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Social Media’s Cardinal Sin… and I Made It

Ever heard of Robert Caruso @fondalo? No? Nor had I…until he told me off on Twitter.

What did I do wrong?Social Media’s Cardinal Sin

After all I have received direct messages (DM’s) on Twitter from people I’ve never met offering me a veritable feast of products, services, free ebooks and the chance to link up on Facebook. My DM was way better than theirs….I addressed each one individually, no automated, impersonal stuff from me!

But yet I still messed up according to Robert who took offense to my first DM.  He told me so in a flurry of some tersely worded tweets.

I could ignore Robert, after all no-one else had said anything about my DM approach and there had been quite a few downloads of the ebook I was giving away. By the way, this wasn’t some half-baked six page ebook, it was a substantial, 100-page co-authored piece of work on thought leadership.

So what on earth was Robert so upset about?

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Social media is about earned relationships

What it boiled down to was that I had made the cardinal social media sin of trying to ‘sell’ before I had engaged in a relationship.

As Robert pointed out in a subsequent interview I did with him:

“You would never do that to someone you just met in real life, yet so many inappropriately do such pitching in social media. If you want to be effective in social media marketing you must first earn relationships. Once you have built relationships, then you have earned the right to pitch your stuff to them.  Just like in the real world…”

What Robert was saying is that I had spammed him. I hadn’t made any attempt to engage with him, all I wanted to do is ‘sell’ something to him – OK so it’s not exactly selling because it’s free but you get the drift.

Thought leadership is about engagement not selling – so too social media

Robert had effectively made me feel like a prize hypocrite.  Here I was consulting with my clients, writing blog posts and talking about how thought leadership is all about nurturing and engaging existing and new prospects.  My messaging was all about the fact that it is not about selling your product or service but here I was doing exactly the opposite on Twitter.

Always keen to take on board constructive criticism I decided to absorb what Robert said and I changed my approach.  Now this is my first DM to people who link with me at @thoughtstrategy

Liz, I hope you’re having a great day, tx for following. I would love you to fill in the blank: Thought leadership is_? Cheers Craig.

Then when people respond I ask them whether I can use it, with full attribution, of course, on my blog.  So we’ve had a bit of discussion and I’m using their definition on my blog.  Much better – thanks Robert.

Off the back of my exchange with Robert, I asked him if I could interview him for my thought leadership strategy blog.  What had started out as a negative turned into a positive.  I got to know Robert, I had an interesting interview piece for my blog and there was even a positive endorsement for the way I had handled it from Matthew Ulmer – see exchange below:

social media cardinal sin

social media cardinal sin

social media cardinal sin

social media cardinal sin

What can you take from this?

Social media is an interaction.  It’s not about pushing out your material to as many people as possible – instead it is about sharing it and engaging with your target audience on your point of view then nurturing this relationship further though a variety of online or face-to-face tactics.

If you are using social media platforms to facilitate the distribution of your content try avoid the mistake of not engaging and building relationships.

As Robert pointed out in our interview, most brands:

“…are leveraging millions of dollars already spent in branding and marketing. They ignore comments, don’t engage and build relationships. They use social as an additional push marketing platform, and they can.”

Is it the fear of loss of control?

Sadly I have to admit that my experience is very similar. I attribute it to fear.  What brands seem to fear most is losing control of the message and having people say negative things about them online.

But here’s the thing, the ones who are doing it well welcome engagement whether it is in the Twittersphere or face-to-face. They are the ones getting ahead.

What are some of the challenges you have faced online and how have you overcome them?

Guest author: Craig Badings is the co-founder of Leading Thought.  He is also a director at Sydney-based, Cannings Corporate Communications.  He is the co-author of the award-winning book:  #THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign.   Join him on Twitter @thoughtstrategy and on LinkedIn as well as @Leadthought

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