3 Golden Business Rules for Social Media Engagement

If you’re doing social media for your business, there’s nothing better than to do it right. Many companies partake in this “shiny toy syndrome” and do it all without a plan or strategy in place. Worse, many don’t really understand what to do once they start. They hear about tools, put forth a miserable effort, and are either too busy or just lazy.

With social media, an abundance of resources are at your fingertips. However, without a successful plan and any adequate preparation, your social media efforts will fail. Here are three dos and don’ts you should think about before you move forward.

Don’t self promote.

Okay, so this should be obvious, but there are so many businesses that don’t get it. On a particular forum I am active on (yes, I still use them!), I noticed someone asking for advice. A response came from a business owner who had the perfect answer on her website and directed the original poster to the website for a detailed reply. Sadly, this person’s post was pulled by the strict moderators on that forum; the post was purely self-promotional and nothing but. When I reviewed the poster’s account, I understood why. I noticed that she had done the same thing on other discussions on the same forum over a period of several months and all of them were pulled!

Want to self promote? You can! Just do it while giving back to the community as well. Engage in dialogue. Participate and offer genuine feedback. If you’re only on the forum to tell other people to visit your website or to use your product, you won’t go far. Maybe the moderators of the forum you visit won’t care, but the incessant messages eventually annoy your followers and they’ll unfollow you, report/bury your submissions, or find another place to congregate that doesn’t include your spam.

Do engage during business hours, especially if that’s your job!

Many of you who have hired me know that some of my best work may not come between 9 AM and 6 PM. I reply to emails around the clock like a robot. If I’m managing your Twitter account, you might find a response from me at 11 PM on a Saturday night or 2 AM on a Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean I go silent during business hours, and neither should you. While I respect that most of the world isn’t on the same schedule as I am and that most of the world is tweeting when they’re on the clock and won’t go the extra mile because it’s “just a job,” I do have the expectation that you should respond to your customers during business hours, and preferably within a reasonable amount of time (1-2 business days, but closer to one when using a social media channel). Don’t make your social media efforts half-assed. Don’t check in on Twitter and Facebook once or twice a week and only for 10 minutes.

I understand that some people may have other responsibilities on top of social media. That’s why this is more of a message for large and not necessarily small brands. Not long ago, I tweeted praise to a business and followed up with them about something else via email. Neither the tweet or the follow up direct message was responded to in a timely fashion. This is a well known brand, but yet they’re not building up their social media presence despite prominently advertising it on their website. Their Twitter account has less than 500 followers but they’re not engaging enough. The Facebook page could be totally overrun by bandits and they’d never know because they aren’t paying that much attention.

If you’re going to engage in social media, do it! Just do it head first, not with one foot.

Do study your influencers

Want to reach out to influencers? Yeah, most of us do. We want to get the people of a certain level of authority to talk about us. It can be potentially huge for everyone involved.

Thing is, some people don’t really reach out correctly to influencers. They don’t read 20 blog posts and comments. They don’t follow guidelines on contact form policies on what will be covered and what won’t be. Influencer outreach may possibly be the most powerful outreach tactic that PR practitioners or marketers are laziest about. This turns bloggers sour, thinking that everyone in public relations or blogger outreach is just a spammer.

I can tell a zillion stories about off topic pitches, but other posts have already told some of those tales. But before you gloss over this bullet point and say “it won’t happen to me,” guess what — it probably already did. In a recent campaign, I was reached by a social media agency about a topic that was totally irrelevant to my audience and would never be something I’d blog about. Some people get that. Meanwhile, this agency contracted one of the biggest social media rockstars in the space, a guy who has a stellar social media record. Yet he’s also the reason why I was on this agency’s distribution list using an email address I don’t publicize. If this rockstar knew better, he’d have used my contact form and read my coverage policy (short answer: I won’t cover anything you send to me). He’d also have done the outreach personally since I’ve met the guy at social media events. Instead, he passed on my email address without regard for it being a private email, and the agency sent me a clear newsletter blast with fancy fonts and the whole nine yards — with no regard for who I am and what I write about.

It’s time consuming to look at which bloggers to target, read posts, and then write a personal message to the blogger along with the actual pitch. However, if you want really good coverage, you’ll do it. Study your influencers out; don’t take the lazy path because you can. Nobody passes a difficult exam with little to no preparation (unless they’re really smart!)

This may be nothing more than a refresher course in the Captain Obvious department but even the savviest of companies is still missing the boat. When it comes to social media, social should always be carefully weighted before the marketing is put forth. In social media, it may be more important to market slowly and the right way or not at all. It’s not always about numbers and it’s not about sporadic participation. It’s about building relationships, spending time on the networks, and having regular conversations with the people you want to connect with who you will value for more than just helping move the needle and getting to the bottom line. All of that will come — but it comes more effectively once you put forth true effort into connecting with the people who matter.

Photos by Shutterstock.

