Why Most People Fail in Social Media

Tools are a wonderful part of today’s information age, but if you’re going to use “social networks” or that thing we call “social media,” it’s important to remember the common denominator: the social. Without an understanding of your community and an understanding of the influencers, you’re destined for failure. There’s no question about it.

Networking is the key component for social media success

Social networks become popular because of the people using them. Social media “experts” recommend Twitter and Facebook because they know there’s a critical mass there to reach a desired audience. Of course, there are other sites, but these individuals know one thing: that there are people there who are willing to listen, just as long as you are willing to make a true effort to interact. You need to work to see results.

Even experts do not always understand this critical fact.

George, a representative of a UK social media agency, emailed me last month to tell me to check out his company’s blog. He also made the request that I link to his site with “social media agency [companyname]” if I ever like what I see.

George’s request follows a message from his colleague, Simon, sent in May. Simon read my how to use Facebook for business and marketing post and felt compelled to let me know via email that I should check out his site and read his past blog posts to find posts to link to! Without getting specific, he essentially threw me a category page and implied that I should just start reading everything to see if something is interesting to me.

When considering my response to George, I noticed that neither George nor Simon have ever commented on my blog. There was a pingback on two of my posts from the company’s blog from July 2008 from a third employee of the agency, but none of the individuals doing the outreach in 2010 actually had time to write a comment on my blog posts.

When I wrote my extremely popular how to get an influencer’s attention post, a handful of self-important individuals emailed me telling me that they felt they deserved to be mentioned in future posts like these. Yet I’ve never heard of any of them, and they certainly didn’t influence me, which was criteria for inclusion in that post. Further, none of the individuals making the request actually bothered to post a comment on any of my posts or participated at all in my community, which if you notice, is bustling with activity.

Lisa Barone explains that you can lose credibility in social media if you beg for favors before you’ve had a conversation. And it’s not really hard to have a conversation with most of the people in the online space. Your prerequisite only is effort. On Techipedia, I reply to just about every comment on my blog, and I have some very powerful relationships with some of the members in my community as a result. Not all bloggers respond this way, but a few quick clicks will give you some insight into the person you’re reaching out to.

If you’re looking for recognition without putting forth any type of effort, think again. Would you do the same thing to someone you had the phone number of but never actually spoke to?

You’re serving the community, not yourself

Today, community means a whole lot. I remember a good friend who asked me about a job on a major blog I used to write for. When I passed on the request to the powers that be, they noticed that the individual had no involvement whatsoever with the blog’s community and promptly declined the opportunity even though they had a powerful referral from an active staff member. If you’re not going to make any effort, you can’t expect your friends to help carry you through. In fact, it could put them in a very awkward position when it is evident that the friend may not have done due diligence and blindly recommended you.

One of my favorite quotes about social media is “Come bearing gifts.” In the social media space, if you give of yourself, you’ll find that people will give back to you. If you’re just going to throw your URLs to an discerning audience, and not spend time getting to know the people on those social sites, you’re wasting your time. Putting effort into commenting, voting upon submissions, or resharing the content will be a more effective use of your time. Build bridges with the people around you, or you will go nowhere.

Kittens are nice too.

Sure, we all have some reason to be here. Local eateries are posting on Facebook and Twitter to communicate with patrons and fans, ultimately because they want people to visit and support the establishments. Those doing it right are offering specials and engaging with each and every person who leaves them a note. And individual professionals are always on the lookout to make great friends.

It’s not only business. It’s relationships that can lead to business.

NYC is notorious for unsolicited fliers. At many busy street corners, there’s someone trying to hand out something to get your attention. Nine times out of ten, that person is ignored. Of those people who actually do take the flier, most do so out of sympathy and toss it out at their earliest opportunity. At the end of the day, most of the people are just not interested.

The lesson on a street corner on an average NYC day can be brought back into the online space, because after all, it’s not much different: it’s still a human interaction. I’d like to think that the people who actually have a relationship with those individuals handing out fliers are actually more interested in what those pieces of paper promote because of the people behind them. When I get to know you online, I’m more inclined to want to know what you’re about, who you represent, and who you stand for. I wouldn’t be as receptive to your message if your absolute first reply to my tweet about my infant son is “oh, you have a son? We sell children’s clothes in our online shop!” (This really happened.)

We’re all sitting behind mobile displays, laptop LCDs, or monitors. Yet we still are obligated to follow the unwritten rules of social media etiquette. If you still don’t know better, phrase the question this way: “would I do this offline with someone else?” If the answer is no, don’t do it online either.

Photos by Shutterstock.

197 Comments

  • E Adam Quinn says:

    I think you nailed it with this post. I especially like the NYC example. It surpises me that people are still taking the “spray and pray” approach to promotion: touch as many people as possible andhope for a small return. Doesn’t it make more sense to take the extra effort to build lasting relationships?

    • Thanks for commenting!

      I think this is really hard for people to grasp — they are used to quantity over quality. If anything, that’s the biggest paradigm shift of social media: building long lasting relationships that will help further your business objectives! Thanks for the eye opener too :)

  • I couldn’t agree with you more. Some folks just don’t get it.

    Recently, I had someone introduce themselves to me (as they were instructed to welcome me) and instead of focusing on me, they proceeded to offer me business services. It was such an inappropriate time and place. I made a little small talk, trying to ‘get to know’ the person a bit, and they jumped right back into their pitch.

    I would never in a million years take time to check out that person’s business. The most important thing to them was selling something and not building a relationship. Why would I do business with a person who would skip out on the opportunity to ‘know’ what inbred, before pretending to try to meet my needs?

    In social media, I think people are quick to do the same. Constantly promoting blogs, contests, and asking favors, without any real social engagement. I am here everyday posting, retweeting, following up on old conversations and starting new ones. I put in a lot of work social networking, so to those who think they can bypass all of that, I almost always ignore.

    Meet me, know me, pitch me!

  • Jamie Gorman says:

    Tamar,
    Great post, I agree. Now, would you read through my blog and….. Just kidding. I had a table at a “New Member” showcase to highlight and welcome new chamber members a couple years ago and a woman breezed by, gave me her card, told me what she did and walked away. OK, in my naivety I actually tried to follow up with her, with no response of course. I hope I never do that social media or otherwise!
    Enjoy your posts, and also the comments from readers and follow-up, very real.
    Thanks,
    Jamie

    • Thanks Jamie, I appreciate that. Funny, I went to an event about 2 months ago and it was also very similar. I was there to meet new people, and instead, this one person gave me her fliers promoting her business and didn’t really care about me. I wish I said something to her face at the time!

