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Is Junk Mail, Spam and Hard Selling Hurting Social Media for Business?

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Social media is all about being social.  It’s not about hawking products and services or distributing information directly into people’s streams.  We know that social media sites are meant to provide an online venue people to connect, engage, share and much more.  Many have also flocked to social media as a way to connect people and businesses together.  So we now have a paradox.  Social media is supposed to be fun, but now capitalists want to be a part of the action.  There is nothing wrong with capitalism; the American entrepreneurial spirit is what makes our nation and the world economy run.  Without capitalism, there would be no social media to begin with.

According to a Nielsen 2011 social media report, “53 percent of active adult social networkers follow a brand.”  Social media interaction between people and business was inevitable because people identify themselves with brands, and social media is an ideal place for brands and businesses to engage their customers and fans.  This interaction is a good thing, allowing people to find the products and services they like and their friends recommend.  Social media allows individuals to demonstrate brand loyalty and get access to discounts, special offers and prizes.  However, the problem arises when businesses or individuals motivated by sales start pushing unwanted advertising and direct messages to make sales pitches or offers.  Didn’t many of us sign up for social media to get away from spam and unwanted hard selling?

Social media is an opt-in medium, meaning people choose which information, people, brands and content they want to engage with.  In social media, communication or contact with a brand or business must be initiated by the individual.  If you like a product or company on Facebook or LinkedIn, no problem! You can connect, and businesses want you to do this.  However, a line can be – and often is – crossed.  Most people do not want to be contacted by someone trying to sell something on social media…unless they ask.  Social media is a platform where businesses and individuals must market themselves indirectly through interaction.  Social media participation is about giving information and engaging, not selling and soliciting.

Businesses should focus on using social media to provide information, demonstrate expertise and offer a forum for interaction.  By maintaining a positive flow of information and helpful interaction, a business, brand or professional salesperson will accomplish their goal: sales.  Yes, sales!  Sales will eventually come directly or from referrals, but only after a relationship is built.  Building the kind of relationship where individuals get to know, like and trust the individual or business is the goal.  People do business with those they know, like and trust.

What should businesses be aware of when trying to sell or market directly online?  Social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have policies against direct sales pitches.  LinkedIn’s User Agreement has a list of do’s and don’ts, which states that, “the user will not upload, post, email, InMail, transmit or otherwise make available or initiate any content that is unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” “pyramid schemes,” or any other form of solicitation.”  Failing to follow this policy and the many others can result in having your profile suspended or terminated indefinitely.  Yes, terminated. Think of how much time and money goes into creating a social media site or account.  Do you want to risk losing it all?

Direct sales messages are annoyingly commonplace in social media, as many businesses are drawn into the possibilities and the exposure opportunities that it offers.  Social media sites’ news streams and walls are not intended for direct sales messages. This is an area that should remain uncorrupted by overzealous and scavenging advertising.  Some experts disagree, but I believe in reporting and blocking all inappropriate sales contact made through direct messaging.  If it’s a friend you may wish to tell them that it’s not appropriate, but we all need to fight against this practice.  We don’t want to have our LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter direct message mailboxes fill with unwanted sales spam.

I have been bashing selling on social media, but there are some exceptions.  Not all “sales messages” on social media are inappropriate.  For instance, advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn is, for the most part, unobtrusive and helps to keep most of the services offered free.  These ads are not direct messages and are usually chosen based on their relevance to your likes and interests and content that you post.  Divya Rawat, a content writer with a reputed SEO Company, says that Facebook ads can be customized as per age, location, gender, industry, interests and more. (http://www.vast9.com/facebook/facebook-advertising-5-tips-design-effective-facebook-ad/).

Selling is an art and a skill.  Online selling is evolving and, in the business to business arena, selling via social media is difficult when compared to the business to consumer market, where online selling is more ubiquitous and accepted.  Retail brands, including clothing and restaurants, can use social media to advertise extremely effectively.  This is a less intrusive approach, allowing individuals to opt-in.

People need to know that hard sales messages on social media are counter-productive and will turn people away instead of attracting them, which is just the opposite of what social media is intended to do.

Author:

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com.  He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Sources:

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Comments

  1. Hi Bill,
    I can’t stand when people contact me on LinkedIn and give me the hard sell. That is NOT what that platform is for. In fact, I agree, it does not belong anywhere on social media unless it is part of the culture like the ads that subtly appear in the right column of facebook pages and are not really perceived as ads.
    When will people learn about social media marketing etiquette and that a hard sell is a no sell. Thanks for your reminder.

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  1. […] should be aware of when trying to sell or market directly online by writing the piece, “Is Junk Mail, Spam and Hard Selling Hurting Social Media for Business?”  DBMEI provides an important forum to discuss issues not found on other social media dedicated […]

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