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52 replies on “3 Golden Business Rules for Social Media Engagement”
  1. says: JinAtSmilely

    Social media is one of those things that we all think we’re experts in because we deal with it in our daily lives. There’s definitely more to connecting via social media than creating an account and spamming others with irrelevant messages. I view social media as simply a different way to maintain good relations: I might be behind a screen, but I am still dealing with individuals who have a lot more common sense than they are typically credited for.

    1. Well said, Jin. I see that too. They are still people. They still have emotions. You SHOULD be able to think before you speak online; typing is a bit slower than using your mouth! πŸ˜‰

  2. says: Lucy Thorpe

    This post really brings to the fore a few things that have been bugging me. I love Twitter and like to engage,chat and do business. I blog and comment too, however;
    1. A lot of big companies I try to engage with don’t want to talk back. They suck up any re-tweets or praise but aren’t interested in giving back, That makes it hard for me to reach them now or later.
    2. Some influencers will ignore you if you go about it the ‘wrong’ way but the right way is different for everyone! Some like a direct pitch via twitter others want an e-mail, others will delete your e-mail! If it is not clear from blog guidelines etc how they like to be approached then I sometimes ask outright how they would like to receive a pitch, but that annoys some people too!
    3. If they are not following you back is it creepy to make direct approaches in ‘public’ on Twitter ie with an @tweet that everyone can see?

    1. 1. I understand! I think it’s tough sometimes when you tweet and they totally seem to ignore you. Are they listening? This is why it’s a lot easier for small brands to succeed and big brands to fail. On one of my client accounts, I respond to 98% of the tweets directed to me. Lots of work? Yeah. But I know I make the customers happy.

      2. That’s the challenge as well. I personally don’t like email, but if it’s right, I will cover it! The short answer for me is usually applicable to everyone, though. Nobody has EVER sent me a pitch that I blogged about here. And while I seem to be one of the hardest nuts to crack when it comes to outreach ( πŸ˜‰ ), I don’t think any blogger will be adverse to the outreach though if you obtained the contact information legitimately. If you use my blog’s contact form, you’re doing it the right way. If you’re emailing me on an address I don’t distribute except to a few friends and send your agency after that address, you better bet I will say something about the process.

      3. Nope. Just say “@user I’d like to ask you something. Can you let me DM you or DM me your email address?”

  3. Really great post Tamar,

    The self promotion aspect was what I learned the hard way, after being banned on over 100 forums and some social bookmarking sites. I discovered the best thing to do is to give value and others will look for you.

    Thanks a lot for the great post!

  4. says: Peter Wells

    Tamar … u r a great teacher and I really appreciate your sharing. I follow your advice assiduously however I just cannot get my product to move … maybe its just unsexy or maybe trying to save the environment and business / promo just dont work together …. my fb can be found on peter@whale.co.za … much X … p

  5. I think the time and relationship building is SO important! It is similar to the education I hear going on about length of time to get results via organic SEO. Anything organic – which relationship building is – will take time to build up, especially where we interact with the human element and we seek to build the know, like and trust factor. BTW, love your Captain Obvious!

    1. LOL, glad to hear that you liked the Captain Obvious reference, Claire! I feel like I’ve said this a zillion times before.

      YEP! Everything here takes time. But if you don’t spend the time, you’re bound to fail. πŸ™‚

  6. says: Drew Hawkins

    I like your points on the right type of blogger outreach. Just because a particular blogger has a large audience doesn’t mean that they are the right fit to help pimp out your brand. Our company does employee incentive programs so reaching out to a tech blog in lieu of a heavy PR/Incentives blogger just because the audience is larger would be a poor decision.

  7. Sometimes the “Captain Obvious” points need to be restated…you are always reaching new people with each post, and everyone is in different stages of social media adoption.

    Along those lines, I have a question about “recovery” after blundering in approaching an influencer. I have a “friend” who, early in her learning curve, totally blew it with a big blogger because she didn’t understand the nuances yet. What is your recommendation for mending things, now that she’s seen the light and met Captain Obvious? Should she send flowers? Try again? Hide under a rock?

    1. Yeah, I feel like I could say this so many times. It doesn’t always sink in.

      The thing is that Google has a great memory, but people are forgiving. She should go out there and make an effort to show she’s understood. The people around her will notice this, support her, and those old ways will be forgotten.

  8. says: Kellye Crane

    Very interesting to me is the account of a “social media rockstar” with “a stellar social media record” basically selling you out for a buck. I’m shocked (though perhaps I shouldn’t be).

    I’ve always loved the expression “it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and five minutes to lose it.” I’m sure influencers looking to cash in on their connections won’t stay stellar for long.

    1. Yeah, seriously. I remember having a chat with someone about how AMAZING he was — I barely knew him at the time, and well, I still don’t know him since I was just a number. πŸ™

      1. says: Kellye Crane

        Hard to imagine you being just a number to anyone, Tamar! πŸ™‚ I call these folks “people collectors” – they turn on the charm just long enough to think they’ve got you in their corner. But they miss out on the real relationships – it’s truly their loss.