      • Ari Herzog says:

        Of course, that now brings up a related event that occurs too frequently: You’re stand somewhere or enter a room, someone gives you his/her business card (while giving it to everyone else in proximity) and either gets reciprocal cards back or asks for yours. Whether or not you give one, he/she then walks away to another group of people. Umm, no thanks.

  • steve dodd says:

    So fundamentally true! Nicely stated. You may also want to follow http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog/ which is another community actively discussing this subject.

  • Okay, I fess up. I have followed your writing for a long time, have given your book to many people AND never written a comment on your blog. You have no idea who I am if I don’t contribute. So just chiming into say, thanks for doing good — if not GREAT — posts for a long time that contribute to community. (Okay, now can I g back to submerge status?)

  • I couldn’t agree more, Tamara, that there are far too many people out there leaving the “social” aspects out of social media and rather, using it as their personal megaphone, blaring out their messages over everyone else’s without bothering to listen. You’re right in that social media has created paradigm shift that emphasizes quality over quality. A post resonated with me this morning on Seth’s blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/) that explains the new meaning of “pro-business.” To be a successful business today, you must create communities where talented people can thrive as they exercise their creativity. As businesses and professionals are focusing more on showing off their human side, social media is providing them with amazing opportunities to show off this talent. It really is embarrassing to see so many businesses dragging along their old approaches of one-sided advertising into new media.

  • David Zemens says:

    I think folks who take the “high volume” approach to asking for things are more likely to have come from a sales background. As we all know, the traditional logic in that field over the years was the more people who said “No” put you that much closer to the person who would say “Yes”.

    Although there may be some truth to this, I think this approach fails miserably as it relates to social media and online relationships.

    • Yes, so true, David. It’s REALLY important to shift your thinking away from that sales background in social media, or you are destined to fall flat.

    • Jamie Gorman says:

      David,
      As a sales person I am offended at your broad categorization:-) In seriousness though, this skill is not limited to sales people. In fact I used to go to customer meetings with engineers, product managers and marketing managers where I was the least pushy person in the room! When you are doing sales right and putting the customers needs first it is actually one of the most humbling, yet satisfying experiences you will find.
      Thanks,
      Jamie

    • Cliff Allen says:

      Your article is a great real-life case study on the value of conversation of developing a relationship in order to learn how both people can work together.

      As for salespeople, there are (at least) two completely different approaches to sales. Off-the-shelf products that are easy to buy attract salespeople who are quick to meet, pitch, and close. Complex products, or solutions involving several products, attract people who use “consultative selling” techniques based on building a relationship, proposing a solution, and servicing the customer.

      Social networking techniques, like you describe, can work well for salespeople who depend on relationship selling methods.

  • Mike Jensen says:

    Tamar,

    Love your post, and it certainly bears repeating (and I will share the post & not because I expect anything in return…it’s IMO an important idea to get across). The me, me, me approach is often what people think about or how do I get results NOW, “how can I help me?” Over a year ago, I lost my job and remember some advice when networking, change your mindset when you network and go in with the mindset of helping others. What can I do for you? How can I help you? That simple change, puts the focus on finding out about others. In other words…get over yourself!

    • Yeah! Sure, people love talking about themselves… they should start a relationship with a psychotherapist. ;) But I digress… it’s about everyone else in social media, not you!

  • JoAnne Gomez says:

    I have learned (and shared on Twitter) so much from reading your blogs Tamar. All for free! I just want to thank you for the great information, and your witty comments.

    Keep doing you!

  • I love your insights, but like Nilofer above I rarely comment. So just wanted to say thanks for writing. I know, not the most earth-shattering comment, but after reading this post I had to say something!

  • I work in sales, but i am new to social media and felt very elightend by this post.

    Thanks !

  • Great comments! It amazes me that folks don’t understand it’s about building relationships. If given the chance, who among us wouldn’t want to do business with our friends?

    I love how social media has the power to take marketing full circle back to word of mouth from a trusted friend. If you can’t wrap your brain around that one simple thought, you’ll never harness the power of relationships.

  • Yoko says:

    Hi, Tamar,

    I started MonaVie business last month, but I haven’t sponsored anyone, yet. I was told to follow the “MAP” and not to do anything if not listed in “MAP” and MAP doesn’t say to use Facebook or Twitter etc. Networking site. What should I do??? I really want people to get off the pills and get healthier with this product!

  • Tamar Genger says:

    Great post, thanks. The etiquette you talk about should come naturally, like you said if you wouldn’t do this offline don’t do it online, but so many of us fall into the trap of just thinking of ourselves. The old lesson of treat others as you want to be treated comes to mind.

  • An acquaintance who constantly posts environmental links and links to her books was at an event, and I introduced her to a friend who has an excellent (much better) blog focused on a single environmental issue. She declined to take his card and rudely told him that she was too busy to look at any new sites. I was so offended I even unfriended her on Facebook. The experience made me think about how many Facebook friends, or online friends period, I wanted to have, and I deleted quite a few others. I go online to have interesting conversations and learn useful and amazing things, but civility and kindness is also at the heart of the mix.

  • Teresa says:

    This may be the first time I’ve popped in and your blog, and I’m very glad I did! Great post and excellent reminder!

    This week I had the immense pleasure of introducing real life friends who were headed to New York City for the first time with a Twitter friend in NYC. I love that they got to meet her in person, even before I did, love that the local knowledge of a fab person made their trip a little better, love that the only reason this happened was because of Twitter.

    It’s the connection, the relationship that matters most. Every else is gravy.

    Hugs and butterflies,
    ~T~

  • You’ve nailed it on the head… then some!! I have been telling potential clients this until I was blue in the face! It’s just like the “real” world – you gotta have that relationship before you start bombarding people with you url’s. Unfortunately, people want their success as if they were going thru drive-thru at McDonald’s (mostly) fast.

    I had one dude that asked me to be his friend on FB & I accepted (hey I’m pretty easy going) & the first thing he did was put all his links everything on my profile page as if he was a Tom Cat marking his territory! I instantly de-friended cause I don’t like graffiti. And it’s just plain bad manners!!

