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Stop Behaving Badly on Social Media!

Stop Behaving Badly on Social Media!

I’m a noise musician.  For those of you not familiar with the genre, that means my band, Grasshopper , caters to a very small audience who likes to describe the music using phrases like “f***** up inharmonious horns” and “a windspiel made of knives”.  You may wonder how this relates to social media… well, I’ve learned a lot about how to social media works via my experiences in the noise scene.

The noise scene is small… very small.  If we treat the guy who invited us to play in his basement the way most SEOs treat their followers, subscribers, etc, word would get around and within a week we’d stop getting offers.  No more sitting in the back of a cargo van for 4.5 hours to play for $40, a spot on the floor to unroll a sleeping bag and a home-cooked vegan dinner.

Social media is a lot like the noise scene… very small and very, very ready to spread the word about being mistreated.  Only difference is your Twitter followers reach much further than you do, and once the damage is done you can’t possibly hit everyone who heard the bad news.

A Guide to Human Interaction

SEO has become inextricably tied to social media.  It isn’t just about title tags and H1s anymore.  Anyone can read SEOmoz’s Beginner’s Guide and execute near professional on-site optimization.

What separates the pros from the blog trollers is an understanding of how to create a favorable experience for human beings, and social media is a huge part of that.

If people like you and your website, they will probably tell other people and those people will tell even more people.  Do a good job and you’ll get those coveted relevant editorial links we all want so badly.

We all understand this logic intuitively, yet we continue to treat people ways we wouldn’t want to be treated ourselves.  The Guy Kawasaki keynote at SES epitomized the kind of transactional behavior we all pretend to hate, yet are at one point or another guilty of.  He suggested a number of tools for automating the process and, for all intents and purposes, talked up the merits of spamming your followers.

Social media is easy.  There’s only one rule: Before you act, ask yourself “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end?”

Here are three simple steps towards avoiding bad social media behavior.

Step 1: Develop Better Metrics for Success

We aren’t all jerks, but early on clients set up bad ways of measuring success and we didn’t speak up. Businesses love numbers and quick results, which is why only one metric mattered from day 1… number of group members, followers, subscribers, etc.

In an agency, the only thing that matters is making clients happy.  When they want numbers, you get them numbers quickly, which means mass friending with little to no pre-qualification.  Clients are happy, but your followers feel used and end up with negative brand associations.

The first step for a successful social media campaign is setting the expectation that building a social media presence takes time and the number one metric for success is engagement.  Engagement hinges on your identifying where your target users congregate (hint: it might not be Twitter or Facebook), seek out influential players and create content that encourages them to get involved.

Track the discussion, website referrals and backlinks because ultimately that’s what your going to have to show to prove success.  If you can successfully redefine what a social media campaign means, you won’t be forced to follow people until they want to kill you… speaking of killing you.

Here’s an interesting, yet overlooked case study for a nearly indefensible product.  I hate the stuff, but @HiFrucCornSyrup recently sent me a witty, self-deprecating @ message after I said something disparaging about a new pro-corn syrup ad campaign.

Even with all the public uproar about this thick dark syrup and corn subsidies, they’ve managed to get almost 800 followers and engage in mostly 2-way conversations.  It’s not @ComcastCares, but they are doing a damn good job of promoting one of the most hated products in the world.

Step 2: Quit Being a Nervous Host

This one is relatively easy and follows from Step 1, but it’s going to scare both you and your clients.  Start a conversation and back off.  The key to social media success is guiding the conversation, not controlling it.

Recently, I saw a discussion forum on a product site that wouldn’t let you add topics.  Not going to name names, but your only option was to talk about how much you loved the product in question.  This kind of control is a great way to guarantee that no one will talk about you.  It would have been better to seed a discussion by saying something controversial about their own product and watch as the dialogue unfolded.

The key is to not over-participate while maintaining control.  There’s really no good way to teach this, but use your common sense and resist the urge to squash everything negative people have to say about you.

At the end of the day, it’s better for people to talk about your brand, regardless of what they’re saying, than completely ignore it.  The only kind of conversation you can’t afford is people complaining that you send them too many messages about yourself.

Step 3: Don’t Forget the Social

There’s a reason why people are investing money in social media rather than TV and print ads.  A well-executed social media campaign will spread your message to people who will eventually spread it for you.  The catch is, you need to engage them in meaningful ways, rather than just sending your message out into the ether hoping someone will like it.

Treat your followers as well as you’d treat your friends and you’re almost all the way there.  And remember that if high fructose corn syrup can do it, you have absolutely no excuse!

The guest article is by Josh Millrod, a New York City based SEO consultant and blogger for Positive Vibes SEO.  You can keep up with Josh on Twitter ( or check out his SEO resume if you’re looking for some new talent.

Category SEO
Josh Millrod Wieden+Kennedy

Josh Millrod is a digital strategist at Wieden+Kennedy, a full-service, creatively driven advertising agency based in Portland, Oregon with offices ...

Stop Behaving Badly on Social Media!

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