Keep Your Virtual Mouth Shut

I stumbled upon a networking group (seemingly for mothers who have started businesses) while having breakfast at Hof’s Hut last week.  I couldn’t resist ear hustling a little and, not surprisingly, the conversation involved the same social media admonitions that I hear ad nauseum these days – “how many have a Facebook page for your business, how many Twitter?”  And then, “everyone should be using these forms of social media.”  Really… should they, should everyone just put up a page, upload a post, and send out a 140 character Tweet?

At the risk of being cast as a heretic, I disagree with the business pundits who keep pushing that anyone with a desire to succeed should have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, create a blog and fight for hits, clicks and likes.  I get it; I got it the first 500 times I heard it – social media, done right, can be invaluable.  But honestly, some people just shouldn’t use it.  They and their businesses would be much better off if they just kept their virtual mouths shut.

Social media advocates are yelling for everyone to jump into the lifeboat without noticing that it is full of holes.  The focus continues to be on getting the message out with very little emphasis on what’s and how it’s being said and, more importantly, how it’s being received.   You absolutely should not join the social media melee if what you create is boring, meaningless and actually has the opposite effect from what was intended.

Recently a fellow consultant asked me to join her on Twitter, she told me that it wasn’t really her thing but the company she’s working with wants her to ‘up her profile.’  So far she’s Tweeted numerous links to articles that I have already seen and/or I have no idea why I should read.  I have always liked my colleague but I’m beginning to think she’s not very enlightened or interesting.

A former classmate of mine is searching for a new job and is very active on LinkedIn which she feeds from her Twitter account. I now know when she goes to the gym, where she gets her mani/pedi and that she has time for facials every week.  Busy woman, but the message I’m getting is that she’s not working very hard.

Great messages, presented in a meaningful way, have amazing power.  But even the best message will fall on deaf ears if it doesn’t offer something of value.   Creating a meaningful message takes time, re-Tweeting someone else’s article doesn’t.  Rather than just sending out links, create a summary of what the article said and tell why you think it’s worth my reading.  And don’t just tell me why you found it interesting, it isn’t interesting if it is only about you.  No one likes sitting next to the person who does nothing but talk about themselves at a dinner party, why would anyone want to be subjected to that online?

The same thing applies to messages on Facebook, websites, e-blasts and blogs.  Don’t throw out generic appeals to an autonomous audience hoping something will stick.  If you’re telling people about your newest product, or latest meal, or most recent project and you’re not finding a way to make it valuable to them, you’re a bore.   There are a lot of appeals you can use beyond just providing information:

–          be entertaining,  make them laugh, cry, think

–          be educational, show them how the product can improve their social life, health or income

–          make their life easier, offer a better solution to a problem

–          do the research, show them how to cut through the red tape

–          make the reader feel important and understood!

Yes, social media can be extremely beneficial to building a business or career, but as Abraham Lincoln said, “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

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