The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media

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The oft-discussed Seven Deadly Sins apply to Social Media as well and are worth exploring. Here’s a quick lesson to keep you from the sure perils of committing these deadly sins and making sure you get the most out of your social media campaign.

1. Vanity: Belief in yourself and your knowledge is important but tooting your own horn repeatedly is a turn off for followers. Show you brilliance and experience by sharing useful tips and not by telling everyone how great you are.

2. Envy: I hear a lot of talk from clients about someone in their industry that has a ton of followers on Twitter, or has all the top rankings tied up and the best articles on the front of Digg and the largest group on Facebook. They envy the success and the head start that individual has on them. Envying (and often resenting) the success of others isn’t going to get you where you need to go. If you come across someone that is successful, why not learn from them? See what they are doing that is making them so popular and learn a thing or two so that you can quickly build your own following as well.

3. Gluttony: Social media is not a popularity contest – it truly isn’t, at least not to the people that really understand it. Wanting the best grade from Twitter Grader, or the wanting to be noted as one of the top most people to get re-tweeted, or even wanting the highest number of followers is not what it is all about. Being greedy and always wanting more often causes people to lose focus on what matters.

Social media is a way to connect, listen, build relationships, learn, teach and if done properly it can and will help grow your business. But the person with the biggest follower list isn’t sure to take home the prize. Taking the time to build a targeted list, even if it is smaller and slower to build and then actually connecting with that list is worth so much more than a massive list that isn’t going to ever take any action.

4. Lust: We all lust after social media successes and recognition and exposure. Getting too caught up in the pleasure of what those status symbols bring us often causes us to lose focus and remember it’s not about sitting on a pedestal talking at people or even worse, down to people. You want to be down in the trenches, talking with people. Lusting after a benchmark goal that you have created for yourself is a slippery slope. You think when you finally get to 2000 Twitter followers you’ll be happy, but trust me when you get to 2000 you are just going to want 5000. Don’t get me wrong – goals are great. Strive to reach many – just remember it’s not about feeling good from reaching that number you were lusting after – it’s really about how many people you can actually connect with to see what opportunities open up for you.

5. Anger: While social media is a platform for user generated content and for us to freely speak our mind – you need to be careful spewing anger all over everyone. A good rant that is aimed at a social injustice or a company that deserves to be outted for a flaw is within the range of acceptable. To just incessantly rant about all that angers you in the world is a sure fire way to turn people off. As in life, use anger sparingly and not as the hook some people seem to think it is to create controversy and be seen as a bad ass.

6. Greed: Greed and Gluttony are very similar. Wanting it all with no regard for anything else is often the path to disappointment. I encourage ambition, creativity, success and getting the most you can out of social media – but it’s all about the mind set. If you are greedy and focused on only getting the thing you covet, you’ll likely lose focus and go about it the wrong way. Greed for followers is what makes those horrible multi-level Twitter follower programs so popular. I officially stand by the statement that I want quality followers that are interested in what I offer, stand for and say, rather than a large list that has no interest in who I am or what I do.

7. Sloth: Ahhh the deadliest of all sins. Wanting it all but being too lazy to do what it takes. You have to connect with people, you have to write good stuff, you have to stay current and you have to be willing to show up and put the effort in. Social media participation doesn’t have to consume your days but it does require thought and time.

Social media success lies in having good content, good people skills and the desire and willingness to not only talk but listen.

Yes, you can make special offers and do sales pitches but no one really wants to listen to them until they trust you as a source of information they can trust and learn from. The old and tired expression “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” has lasted the ages for a reason and it couldn’t be more true for social media.

So, stop committing sins like vanity, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth and start committing to things like:

Balance: Always balance giving and taking. Don’t be all about your agenda and your sales pitch. Balance sharing info and tips with notifying people about upcoming sales and special offers.

Connecting: Don’t’ talk at people – talk to people, talk with people. Let them get to know you, not just the brand.

Generosity: Don’t be afraid to help others and promote others. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing great tips and info by retweeting other people’s content and it really is win, win, win. My followers get the benefit of meeting new people and hearing new opinions, the other person gets more exposure and everyone is happy with me so I am likely to be remembered in the future.