    Anyways, I couldn’t agree with you more… as you can tell from my comments. Like you I believe it’s all about relationship building! You never know where it can lead. I love meeting & being part of wonderful communities. Surrounding myself with positive people who have a sense of humor is my number 1 policy in my special book. I am curious about people & always see what they are up to & when I see something that I believe will be of interest to others I share it.

    Just like what I am about to do with this blog -which I came across via another person who shared your blog link via the magic of social networking.

    • Thank you, Samantha! Great comments. I always hate how people think they can opt you into their junk just by accepting a friendship! It doesn’t work that way. It’s why I’m so doubtful in many cases that I employ a very personal approach toward my Facebook friends.

      • Me too Tamar!! I believe in the personal touch! I hate people touching me in my special places…

        Oh by the way… I forgot to mention my experience re: comments.

        I received one comment on my “Funny Crap Ads” page on my Witty Sam blog ;) and they said how it was the most intelligent article on the web!

        It was obvious they hadn’t read my Funny Crap Ads… cause if they did then they would not have said how intelligent it is. I still had a laugh at their expense. Then canned their stupid comment!! Obvious spammer…

        Do these people really think they can get passed us intelligent wiser-than-wise peeps. I just wanted to tell em’ “read the article first douche then make a comment – you won’t look as dumb” But whataya gonna do….?

        I think your article touched a nerve with me… it may inspire my own witty blog on the topic. Although I did write one a couple of years ago entitled “Open letter to my Nigerian friends” – times haven’t changed really.

  • Rob says:

    The NYC example is a very good one and will hopefully make people sit up and listen that relationship building is paramount. Unfortunately the majority of marketers still think along the lines of “If we throw enough mud some will stick” this is changing slowly although many companies are learning the hard way in pumping endless marketing material through social channels.

  • Gerhard says:

    Excellent written and stringent structured. It happended the first time that by reading a blog post i felt the inserted pictures were dispensable. Of course, it’s for illustration purposes. Anyway your post is not only true and entertaining but dramatized so well, that i just jumped over the pics to read on. Think I have to read your other blog posts too!

  • Tia Fisher says:

    Hi Tamar
    Very observant post, thanks Tamara, just tweeted it out for others to enjoy. I see a lot of this kind of thing going on in my LinkedIn groups also. Personally, I never connect with anyone I have not personally done business with, nor do I subscribe to the: ‘I’ll follow you if you follow me’ approach. It devalues the whole system. If you reach out to a stranger via social media, do it because you genuinely admire their work and want to share it with others. Expecting such people to invest precious time back is unrealistic. It’s about giving, not trying to take.

    • I am a little impersonal on LinkedIn so I accept everyone until they spam me to death. I actually only have removed one person on LinkedIn so far, and one guy removed me because I called him out for his spam tactics. It was fun.

  • Tia Fisher says:

    Hi Tamar
    Very observant post, thanks. I just tweeted it out for others to enjoy. I see a lot of this kind of thing going on in my LinkedIn groups also. Personally, I never connect with anyone I have not personally done business with, nor do I subscribe to the: ‘I’ll follow you if you follow me’ approach. It devalues the whole system. If you reach out to a stranger via social media, do it because you genuinely admire their work and want to share it with others. Expecting such people to invest precious time back is unrealistic. It’s about giving, not trying to take.

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  • Eamon says:

    Hi Tamar,

    Great post on the social media angle, you really do your research on a topic before you put it out, I’ve gotten some excellent advice from this post, keep up the good work.

    P.S I like the part where you mentioned about, I noticed that neither George nor Simon have ever commented on my blog, I get stuff like this too and think why bother when they don’t even have the time to comment, sort of like the social networking aspect, you have to show up.

    Anyways, must keep your thoughts in mind for when I need them.

    Eamon

  • Donna Bova says:

    Great post. I think you could actually go so far as to say we should all follow simple etiquette – the things our mothers taught us. No one likes a total stranger getting in the space (virtual or otherwise) and hard selling them or spamming them. And if you haven’t taken the time to develop a relationship you shouldn’t be begging for favors.

    • It IS simple etiquette. People just forget that because technology (monitors, LCDs, whatever else) makes it more impersonal. There are still people on the other end, and there’s still emotion.

      Most people don’t get that really basic thing.

  • Mike Murray says:

    Tamar,

    I appreciate the post. Good grief, why should you take the time to wander over to someone’s site and link to it if you like what you see?

    If I have a reason to connect with an influencial blogger, I would at least know their reputation before reaching out to them. I have a new industry research report I’ll finish soon and I’ll pitch it to people.

    It would be good if I’ve met everyone before or that I’ve connected through each of their blogs. But I may not have that relationship in every case.

    That’s why your post gave me some pause. I imagine if my pitch is short (2-3 lines) and relevant, the blogger may not mind receiving it.

    But I would never just promote my web site or my mere existence and expect someone to respond. I have to have something that catches their attention.

    Connecting takes time – and it’s just not practical in all cases.

    I’ve appreciated your work in the past – starting with Sphinn. I’ll comment when I can and often Tweet good posts like this one (rather than just promote my own stuff).

  • Johnny R. says:

    Hi Tamar. I am new to this blog, but will be returning. Just finished reading The New Community Rules. Great read! I am now reading Paul Gillin’s Secrets of Social Media Marketing based on your referral.

    Your blog post was easy for many of us to relate to. For myself, I get lots of requests on LinkedIn from people I don’t know who attest that they are “colleagues” or “friends” to get past the screening. That is bush league for sure. That is not what Social Media is about. Some people see Twitter and LinkedIn as a numbers game, and the more followers and connections they have, the better off they’ll be, paying absolutely no attention to quality or relevance of the potential conversations to take place.

    Thanks for writing that great book full of insight!

    • Oh cool, thanks Johnny!

      I totally get that LinkedIn deception. So many people I don’t know tell me they’ve worked with me at a company I’ve never heard of. I still accept the invitation, but I’d say that 90% of my contacts just tried to get past the screening process without being honest about how we’re connected.

      I still accept them, because I *want* to be connected to people professionally, but the system is definitely flawed. LinkedIn is where the majority of my spam emails originate. (Actually, all!)

  • Awesome and inspiring post Tamar,

    I can feel the life in this post and I can relate with your points. Building a community is really important and it takes a lot on ones part.

    I also love this point: It’s not only business. It’s relationships that can lead to business.

