Step Zero: A (once) unwritten rule

With a social media expert or guru at every turn these days, we’re bombarded with rules and best practices and top tips to be the kings or queens of social business. Do this, don’t do that, always say this, never say that. But in the muck and mire of all these bullet points, we seem to forget the fundamental rule.

We’re calling that rule Step Zero.

Step Zero: If businesses become operative within social media without regard to their community, they become irresponsible and oppressive.

"Laptop Megaphone" by jj_pappas423 on Flickr

We’re aware of these boundaries in the real world: an overzealous sales associate who stalks each new customer with nonstop pleas for service:  “May I help you?” “Would you like to try that on?” “What are you looking for today?” A customer is likely to walk out of the store every time. But in terms of the web, it takes a different form: countless fan page requests, despite denial time and time again.  And then there’s the megaphone effect, when businesses use social profiles as a megaphone to broadcast their message, without actually participating in the community.

All other subsequent “laws” hinge upon this idea. We often forget that real world rules and courtesies apply within the web. Bombarding social profiles with requests and suggestions is no way to earn business. Once this intangible, invisible line is crossed, marketing efforts become oppressive.

People are generous to extend some level of accepting interruptions. By connecting with businesses online, customers are granting permission for marketing purposes, but don’t take advantage of this generosity. If business exceeds this level, the community will regard it as being socially irresponsible and insulting.

2 thoughts on “Step Zero: A (once) unwritten rule

  1. Great post!

    I believe there is one valid use for a megaphone related to social media… instead of holding it up to your mouth, hold it up to your ear! Listen. Hear. Then engage.

    Just like you said in the post, this really isn’t any different than the social rules we live by in the real world. If you walked into a retail facility where all they did was tell you about their specials… two or three times… and ignored you when you tried to speak, would you stay? Would they win your business? I’d say probably not, even if they did have the best deal.

    Great topic and points… keep ‘em coming!

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