Transparency: Social media, specifically Twitter is about opening up and letting people see inside. It’s about letting them know the people and not just the brand. Once they see inside and know who you are, what you offer and what you stand for they are more likely to want to do business with you.

Use social media as it was intended and you will find great success.

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing for Since 1998 Jennifer’s expertise in marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients increase revenue. Jennifer has written a downloadable book on SEO and has been published in many SEO and marketing publications. Follow Jennifer and stay current on SEO, marketing, social media and more.

Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing for – a full service SEO, Web Design & Development and Social Media Firm. Since 1998 Jennifer’s expertise in marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients increase revenue. Jennifer has been published in many SEO and marketing publications. Jennifer Horowitz is the author of Twitter Quickstart Success Training System, Blogging For Dollars, Optimization Step By Step: 2010 and more. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter at @ecombuffet. For more information on SEO, Twitter training or killer Facebook Fan Pages, contact Jennifer at
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  • David Leonhardt

    I’ve always had a problem with calling lust a sin…but in social media perhaps it is. 🙂

  • Jennifer


    So funny, I was going back and forth on that one too. I think as with most things in life, it’s a bit of a grey area. There is a darker side to lust – when it comes to social media anyway! Thanks for the comment!

  • Barry Welford

    I thought Pride should be in that list somewhere. 🙂

    Again it can go either way. Sometimes pride is a driver for doing the best you can do.

  • Adam

    Very well written. Of course, us humans haven’t avoided the seven deadly sins in everyday life, so I doubt we’ll see any progress in the online world.

    I’ve written about some of this on my Twitter Backlash blog ( and came to realize that I was just as susceptible to these sins as everyone else (why wouldn’t I be?). It’s worthwhile for all of us to take a step back from time to time and question why were are doing the things we are doing.

    Sorry to get all philosophical.

  • Bonnie Burns

    I love this Jenn. It I was to do a study on just my 6000 twitter followers, I would find that a good portion of them are breaking at least 1-3 social media sins. Very enlightening. A must read. I believe it would also make a great Lifetime Movie Network movie. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Barry, The Vanity one is also called Pride sometimes. I chose not to use Pride as the term because I think Pride is a good thing!

  • Disa Johnson

    Hi Jenn,

    Great article, good advice and really nicely done. You’ve pointed out why people should care about a quality audience on Twitter, versus playing the numbers ‘ratings game’ that too many seem to get caught up in. These thoughts apply across the board.

    Best wishes,
    Disa Johnson

  • Jennifer

    Adam, Thanks for the kind words and the link, I’ll check out your Blog. Yeah, we are all guilty of these sins. Being aware and trying to adjust things is all we can do. We can also spread the word so others are aware. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Disa – thanks! You rock!! 🙂

  • Meghan Beattie

    I love this list… it’s both hilarious and TRUE… My favorite line is, “You want to be down in the trenches, talking with people.” – Right… That is the purpose of Twitter – to truly be communicating on this level where you are not more “popular” than the next… you are the same and seeing eye-to-eye. Gluttony reminded me of the Ashton/CNN battle. Altho entertaining, defeats the purpose of Twitter. Great post – thanks!

  • David M. Chaney

    Great thoughts, Jennifer. Thanks. @CEOCXOCorner

  • Mark Rose

    Thanks for taking the time to do this. It’s all so true. It takes a lot of work to blog and sometimes we don’t get appreciated (oh, self pity).

  • Heather Lloyd-Martin


    LOVE this post! 🙂

    I’d also add “pride” – that is, folks who think that they can Tweet utter nonsense just because they have a huge following. Hey, just ’cause you have lots of followers, doesn’t mean I want to see a garbage Tweet from you every 2 minutes…

    Great job – thanks for taking the time to write this!

  • Jennifer

    David – thanks! I’m following you now! 🙂

    Mark – thanks for the comments! Ahh yes, the self pity. I’m sure all Bloggers feel it at one time or another! 🙂

    Heather – you rock! Thanks for the kind words and your input! PS Got your email, I’ll be in touch over the weekend! 🙂

  • Mel DePaoli

    AMAZING post! Great job writing it. Anyone who uses any form of social media for any type of promotion needs to read and apply what you wrote.