    Building relationships in social media should be the utmost because someone that trusts you will be more likely to patronize your business than someone who’s not. It looks odd to just meet someone on the street and be talking about your business without asking him how he is.

    Thanks so much for the awesome post Tamar!

    -Onibalusi

  • Jenny says:

    Thanks Tamar for yet another insightful & informative post. This is my first time commenting but have been reading your posts for a while now. I have learned so much from your writing & again, just wanted to say thanks.

  • Brett Borders says:

    I think a lot of companies fail at social media because they have little or nothing to say. They aren’t willing to act interested enough to have a passably respectful or intelligent conversation. However, faling having something interesting to say– it’s entirely possible to get ahead with a lot of stamina and a penchant for making digital small talk. Lots of people with 84k mutual Twitter followers and 48 RSS subscribers do it every day.

    • Well, the thing is, they may not have anything to say, but you can never run out of things to say if you genuinely want to build a real relationship with someone. If you want to grow your business, start caring for the people who might buy from you in the future.

      Having84k mutual followers on Twitter just hints to an automated tool. You know what I think about that. :)

  • Anna Guillot Savoy says:

    Oh, how refreshing Tamar. Thank you. You speak for so many. There are a couple of the “Social Media Guru’s” that I think need to receive this bite of reality. I put forth much…very much effort to socialize with a couple and even purchased a couple of books, one at the request of a “guru.” I was very discouraged when I realized he wasn’t even following me. I felt like I was being petty…and ridiculous…so I quit commenting altogether. I read your blog, and Kotke’s, but I never comment anymore. I never tweet anymore. Just as you pointed out, it’s like reality, I felt as though I was talking to a wall.

    You have encouraged me and I appreciate it. I think I’ll give it another whirl. I do believe the social media r/evolution is phenomenal and I want to be “all up in it.”

    • Hi Anna, thanks for the comment.

      “I was very discouraged when I realized he wasn’t even following me.”

      Okay, so look at how many people I’m following on Twitter. Look at how many people are following me.

      I don’t follow 98% of the people I talk to, and I shouldn’t have to. It’s the social interaction that’s important. I have lists that I usually devote to people I love (which is hard to maintain in itself!), but I don’t follow them for my own personal reasons.

      Following someone isn’t a prerequisite to having a genuine conversation. I know for me it’s not criteria I worry about. It’s just a … statistic? :)

  • Amy Boucher Pye says:

    Great post; we’ve had this sort of conversation on my FB page before (about why do people hide or defriend their FB friends), so I’ve linked it to the page. Thank you for stating succinctly what should be obvious!

  • Mrunal Shah says:

    Hi Tamar,

    This was a great post like so many ones which you have written previously. Your posts and infact the entire blog is so addictive, I read one post on which I find a link to another good article and then I’m entangled in this dense maze of social media information…..wow and when I check the watch, it says – buddy since last 40 minutes you have been on this blog.

    In short its enjoyable to read what you write, especially the flow of words is so informal and captivating. Waiting to read more of such stuff on your blog.

    BTW – The George story was great !!

    Have a great weekend.
    Mrunal

    • LOL. For me, 40 minutes would be me reading two or three articles… I might write well but my reading comprehension is awful nowadays. ;)

      Thanks so much, Mrunal!

  • I think this is so true. Too many people fail to see the obvious. Social media is about the social bit. I don’t mind people me about their great product or wonderful service some of the time. So long as the rest of the time they are helping me out or being interesting. Heh or being sociable! Too many facebook pages are being used for incessant self promotion rather than being engaging and two-way. Ultimately this could be the beginning of the end for facebook if people’s news feeds get overloaded with blatant adverts and PR as opposed to sociable content then users will migrate to something more sociable (is there any evidence of this yet?). Thanks for a great post.

    • I wonder if people will really turn away from Facebook. They’ll probably turn away from the people who are using Facebook in this way.

      Thanks for the comments, Jonathan!

  • Alen Mireles says:

    Good morning Tamar,

    Both enjoyed and appreciated this post, but then I generally do have those reactions after reading your work, which I find very valuable and often share with my networks.

    You make valid and important points and I guess we can’t say this stuff enough. Funny how difficult it can be to realize that using social networking sites to build business or organizations is like any other networking for the same purposes. We all *should* follow the basic rules of etiquette and human kindness. Many of don’t and a surprising number of savvy business people refuse to see the parallels.

    I have to say that I also enjoy reading the comments your posts attract and often find new people to follow or read or learn some tidbit I was previously unaware of. I don’t always take the time to comment, though. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing new to add to the conversation, sometimes I feel shy and sometimes it’s a matter of scrambling on to the next day’s task.

    Carry on! You inspire us.

    • I feel like I’ll be making the same argument in a few years… maybe 10, maybe 20. Hopefully I won’t have to, but I apparently need to drive this message home all the time.

      Don’t feel shy! I’m hoping you participate in the conversation, if even just to meet someone else or whatever else. This is a community and I am so happy you’re here! Thanks Alen!

  • Erin OBryan says:

    Excellent post and right on the mark. So many seem to be phoning it in so to speak. I love the community of social media, by nature I think those doing it right come across as genuine right from the start which makes them shine.

  • Gordon Marcy says:

    Hi Tamar. First time visitor, first time commenter. I’ve arrived at your blog and this post on a referral made on Twitter by Tony Whittaker at Internet Evangelism Day.

    There are just so many well written comments to your equally well written post, that I don’t know what I can possibly add except, “yes.”

    I would say that the Twitter-esque comment that stayed with me was, “I can feel the life in this post.” That’s just about the highest compliment on a post I’ve seen yet. It sums up everything you’re saying.

    Adding you to my RSS feed.

    Peace!

  • Marcus says:

    Very enlightning and entertaining post. I guess I met George’s German cousin once, I guess his name was Heiko, but I’m terrible with names.

    Side note: I went “Aaaawwhh!” a bit too loud when I saw the kitten and then my colleague on the other side of my computer screen got up and gave me a strange look…

    And on topic: I am convinced this “doing social media the non-social way” is a pretty world wide phenomenon. I guess it is really rampant here in Germany, although the focus is different.
    Here, it seems, people (and social marketeers *ahem*) think that a Facebook page makes a scial media strategy. Put up the page an forget about it, and nobody isdoing the talking and a negative number of people seem to do the listening.
    And when you tell them, Social Media is just like talking to people at a party or a club or a fraternity or something, they go “Oh yes, of course” and then continue not doing it… Ah well, sorry for the small rant.

