Social Media Sins: Just Don’t.

Can’t say there’s been much news this week – no big mergers to report, and no-one has invented the Next Big Thing to save/destroy publishing, which leaves me discussing something rather close to my own heart. Something I see all too often when I’m trawling Twitter, or browsing pins, or trying unsuccessfully to suppress a rage-induced hernia while posting on Facebook.  Something more horrifying than a Justin Beiber fan and more plentiful than 50 Shades of Grey knockoffs.

That’s right.

Bad uses of social media by big companies.

Sometimes I read company Twitter feeds and I wonder if these people have ever had a conversation with anyone. Ever. Of course, I know they have, and I know first-hand the stupid rhetoric that spews forth involuntarily as soon as you’re becoming the voice of a brand. But let’s all try to avoid the following, shall we?


Empty Rhetorical Questions

Here’s a lesson in how to piss people off: ask them ‘have you read our latest [insert name of press release here] yet?’. Which, by the way, means nothing. No, I haven’t, and no, I don’t care. Or, even worse – ‘why not do this thing I’m telling you to do?’ A million reasons, mostly related to your inability to communicate.

Yes, asking questions is a good. Engaging is good. Disguising an instruction as a question is bad.


Meaningless Pinterest Board

Ok say you’re a shoe shop. And you make a board dedicated to…. Hmm… bagels. You don’t have any shoes that are related to bagels; your business name is not Bagel Shoes; in fact the only resemblance between your business and a bagel is the fact you both have a gaping hole instead of a heart.

So why do you have a bagel pin board? Because you read this article, or one of the many millions circulating near the same time, saying that Pinterest users repin food. Yes, you’re right, they really really do.

But why would you want to attract bagel loves when you’re a shoe shop?! This indiscriminate and cheap follower mining shows a lack of market knowledge, and a lack of care.


Repetitive Tweets

I see this a lot in self-published authors, that sort of loudness rather than goodness idea, but large brands do it, too. If no-one cared the first time, chances are they won’t care the 50th. You should probably change your message.


On the whole, I think publishing is not too bad for these. We’ve got a bit to learn, but there are some industries out there who are far worse – most food companies, for example. But be they’re definitely things to be wary of, because we’re constantly being told that we should be better at communicating with our audience, which produces knee-jerk aberrations like the above.

The value of social media is not in your ability to project yourself. It’s in your ability to understand people who like your product and offer your company as an expert in its industry (which it most likely is). Seeing companies fall victim to zeitgeist – having the sense that they’re falling behind if they don’t slop themselves over every social media site ever created – rather than employing a considered communication strategy just makes me sad.

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