Are You Treating Your Social Networks As an Opt-In List?

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When consultants begin using social media for their businesses, there is often the temptation to use this tool as “free advertising.”  Instead of using a careful strategy of building relationships and providing value, which takes time, instead we’re impatient and go right for the final goal…the sale or recruit.  This results in a steady stream of “buy my stuff” and “join my team” posts that annoy people at best, and at worst could get you kicked off tools like Facebook for violating the Terms of Service.

Consultants also sometimes think that every even remotely relevant post put up by someone is an opening for a sales pitch.  I recently put up a question on Facebook, looking for information on good magazines for girls ages 3-6.  A toy consultant used that as an opening to pitch her products and business, complete with a link, asking me if I’d heard of it.  Now if this consultant had done ANY research whatsoever on me, she would have known that I used to be the CEO of a competing direct sales company, and probably knew more about her company that she did.  But because she went for the easy pitch instead of doing her homework, she ended up undermining her credibility.  I wasn’t a person in her eyes…just an easy mark for a sale.  And that just doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, does it?

A good way to think about what information to provide through your social networks is to think about the opt-in list.  An opt-in list is a group of people who have asked you to email them information about a specific topic.  If you’re in the US, it’s against the law to email business messages to people who haven’t opted in for them.  You should use the same thinking when you’re dealing with your social networks.  If your contacts have not specifically opted in for your business messages via joining a Group, Page, or Mailing List, then specific business messages should be avoided.  No more “last day to save 50%” or “I want to spoil 5 women rotten this month with free products…who is going to book a party?” posts.  Save those for your opt-in groups.  Instead, build relationships and provide value with your general social networks.

So how do you do that?  Here’s some ideas:

  • Provide links to articles that you and others have written that will interest your contacts
  • Get to know people by asking about them, and share selected information about yourself and your interests
  • Comment on the posts that others write
  • Express enthusiasm for accomplishments of your team, upcoming parties, etc.
  • Get excited about upcoming events such as convention, things you’ve achieved through your company, etc.

All of these are appropriate posts for your general social networks.  But always remember that you should NEVER be doing direct pitches through your general social networks.  Save these for your opt-in groups.  You’ll annoy less people, and have much better long-term results.

So now it’s your turn!  What experiences have you had with this?  Observed good or bad behavior?  What are your thoughts?  What has worked for you?  Looking forward to reading your comments below!

3 Responses to Are You Treating Your Social Networks As an Opt-In List?
  1. Jhanna Dawson
    February 5, 2010 | 11:58 am

    GREAT post, Jennifer!!

    I had posted something about a toy on my facebook page and someone whom I consider to be a leader in the industry spammed me with her link and opportunity.

    I was very disappointed because she had never posted on my page previously.

    At this stage, I’m very careful with who I approve as a friend on facebook. I go to their page, and look at their wall.

    Is it filled with nothing but them posting about their opportunity? Do other people post anything there?

    I also look to see what their info page looks like. I want to connect with a REAL person.

    If these two requirements don’t pass my test, I decline the offer of ‘friendship’.

    One of my goals is to have people head over to my blog, and I do that by creating blog posts that people might find interesting and useful. Those get posted on my wall and other social platforms such as Twitter.

    Thanks for some great tips and insight. I look forward to reading what others are doing!.

    With Gratitude,

    Jhanna Dawson

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