    • I hear that my book in Germany is outselling my book in the US. Rampant where you’re at is good, Marcus. :)

      You’d think people would take advice and apply it, but they aren’t the right people for the job.

      If you’re not listening, you need to find someone else who will.

  • Jacques says:

    Hi, I am from Brazil and this morning, coincidentally, I twitted: “Social Networks are just like your first day at a new school. If you start talking too much, people will find it annoying. Get to know everybody first and find out their interests, then they will pay attention to you.”

    Then I read your post, fantastic! Congratulations!

    • LOL, yeah, but if you start talking too much and asking too many questions even during the second week or second to last month of class, people will still think you are annoying. Unless, of course, they love you because you care about them. :) Thanks, Jacques!

  • Tamar, Your “Come bearing gifts” advice really summed it up for me. I’m new at this and not at all a salesperson. I’m a marriage & family therapist and parenting coach and relieved to learn that the world of social media, much like the real world, thrives on a sense of community and relationships. My recent post about Happy Marriages highlights the same bottom line: Seek to know, give and serve. I say that it’s the day-changing gifts that make a life-changing difference. I get the same sense here after reading your column and comments. Thank you for welcoming me into the fold… I feel very at home, maybe for the first time. I plan to pick up your book and follow your blog. On another note, the hit-and-run bloggers sound a bit like door-to-door salesmen or telephone marketers. Not people we’re looking to sit down with at our kitchen tables. Thank you for your candor and wisdom. Blessings, Jeanne aka ZipLine Lady

  • Andrew Flynn says:

    Thank you for this great article! Good lessons and stories. People are rude enough in real life, but sometimes its much easier to be rude online where no real relationship exists.
    In the cafechurch I run (real, not virtual) the theme this weekend is “Why has nobody commented on my Facebook Status: all about online community”. The discussion will be around whether online relationships can have the same strength and quality as real relationships. What we are discovering – and this ties in with what you say – is that people feel a (false?) security online which allows them to express things – perhaps under an alias – they wouldn’t have the courage to bring up in real life. That may be a good thing for some people, in a kind of therapeutic sense. But potentially damaging too as some try to live out a fantasy that can never be…

    Anyway, you’ve influenced me with your wisdom here enough for me to pass it on to a few others who will appreciate it.

    • I think that people are rude online because they forget that they’re dealing with people. It’s exactly why that false security exists — the emotion is lacking since they can’t see it.

      Thank you, Andrew. That’s an awesome theme.

  • Bryan Owens says:

    Brilliant.

    This “social” piece does keep getting left out. I have been wondering if that is because marketers, IT departments, and web designers are still the ones that end up in charge of social media. It seems that we need someone more like sociologist to head up social media in our companies… someone who is monitoring and assisting healthy interaction… fostering real community.

    • Maybe that’s true. I actually do have an IT background, but I took a sociology class in college and minored in psych. I found that stuff really interesting.

      I guess the prerequisite for all this social media is that someone should be social. It’s hard to hire someone for when they’re shy at first, though, but some people really do open up behind the monitor. I’m a little more introverted in real life myself, though. ;)

  • Annice Brown says:

    I’ve only commented on your blog a few times but I want you to know I appreciate your info enormously. As a blogger over 50, I know I have a lot to learn. I always tell my clients (I work with small businesses in 14 Appalachian counties in NC) to read your blog for great tips. Keep them coming.

  • I’m back, this time to say: Tamar, you definitely practice what you preach. How in the world do you manage to respond to every comment left on your blog, especially when there are so many?

    I’m in awe. And exhausted just thinking about it. And looking forward to your response :)

  • Ishak Latipi Mastan says:

    Great sharing Tamar. Thank you.
    This post reminded me of a great quote that I really like:

    “My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life.” -Lee Iacocca

  • Hi Tamar,

    Yes that is the Truth. Agree with you 100%. Been Götting a Lot of advertising and Marketing in the social Networks without any interest in the persons behind. I am getting tired of all the tweets that Tell me how to found a Company and how to get a cheap iPhone. Tweets without any interest in the followers – it is just annoying. Looking 4ward 2 your next Blog. Matthias from Germany. :)

    • I actually want a free iPad. Where are those tweets? (Not the spam, of course!) LOL

      Yeah – I totally hear you, Matthias. You need to care about the person or else you’re destined to fail. There’s no way around it.

      Thank you very much for commenting!

  • Todd Schnick says:

    i always tell people to use social media as a means to initiate a conversation. you get thousands of easy ways to connect with someone. and most of the time, it has nothing to do with business…

    if they check-in at a restaurant, tweet about the football game, or facebook some new pics of the kid…all are great opportunities to reach out and begin the process of forging a deeper relationship…

    why oh why do people try to complicate this? ;-)

    • Exactly. You don’t have to talk about just everything, but things THEY are interested in. Surely you have a similar interest somewhere — you just need to look!

      I don’t know why people complicate this either. :)

  • Nan Ross says:

    Good post. As a Social Media Coach, I strongly encourage my clients to implement blog outreach or network with their influentials through their blog community. But a few overlook this step until it time to look for bloggers to promotion their products. We must build relationships with our influentials in the forth front before asking them to do anything for us. Would you give a stranger off the street a $100?

  • Jim Goodwin says:

    Thanks for the great article, Tamar. I have bookmarked your site and plan to come back often, not only for the great tips but also the interesting input from your community.

    We’ve found that the best way to keep the human touch in all our social media efforts is to assign people who really enjoy the task. When you’re posting because you want to post, the result is a lot more fun than posting because you have to post.

    Once again, thanks for a great blog!

    • Thanks Jim. The community here is great and I think you for joining! :)

      I totally agree — you can’t have just anyone participate in social media tasks. It needs to be people who actually love it. Otherwise, everyone will get burned out or they just won’t be successful.

      Sometimes the people in your company today aren’t the right folks. Chances are, you can find someone who is willing to help and who is.

  • Hi Tamar,
    Great article. I wish this sort of info. was in place before signing up social media accounts, your right it’s so important to use the resource as it should be, i.e. for social networking. To many corporate types just don’t seem to understand that? Regardless of who we are we should all be striving to make the internet a better place.
    With Best Regards Tace.

