that way. A party isn’t formulaic and your social media participation shouldn’t be, either.
Sooner or later you’ll find yourself relaxing and having fun — and that’s when you’ll stop coming across as a robot only interested in making your next sale. At that point, your social media posts will stop sucking, and you’ll start to see the positive results you were hoping to see when you got involved with these outlets in the first place.