    A study doesnt even need to be done to see how many violate these rules, all you need to do is casually watch people’s post–it happens ALL the time!

    Great job again!
    A quick suggestion–You should put the links on your blog so people can easily share this on LinkedIn, FB, etc.

  • Sundi Jo

    Great insight. Thanks for the tips!

  • Tina in Virginia

    SPAM – that’s a deadly sin too!

  • Katrina Sherk

    Yes! Connecting and being generous! I have found the most wonderful people on Twitter – folks who give and help just to be kind and helpful. Hope many people read your post – it offers sage advice that benefits all of us!

  • Tag44

    Thanks for the post, its really very resourceful and to the point. Thanks for sharing such useful information.

  • Royce Williard

    Nice post! Thanks for sharing some great thoughts.

  • Brian Hancock

    This was amusing while also pointing out some of the current issues with social media and Twitter in particular. People literally build up thousands of followers in weeks with no specific focus – they just follow until they get banned and repeat.

    Twitter is almost akin to search in the 90s – a cesspool of spam that is difficult to wade through. When is the Google of Twitter going to emerge?

  • Regina Klapper

    I agree about quality over quantity…when I get to a page that says “get zillions of followers in one day,” I don’t pay attention to it because I doubt it’s even possible…I would have to spend all day on Twitter to write enough tweets in order to get thousands of people to follow me. For the same reason I don’t want to follow thousands of people, because I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of them. I’m finding it hard even with just 250 followers.

  • ukrainiac

    As a new twitter user (though I signed up a year ago…didn’t even know what to do!), I appreciate this post. I’m still quite a rookie — have retweeted a couple of interesting links — but I am not really sure whether twitter is meant for real conversations or simply to drive people someplace else. (Does that make sense?)

    I have discovered some very interesting sites, and I then follow those blogs or send an email, but not sure if that’s supposed to also be done right on twitter. Thoughts?

  • Sherra Scott ~ Virtual Assistant

    That sums it up very well Jennifer! This will be “retweeted”!

  • Glenn Hilton

    Love this article Jennifer! Can resonate w/ many of those sins. Think I need to go to confession now 🙂

  • Thomas

    Loved your post so much I thought about the 7 virtues of social media.

  • Jennifer

    Hey ukrainiac —

    Good questions. It depends what your goals are, but to me Twitter is always a place to connect with people – learn, teach, connect. If you want to promote your business that is OK – but you first have to establish relationships and listen to what people have to say. They will be much more receptive to any offers you have if they first know you actually care about what people are saying about your product /industry. Teaching/helping/reaching out to people is good for business and also happens to be fun.

    Retweeting is always a good idea, you can share good info that helps your followers and you show people you are here to participate and it’s not all about you.

    You can converse with people here but if it seems like it’s getting too in-depth for here then DM and exchange contact info and continue the conversation outside of Twitter. There are no rules about it – just go with what feels right.

    It’s all a little confusing at the start and there is a learning curve – just remember be authentic, engage people and pay attention to what others are doing. You can always email me if you want to talk more about any of this.

  • Jennifer

    Thomas – great post! Glad I inspired you!

  • Jennifer

    Glenn, I’ll meet at confession!

  • Dan Hutson

    I love this list. I started my blog only three months ago, and have been tweeting for a shorter time. Since the organization I currently work for as communications director isn’t ready for social media of any kind, I wanted to create a place where I could learn the tools and share with others what I’ve learned over the past 25+ years working in marketing and communications.

    Every new technology and innovation attracts the get-rich-quick and snake-oil crowd. Thanks to the negligible cost of entry and free publishing technologies on the internet, they’ve flocked here in droves.

    For those who are sincerely trying to provide a service (and make a decent living doing it), quality of relationships will always trump quantity. Social media for the MLM crowd is almost an oxymoron.

    My goal is to put something out there that is of genuine value to the niche I seek to serve. If that means I never have more than 500 or 1,000 people following me or reading my blog, I’m fine with that. As long as the people I’m connected to value what I offer, put it to use in their organizations and share it with others who (I hope) then join us, I’m good to go.

  • Jennifer Kelton

    Thanks for this! Spot on!

  • wrought iron furniture

    Thanks for the great article on the seven deadly sins of social media!