  • Tamar

    I agree wholeheartedly with the gist of this post, but I think using the word FAIL is a bit out of place. Social media is not like Mathematics, where you can only add 2 to 2 to get 4. In the digital space and using digital tools there are a variety of ways to get the same expected result, which is what makes it so powerful as a marketing medium. So to say that someone failed at doing it would mean there was only one correct way to do it and they did not do it that way.

    I would instead have said something along the lines of “Why most people fail in understanding social media”.. you could also add “according to Tamar Weinberg”. That’s ultimately where their misuse of the broad resource stems from. Their understanding is limited and they read a few posts by people who read posts by someone else and decided they will also now blog about it.. and they end up with “mind spaghetti” about what it is they are doing.

    There is also the issue of what each individual’s expected end result or desire is. Some people just feel they wanna be heard by 10 people. others console themselves with the knowledge that they have just over 1000 facebook friends regardless of whether they really connect with those people. Others just need to brag about having a Digg or a Youtube profile. So we do not all want the same things from social media and therefore assuming that people fail is the opinion of the individual onlooker who perhaps has a better understanding of what’s possible with social media compared to what the person being “onlooked” is doing with the tools.

    Fail is too strong a term.

    • Arthur, you do know about the art of a magnetic headline, right? The headline (and lede) was intentional. And note that I said “most.”

      Either way, I stand by my argument. I don’t think it’s only “according to Tamar Weinberg.” Looks like other people agree.

      I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years (5 years professionally, which is earlier than 98% of the people out there), and I can say with confidence that the best success comes from building relationships with people, not exploiting them for your one-off black-hat campaigns. It’s not about the quantity (10 or 1000 like you say) but the quality. If they’re not connecting with the people, the bottom line is that their campaigns may not build traction. It’s why “most” fail at social media.

      • Agreed the headline was magnetic. Agreed that you know what you’re talking about. Hey I read your book which is why I have your blog feed in my RSS reader. I too have been at this for quite a while. let’s say since the time Yahoo was just a grey background and huge onscreen text. Please look at what I am saying as engagement, not argument.

        I get the feeling that when you say the words “social media” you talk about ONE THING, and most people fail at that ONE THING. Even the responses of most people give the impression that there is this one platform somewhere in the ether named Social Media.

        So in addition to my argument that not everybody uses digital networking tools for the same reason & outcome, I’d like to add that media is the plural of medium, so with more than one medium to use in working towards a business/marketing/promotional/personal objective.. there has to be more than one expected or desired outcome. Example: Facebook to build a network of people to converse with on topics of interest, Myspace to keep track of new music my favourite artists release and LinkedIn to crowdsource business solutions, find employment or recruit.

        Against the background of this, I believe that one cannot fail at the whole thing we call social media. Perhaps you network poorly, fail hopelessly at fostering trust or developing relationships.. cannot transfer your offline extrovertedness online etc.. I find many people that are yap shops on Twitter but has no blog or their Facebook profile is not a reflection of what I see them do on Twitter. Or they only talk business on Facebook but is nowhere to be found on LinkedIn where that particular subject matter matters. They love that one medium and it works for them (they must be thinking). Forget the rest.

        • Oh, I don’t. It’s more of an issue of clarity and just being firm about my beliefs based on the experience. :)

          At the end of the day, I still firmly believe that social media is called “social” media for good reason. You’re dealing with people. I understand your argument that success is different on the medium and I hear that, but I still think that you need to relate to people every day to be successful, wherever you are.

  • Sundi Jo says:

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  • Carrey says:

    I totaly agree with your post. Just putting URLS out there for people to click on gets you knowhere. You need to interact with the people and get to know your market.

    • LOL, yeah, it’s why I love and hate twitterfeed. Some people ONLY do that and yet still find followers — their followers are using automated options just like they are!

  • Well put, Tamar. I think that the problem is not that they don’t get social media and how it works. It’s that they don’t get how online business works!

    Recently, in an SEO copywriting group I participate in on Linked In, one of the members posted a question, asking people how they use social media to “lure” clients. I had to post back and mention that using that terminology is counterproductive to developing good online relationships with our online prospects. Almost all of the people participating in that group conversation had no idea what I was talking about. They just continued to congratulate each other on how clever they were for linking their Twitter feed to their Facebook profile.

  • John Walker says:

    Really great post we are currently having a internal push to get more people involved with social media and I plan to point them in the direction of this post as a starting point, so they don’t make the same mistakes as so many others.

    Cheers

  • Hi Tamar
    Fantastic post!! Found you through one of KitchenTableMkt tweets!
    This is my first time here, and I’m so glad I found you! You nailed it girl, and I will be back for more of your wisdom! Thank you so much :0)
    Cheers
    Korina

  • Great post Tamar.

    I think this applies to not just social media, but any networking situation. I attended a networking event last night and was amazed by the few people who did nothing but talk about their business and hand me a card. Thankfully I had a lot of other conversations that were real (for lack of a better word). I am more apt to send my business to people with whom I had a conversation that did not involve just “this is why I am so great.” I especially loved talking to the people who I had to ask for their card so we could continue the conversation. That’s right, I had to ask, they didn’t push it at me, which I loved! As you said, the same needs to be applied to social media. Yes, you can talk about business, but that is NOT the ONLY thing you should be discussing. Thanks again for the post!

  • Kathleen Donohue says:

    Great post. It comes down to manners, I think, and there are just as many blow-hards in Social Media as there are at any given trade show.

    I’m trying to increase Twitter followers for a non-profit dog rescue. I follow others, retweet and try to post interesting stuff (any idear where the name Fido comes from?) What I find irritating is getting a new follower, following them back (manners, you know) and then they dump you immediately after. What’s up with that?

    Again, great post, interesting content, I’ll be looking for more!

    • Yeah, it’s a numbers inflation game. Bummer that some people are so un-genuine.

      Just be nice and awesome, and people will love you.

      p.s. Thanks Kathleen. Lefties do rock! :)

    • Lily says:

      Can I ask questions to others? Is the Twitter social rule that you have to “follow” those who “follow” you?

      • Tia Fisher says:

        Hi Lily

        I think absolutely not. Especially considering we all get a lot of ‘spam’ followers. If you do that, it will become very hard to listen to the people whose tweets you’d like to hear, through sheer volume – even with the aid of lists and columns, such as I use on Tweetdeck.

