Don’t be that guy

by Shannon Paul on August 17, 2008

We hear the phrase, “don’t be that guy,” a lot in social media circles, but there are a lot of those guys still running around trying to shout their message in an endless game of virtual whack-a-mole every time something pops up on their news alerts, in a blog post or Twitter stream when it seems relevant to what they are promoting and/or selling.

Rather than actually listening, they rush to the scene to promote and/or contradict statements they feel run counter to their messaging. They leave comments on everyone’s blog – often rehashed statements that read eerily similar to other comments left elsewhere. Thinly veiled comments that seem designed to deliver a pitch.

Stop it.

People are posting ideas and generating conversations here, and your pseudo-comment-that-is-really-a-pitch adds nothing to the discussion.

If I’m looking for a particular solution, I’ll ask for it in the post.

If I’m writing about something you think your product would solve, send me an e-mail. I’m in PR, I understand that pitching is part of the business. Pitch me, but don’t be rude.

Are you that guy? Here are 5 things that guy does to inspire hatred and annoyance in social media circles:

  1. Set up a Twitter account and tweet about your product/blog/website/agenda more than 50 percent of the time.
  2. Post comments on blogs with the sole purpose of promoting your product – Bonus points for adding extra links to your product/blog/website/agenda.
  3. Keep all communication professional. Don’t bother engaging in conversation that is irrelevant to your professional agenda, keep your motivations secret and avoid offering personal opinions. After all, your opinions may differ from those you’re trying to pitch.
  4. Quickly dismiss all posts that might be considered negative as being uninformed or lacking in information. Contradict the author, but make no attempt to clarify or offer an explanation that might be helpful for the discussion.
  5. Wait to get involved in social media until your product is ready to launch or has already launched. Don’t get involved in social networks until you have your strategy outlined since you won’t know who you should be targeting.

When you do these things, you embarrass yourself and tarnish the reputation of what it is you are actually trying to promote.

If you have read the above list and realize that you are indeed that guy, please know it’s not too late to change your ways. Here are 5 steps to get you on the road to recovery:

  1. Fess up. We all make mistakes. People engaged in social media usually respect others’ ability to be human. Part of being human is admitting your mistakes. Simply take your lumps and change your ways.
  2. Be human all the time. This is tough to explain, but be the same dorky, lovable, flawed person you are with your friends and family. Hey, they like you, or at least tolerate you. Others probably will, too, within reason. Remember; relationships come first.
  3. Build relationships in social networks before you actually need them. Don’t wait until you’re ready to launch a product or find yourself out of work to start reaching out to people in social networks. That’s like meeting someone for the first time at a party and asking them to loan you money.
  4. Learn to take criticism. Listen first and address what your critics have to say without being immediately contradictory in your response. Acknowledge your detractors, admit your shortcomings and work on putting forth a real solution or explanation.
  5. Promote others often — even if they don’t promote you. If you think somebody has cool ideas or does a great job at generating discussion, point them out. Promote them for no reason other than you respect what they do. Tell everyone how great they are.

The bottom line for me is that I am not blogging so you can come along and pretend to be engaged with the subject matter only to pitch my readers or me. I do not put the time and effort into writing posts and maintaining a site during my free time so that you can have a free platform to promote. It’s doubtful that anyone else is either.

I blog to sharpen my own opinions, deepen my skills for creating online content and to develop relationships with others. I also blog to learn from others, validate my own inklings and work through ideas I may be wrong about.

Nothing I’ve said here is new. Others have said this, and continue to say it, better than me. Don’t just take my word for it, here are some other great explanations to help you avoid being that guy:

Ogilvy 360′s Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics

Jim Tobin in Social Media Today (Schmoozing vs Connecting): Social Media Mistakes and How to Avoid Them (2 of 6)

Also, Chris Brogan sums it up beautifully in this short video:

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