Bryan Paul Sullo

No Passengers

In Social Media on 19 December 2013 at 4:05 pm

We’ve all met them: You’re at a social get-together, or maybe even a business networking event, and someone appears in front of you, introduces himself, and attempts to make small-talk. He asks a few questions about you, but they feel forced, and he doesn’t follow up your answers with anything that makes it seem like he was listening. About fifteen agonizing seconds of this go by, and then your acquaintance blurts out his multi-level-marketing pitch. (This is especially awkward at a family gathering.) You express your profound disinterest as politely as you can. He comes back with a desperate plea. “I’m just not interested,” you say. Then, he does something that confuses you: He becomes indignant, as if you were wasting his time, and walks away.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of Twitter posts that say things like, “I just unfollowed 14563 people who weren’t following me back using Unfollower!” These are generated by automated tools that comb your Twitter feed looking for people you follow who aren’t following you, and then remove them from the list of people you follow. Here’s my question: Why? There’s only one reason: It’s because you’re an aggressive follower.

Aggressive following is the act of following tons and tons of people in the hopes that some of them will follow you back. When you engage in this behavior (and broadcast it) there are two things I know about you:

1. You don’t care about anything I have to say. Your only purpose in being on Twitter is to use it as a free soapbox for your own material.

2. I’m probably not going to care about what you have to say. The majority of people I have seen using aggressive following, the only thing they’re tweeting are advertisements for their own products. They’re not adding anything to the community.

The people you got on Twitter to sell to aren’t there looking for something to buy. They’re on Twitter for many reasons, but being advertised to isn’t one of them. This type of advertising doesn’t work in social media anyway. Imagine if a local mechanic bought up all the ad spots on TV, so I saw those ads day and night. I might consider trying them if I didn’t like my current mechanic. Otherwise, why would I switch? On the other hand, let’s say I got to know a mechanic because we were in the same bowling league. One day, I happen to mention my Check Engine light came on, and he tells me to check my gas cap. I find that it’s loose and the next day, the light goes off. When my car needs servicing again, who am I going to take it to?

That’s how advertising in social media works as well. You need to build credibility and rapport. That takes time, and it takes effort. It means engaging with people one on one, not just broadcasting tweets.

So, what’s with the title of this post, “No Passengers”? It’s what one twitter advertiser appended to the end of her, “I just unfollowed . . .” message: “Sorry guys, no room for passengers.” As if her following them was somehow doing them a favor. As if she was somehow carrying them! (I have a low tolerance for arrogance.)

Trust me, if you do social media sales like that, people will smell you coming a mile away.

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