        I look at all profiles of those who follow me, and make an assessment of whether I would like to follow them back, based on their profile and their recent tweets (a – sorry, somewhat arrogant – post of mine on the subject here: http://blog.emoderation.com/2010/05/twitter-profiles-and-three-second-rule.html).

        Does that help? Do others feel the same?

        Tia

        • Lily says:

          Hi Tia and Tamar,

          Thank you, very helpful and insightful! Tia, very interesting article. Thank you for the link! I didn’t think about those other details. Tamar, I’m very impressed by your follow/follower ratio. I typically see almost an equal amount, and I was wondering what the rule of thumb was or whether I was offending others by not following.

          Thanks!

          Lily

      • Lily, check out my Twitter account. ;)

        Tia explains it very nicely.

        And yes, by all means, feel free to ask questions!

  • THANK YOU! Love how real and down to earth you are! I am in the beginning phases of learning this fine art of “social media”, but truly it seems to be about simple common sense people skills. I will keep reading and learning from your blogs, appreciate the information.

    Sam

  • now that we know each other…

    kidding around – great post!

  • Gene Anderson says:

    I am interested in hiring you Tamar. Are you available for social media management? Please let me know. I like what you write.

  • Sarah Ban says:

    Marketing folks all need to read this post–50 times over–log in to their social network accounts, respond to clients, then read this post another 50 times. It’s almost bizarre how people ignore the “social” in “social media,” like you said! To me, ignoring a customer complaint on Facebook, for example, is just as bad as hanging up on someone who calls the customer service line. People need to realize that they can’t hide behind their monitors! I’ve seen great relationships form that started with just a simple “thank you” after a supporter “Liked” a post. And I myself feel so much more loyal to a company if they respond to my comments.

    I’m about to get long-winded, but in sum:
    Thanks, Tamar, for your wonderfully succinct and important post!

    Sarah

    • Thank you Sarah!

      I agree about the loyalty bit as well. I was frustrated last week when Stride Rite (you know, the kids’ shoe store) had the wrong store information, effectively sending my husband to the wrong store address — and it was incorrect for 3 months! I reported it to them on their website, but 3 business days later, nobody replied, so I asked on Twitter. Meanwhile, the Stride Rite person was tweeting niceties to moms but ignoring real important customer service issues. I tweeted a little bit louder the next time and they finally owned up to their mistake and apologized. Of course, the problem isn’t fixed yet though and the incorrect address is still listed, but maybe they are listening now after all. I hope so at least.

      Shouldn’t be so hard to fix, hmm?

      If you’re a company, being social is important in social media. If you’re a company, though, being responsive to company needs is most important. And you need a healthy and important mix of both to really be successful.

  • The real challenge is that there are people all over the web that make it a point to bring people down. A human (remember we are not computers) can get ‘sick’. We can get sick of responding to professional debaters. I have run across them often in my business. They live on getting you to react. The best couselors say not to respond as these live off pushing peoples buttons. Nothing is ever good enough. How do you socialize with a wacko? Any comments.

  • I’m a new follower. One thing that impressed me most about your article is that you practice what you preach! Like the fact that you have replied to every comment on this article. Impressive! I’m hooked.

  • James Sacci says:

    I had to “Like” this post so that all my “Friends” hopefully will read it and try to understand what I am trying to do with our sports club using social media. Maybe some of my clients that want to use blogs will get the hint too.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Thanks for the ‘huge’ social notion. You answer each and ever comment!
    Thanks again,
    Richard

  • Opps! I repeated Korey’s comment. You need not reply.
    Tnx,
    Richard

  • BlogTipss says:

    Realy great post. Thanks for sharing

    Editor’s note: Thanks for your comments. However, as stated in my blog policy, I have asked you to use your real name. I do not think your name is “BlogTipss” and have edited your comment and URL as explained in the blog policy. Oh, and I stole your link.

  • Scott Ludwig says:

    Hi Tamar,

    I think you nailed it with this post! Sending a blind email telling you to “check out his site” is just as spammy as if it was an automated DM on Twitter! To be honest, I’ve noticed this type of behavior has become more frequent over the last few months. It’s as if the self-proclaimed “social media experts” have gotten lazy and are trying to take the easy way out.

    As you stated above, the “social” aspect is crucial for any individual participating in social media. If that’s left out, all you end up with is a one-way conversation. And I bet that the ones guilty of this behavior most often are the same people who are telling their clients that participating in social media is about talking with constituents not at them…

    • A lot of people fall prey to back scratching like this, even the biggest guns. They have the backing of their well known friends so they don’t care about the other people. Of course, they still preach the standard rules.

  • Phil Taylor says:

    Great post. It’s so important that “social” be part of the concept, as you point out. And comments to blogs (or to other Tweeters) should be the norm, but they’re often not. I also applaud your frequent feedback to comments. Too many bloggers just broadcast and don’t seem to respond to comments. Great points–I’ll try to follow your example. Thanks!

  • Social media isn’t as new as some might think, and it amazes me how many people aren’t actually “Social” in their efforts. Creating profiles doesn’t make you active in social media, it’s all about the relationships you create, and the trust that you gain through those relationships. Great post!!

    • It’s funny. I did a training earlier this week at a huge agency in NYC and a number of more “advanced” people complained that it was “too basic.” Duh — social media isn’t very complicated! It’s not new, it’s not difficult, and yet, people don’t do it right.

  • Trinity says:

    Another great read Tamara. Your readers comment are engaging as well. I’m learning new stuff here. Thanks.

  • Lily says:

    Hi Tamar,

    Thanks for the very insightful article! I just stumbled across your blog today and love it. As part of a marketing team, I have to view tons of blogs every day. I understand the need to keep in touch with bloggers. Do you suggest any tools that would be helpful?

    Thanks a lot!

    Lily

  • Hi Tamar. I’m glad “serving the community” was one of the main topics in this post. People that don’t get it or fail using social media, won’t “get it” in offline sales or marketing either. Always serve first. Give first. Establish trust and develop a relationship. Remember what’s in it for them. Then receive. I really appreciate how you reply to comments. You serve the community and keep the conversation going by replying.

  • Is usually blogengine as good as wordpress somehow? Has to be because it’s increasingly popluar nowadays.

    • Not really sure, Jeffie, as I’ve never heard of it. ;)

      WordPress has the benefit of having thousands of plugins and seasoned coders who can build themes on the fly. I’m not sure what BlogEngine could do better! I personally would not recommend switching.