  9. Well said Tamar. Some advice I give to my Social Media students is to be careful following the example of some large brands who are relatively new to Social Media but seem to be successful. The larger brands can initially leverage their name recognition to achieve some high numbers in Social Media but they could easily lack the understanding of engagement which is the key to long term success.

    1. Yeah – big brands have it easy just about everywhere. Small businesses can’t always follow by example, unfortunately. They might have to spend time doing instead.

  10. says: Julie Sweet

    Very well put Tamar – thankyou! I not only learnt alot reading that great piece, you put it so clearly and so simply. I agree with your words and especially took heed to the self promotion aspect, very interesting indeed. Thanks again Tamar for an enlightening read.

  11. says: Ishak Latipi Mastan

    Hi Tamar,

    I have been reading and following your work on Social Media Marketing for the past six months. I learn a great deal from your writings. In this post, I really like the phrase “influencer outreach”. Keep on sharing.

    Have a great weekend,
    Latipi @ Ziyad
    Kuala Lumpur.

  12. Great article Tamar! You’ve given some great advice. Funny I’ve taken just as much great info from the comments as I did from the article.

    Edited: Thanks Kimberly, but I don’t accept comments with your blog’s name as per my blog policy. I really hate doing this, but I also really hope that people start listening to this. As mentioned, I reserve the right to edit your name and URL when that happens.

      1. Yeah – sorry. I’m looking for offline names because I wouldn’t want to call you that on the street. It was always awkward for people to call me the screen name that I’ve had since elementary school by my friends!

  13. Kudos on ‘engaging in social media during business hours’. I totally agree with you on how you need to make sure you reply to your customers in a relatively short period of time. I think it’s also important to stick with your ‘reply mode’ and be consistent. If you reply to people’s questions every 2 hours, users will be expecting that sort of response and may get disappointed when they see you not responding after a period of time. It’s a good practice to define what customers should expect of you.

    Oh, and by the way Tamar, I also appreciate you taking the time to reply to everyone’s comments – it’s good to see a consultant practice what he/she preaches πŸ˜‰

    1. “If you reply to people’s questions every 2 hours, users will be expecting that sort of response and may get disappointed when they see you not responding after a period of time.”

      …which becomes MY challenge as I reply to every comment on this blog! Sometimes I miss some. πŸ™

  14. I, too, am very impressed by your responses to ALL comments. And have learned even more by reading your responses as from your original post.
    I would like to share your blog with my (much smaller) audience.
    Question – I’ve never seen anyone address this: What is your advice or opinion on Twitter users who have removed the direct message tab. It seems like it defeats one purpose of Twitter (from a marketing/sales view).
    I also really like your blog policy. I don’t think I’ve seen/read one before. Good, clear communication!

    1. Good question, Nancy. It’s a dumb move, to be honest (I thought it was temporary!). It actually encourages people to use the third party tools rather than the twitter.com web interface in my opinion.

      I’m glad you like my blog policy! It’s funny that so many people do not follow it. I edit commenters’ names all the time!

  15. says: Laura

    I have recently been reading blog articles on Social Media (because it is now my job), just to see what people are saying and what the comments say after reading the article – and I must say I really enjoyed reading this blog article. There are so many businesses that are great businesses but they just dont get the social media aspect. I agree with this article all the way and plan to pass it long to my co-workers. Its a nice refresher.

    Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!


  16. Hi Tamar, just revisiting after a reminder from Glen:) Impressed to see you’ve turned your blog into a brilliant resource with a fabulous community. Great to see another female rocking it – I wish there were more of us out here. I’m no geek but the whole social media phenomonen is fascinating and I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes.

    I’d love to read more about being contacted by PR and marketing agencies and how that came about as it’s something I’d like to cultivate. I’d love my blog and the people I’m helping to be sponsored by a large corporate so we can do out thing and I don’t have to rely on selling products to make an income from my blog.

    Keep up the top blogging:)

    1. You mean to get paid to blog? It doesn’t happen easily but there are sites that let you join to post paid reviews. I don’t really do it — it doesn’t jive with me and the messages don’t really resonate with my community — but the options are out there.

  17. Great points Tamar! I am huge believer in answering all comments on my own blog too, I think it shows people that you really do care about what you are writing, enough to respond to their comments. As for social media, people must keep in mind that being active is a huge part of the success of any avenues of social media. Be active show that you are a valuable resource to your “followers”.

  18. says: Annice Brown

    I’ve only commented on your blog a few times, but I want you to know I value your tips. As a blogger over 50, I’ve got a lot to learn. I work as a small business counselor in 14 Appalachian Counties in NC and always refer them to your blog fro the best of social marketing tips. Keep them coming.

  19. I found your blog via the Social Media Today’s post “the 12 blogs of christmas”. I had read some of your stuff before and lost your site or possibly I read a post you may have guest blogged. Love this blog because it emphasizes the importance of timely communication or responses.

    My dilemma seems to be getting my clients to even understand the importance of social media marketing and blogging. They seem to all listen to me, say hmm that’s interesting and keep it moving. Do you have any advice.

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