Social Media and Authentic Engagement

 Genuine interaction with others is key to building social media relationships and establishing trust. Jennifer Kane, communications strategist and The Social Cyborg blogger, maintains “Proper etiquette is important stuff that can mean the difference between building a respectful, authentic online presence that shows you in your best light versus one ridden with embarrassing gaffes that could potentially end your career or a relationship.”

Relationships are crucial elements of effective marketing. Management expert, Peter Drucker, insisted, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” David Meerman Scott, author of World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories, believes effective marketing strategies are about “delivering useful content at just the right moment that a buyer needs it.” Relationship-building takes time. If you are genuine about who you are, what you value, and what principles you stand for, you create a foundation that leads to mutual respect and bountiful referrals.

Most people easily distinguish authentic invitations of interest from fishhooks that bait us to purchase a product or service. A business contact recently questioned me about my career as a professional speaker and workshop presenter. At first, I thought he was genuinely interested in my work to help others define their dreams and create action plans with tangible goals. It did not take me long to realize he was waiting for the right moment to tell me he could help me (whether his help was asked for or needed … or not). For a price.

Insincerity feels oily and sticky. Engaging in conversation and asking questions helps us learn more about others, but it does not take people long to learn they are being set up for a sales pitch. Do not mistake quiet for listening. If your goal in conversation is to trap them with a product or service, others will avoid you like a 2008-economic-downslide plague. Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneurial extraordinaire and author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, insists, “When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.”

I have not met a single entrepreneur that does not have a marketing or social media faux pas story to tell. Present company included. But social media also provides us with rich opportunities to share what we learn with others. J. Mattern explains that social media etiquette is “often less about manners and more about basic common sense.” He adds, “There are plenty of things that you wouldn’t want people doing to you while you’re on social networks, blogs, or using other social media tools. So don’t do those things to others.” His tips include:

1. DON’T criticize competitors. – If your competitor does something questionable, keep your disapproval to yourself. Negative criticism will come back to haunt you.

2. DO think before speaking. – Social media allows you to publish your thoughts instantly, but that does not  mean everything is suitable for posting or sharing. Social media has a permanent memory. Think first.

3. DO personalize messages and introductions. — When you connect with someone new, introduce yourself and add a meaningful comment. “Hi” … and, worse, a series of “Hi’s … drips “stalker” behavior.

4. DO network outside your circle. — If your social networks only involve people who agree with you, you are missing out on opportunities to discover new ideas and different points of view.

5. DON’T send automated messages to new followers. — When someone follows you on Twitter, don’t use automated tools to bombard them with messages.

6. DO use your real name whenever possible.  — Do not hide behind “Anonymous.”

7. DON’T excessively link to your own site. — Repeated links to your own site results in overkill. Links to your own site on someone else’s wall or page is rude. Others will assume you are trapping them with spam.

8. DO give back. — Social media is a two-way street. Interact with others. Comment on posts. Ask questions.

9. DON’T unfollow people just because they don’t follow you back. — If the person noticed you and thought you were worth following, they would have.

10. DO submit other people’s material to news aggregators and social bookmarking sites. — When you limit sharing to your own material, you bore readers and appear arrogant.

11. DO be a thought leader.  — Be aware of your posting content. I confused followers early on with powerful goal-setting strategy posts and articles … peppered with YouTube videos of puppies. Not that there’s anything wrong with YouTube or puppies. Be mindful of your purpose.

“You can use social media for marketing and you can increase your sales figures from it, but it can’t be your focus 100% of the time,” explains Nellie Akalp, CEO of “As a general rule of thumb, only 5% to 10% of your social media activity (i.e. status updates or tweets) should be self-promotional.” She adds, “Social media is all about building relationships and growing trust. This means answering questions, providing helpful information, and serving as a trusted resource.”

In a 2012 Small Business Social Media survey, 79% of the respondents stated they used Facebook for personal use; only 22% of the respondents used Facebook for business. Although I regularly post questions, comments, and quotations related to vision, mission, and goal-setting strategies on Facebook, I do not self-promote on other people’s websites and social media pages by advertising my business without their expressed written invitation or permission.

Promotional restraint was something I had to learn. Although I have been a speaker and workshop presenter for many years, I dived into the social media pool with little experience. I learned social media etiquette by watching and learning from others who regularly engage in social media. As a result, I became less concerned about attracting business and more concerned about posting meaningful content and sharing in ways that reflected my core values.

What social media tips do you recommend?

4 Responses to Social Media and Authentic Engagement
  1. It’s amazing how much social media has taken off and can get the word about things spread 100 times faster!
    Some times it can be overwhelming! I love Hootsuite where I can have all my accounts linked, saves me so much time 🙂

  2. Lots of great stuff here, Julie! Having someone push their products or services at you definitely repels instead of attracting.

    I’m not sure I’m with you on your #9 since social media is about engagement. If you follow someone who then doesn’t follow back, what opportunity is there to engage unless you vie for their attention by responding to what they post hoping they’ll notice? While I don’t consider it a strict rule to unfollow non-followers, mutual initial interest or at least a bit of curiosity is far more likely to result in engagement. If you love the person’s content and want to share it whether they engage with you or not, continuing to follow them makes sense. Just my two cents’…

    • I agree that dialogue is a two-way street. I was offering a caution to overzealous monitoring of “likes” before “liking” (i.e.: I had a blogging friend that would check every invitation to “like” someone’s page before “liking” in return … and she would check periodically to make sure they stay “liked.” That seemed a bit obsessive to me.).

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