  • Troy says:

    Great post! So many business owners think that simply creating a Facebook page is the end all solution. Man were they misinformed… You’re completely right, a “true effort to interact” is the only way to succeed.

    • Yeah. Funny thing is that a huge news outlet emailed me today and was worried that their submissions to a social news site wasn’t getting traffic. Social media is social for a reason — if you don’t put any effort into really knowing the people, you will simply fail.

  • Rahul Batra says:

    I think you did the great job by posting this post here and I do believe that networking is important in social media websites as it helps you to promote your business and get the traffic to your website.

  • Dear Tamar,
    I wanted to thank you for your very pointig blogpost. It remindend me what I am not doing yet enough, thinking, that I do not have time for that: personally connecting with people on my social media sites. You truly helped me to recognize this truth. Now I will start to change my behaviour, and hope to reach people. Thanks again.

    An other thought ist I wanted to share, that there are some companies, who think, it is social media succes, if they are only cross-linking with a few other companies while buildig up their fan-community. All they end up with is, that the very same people are in their fan-community, and none of them is really interested in the products of the company… I am sure, you heard of such technics…

    • Oh of course. Cross promoting does help – but not really when it comes down to driving ROI and conversions. I can’t say I don’t do it though; I do admire some of my colleagues!

      Good luck, Don.

  • saqib sarwar says:

    Another Weinberg :)

    1st I got inspired by amber wienberg about freelancing and quality of work. Now I am getting inspired by Tamar Weinberg. Looks like all Weinbergs are good for me ;)

    thanks Tamar for such a nice post. Its my first visit to any of your post. I got your blog link from Travis Robertson’s this week post about weekend readings.

    I am sure your articles will help me learn more about social media.

  • I totally agree some people get it and some don’t. Social Media is a whole new ball game. Times have definitely changed and we now have to shift from sales and self promotion to creating and building these relationships. I am going to post this on my blog! =) Thanks for your wise words!

  • Andrew says:

    I just discovered your blog, Tamar. And I’m glad I did! We just launched our new social network a month ago, and I agree with everything you said in here. No matter how many bells, whistles or kittens you have on your site, a social network is only as good and as strong as its users. Great tips all around and I’m going to go dive into lots more of your posts now! Thanks for sharing.

  • Ann Marie says:

    I just came across your blog in twitter. It really speaks a lot of what I am currently doing now. Management expects results immediately from social networking and doesn’t know that it takes time to build relationship. It’s better to get 3 hooked in your product rather than aim for many, hook 1 but the rest you leave them in a distasteful state. I’d better share this to my colleagues. Thanks again!

  • Michael Newlands says:

    Hi,

    Love the read, I very new to the world of social media.

    ciao
    michael

  • Jamie Dunham says:

    I use your book often as a reference book for the right things to do. I really appreciate this post. It is easy to get wrapped up in what you are doing and not develop those relationships. Thanks for the great roadmap!

  • Hi Tamar,
    This is my first time reading your blog and I really enjoyed it. We all forget that social media is “social”. As you rightly put it, our online media should be similar to our offline everyday social interactions. Thank you for this great piece.

  • Chris says:

    This is great – really refreshing read and I like the way it’s readable. So many blog posts from social media “experts” are just full of their own hot air (as my Gran used to say) and, the advice might be solid, but I get so bored of their ego that I stop reading. Your article was great and I’ve pinned it to my fav’s so I can read it again later.

  • Kevin Green says:

    Just a great article and thank you for the information.

  • Brady Lewis says:

    My biggest misconception when first starting social media marketing was that I could just “shout” my information, and everyone would listen. I completely missed the social aspect of social media. It’s so key to build relationships and to actually interact with your efforts.

  • Charlie Says says:

    Wow, this blog is a pleasure to read and Tamar you have nailed it in terms of some of the epic fails of businesses “trying” social media. They approach it solely from the point of what they can get out of it and this is in fact how many agencies will pitch social media to their clients.
    The net IS social, it has far more influence that many businesses realise and just by being a part of the conversation, you are setting yourself apart from many of your competitors. Customer service has always been a prime differentiator for businesses, that’s why so much revenue comes from training in this filed. Take your customer comments on board, engage with them, create your own brand regardless of your business size and watch this pay wonderful dividends over time.
    Social media marketing and engagement is a long game plan but it is free so why not get involved and what your natural marketing really develop.
    Thanks
    Charlie

  • Joe Rigby says:

    I cannot resist commenting but I an afraid you may eventually come to the conclusion that I could be a self-deluded fool of considerable proportions. We are promoting a rather unique concept using LinkedIn and Twitter where we develop 3D virtual environments for archaeology and engineering. The bottom line is we can import any 3D object drawn in CAD software or scanned using laser scanners into an MMO platform (AVAYALIVE ENGAGE).We have contacted university departments around the world with no positive result. How do you work around the fact that a potentially truly disruptive technology will be shunned ? How can you grow a business that could perhaps obsolete the experience of researchers that have spent years of hard work developing their now useless skills? No amount of polite contact and displaying of the technology (with no abrasive sales technique in the slightest) has had any positive feedback. Mind you if I was in their shoes I would take to the hills and avoid us as well. I do feel rather sombre at times about the implications of our novel approach to creating archaeological simulations which are multi-participant and VOIP capable. (Only works on a PC atm MAC compatibility is due out soon)

    • Joe, you need to find people who are looking for your product. Politely contacting people who aren’t interested won’t work.

      You can do plenty of interesting social outreach, but LinkedIn and Twitter direct contact may not cut it — unless you can find people in your niche who do express some sort of interest. Consider some alternatives:
      * Interesting YouTube videos
      * content marketing using blogging or infographics

      Also, I’d recommend getting someone on board who has already established contacts in the media who can help build visibility for your product. Maybe universities aren’t the right place for it. Do you have customers right now at all? Who are they? Can you reach out to more of those? Can they be your brand evangelists?

      All of this is food for thought.

  • Joe Rigby says:

    I am sure you are correct on all points! We do have a serious discussion ongoing with the Art Gallery of Hamilton here in Ontario, Canada. Hopefully we can garner some references there with other institutions. There a few doors being cracked open ever so slightly and with some luck we may be lucky to have a breakthrough soon. Patience, however, was never one of my strengths so thanks again for the reply. It was refreshing to hear your suggestions.

Comments are closed.