Rule #1 of Twitter use – be helpful – right? Does that make sense to you? Absolutely. Can you screw up your implementation of Rule #1 and ruin your Twitter presence? Absolutely. By the way, this rule applies to all forms of social media.
Let’s look at the idea of sharing in the context of two questions:
- What to share
- How to share
Automated social media – efficiency versus effectiveness
You can automate parts of your social media presence. ReTweet buttons are a simple example: two clicks and you’ve Tweeted a useful link instead of typing it all out. You can even set up automated Tweets, similar to E-Mail autoresponders. Similar examples apply to other social media tools.
But here’s the important question: Why automate?
There’s two ways to answer this question. One answer would address the methods used (efficiency). The other answer delves into the more important question: what’s your objective? What do you hope to achieve? What do you want your audience to do? This reply delves into effectiveness: Will automation help you achieve your goals?
When being helpful looks like spamming
Recently, Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz (http://ittybiz.com/what-should-i-tweet-about/) seemed to declare war on “useful” Tweets and called for a return (or resurgence) of informal Twitter chat, even designating a hashtag for this purpose. A closer read of the post reveals the following key idea: You’re not being helpful if you’re just presenting a guise of being helpful and creating a continual barrage of links.
Worse still, if all you’re doing is generating “helpful” output, you’re losing a big opportunity.
We’ve all seen these accounts, the ones that just post titles and links. The worst offenders only link to themselves. Actually, the worst offenders lie about what they’re linking to, but we don’t need to go there.
Since your blog posts and articles really should be helpful, pumping them out in an automated stream helps your followers by extension. But when it looks obvious that it’s a machine at work, not a human being, it cheapens the gift by excluding the humanity.
Too much of this and it’s indistinguishable from spam.
When being conversational looks like spamming
On the other hand, if your social media output is purely social, you’ve need to be mindful of how this activity builds your business. A number of celebrities or successful entrepreneurs churn out “personal” and “social” content with a minimum of links. Some look like they are just musing out loud or talking to themselves.
Granted, they may have less free time than working stiffs like you and me. But they don’t look like they’re doing one of the most important things: listening. They’re just broadcasting, which is darn close to spamming.
The automation mindset obscures the need to listen
Automation is great. It allows you to focus your time and attention on other things. However, when information is being sprayed from the proverbial firehose, listening becomes even more critical. People used to come directly to you with letters, phone calls and formal meetings and you had the ability to respond or deflect. Now they talk to each other instead or they just complain to audiences, not to you.
If you delegate one thing, sometimes it’s easy to delegate a related activity.
I know that’s the MBA way, but you really need to think about delegating this activity. You are the best listener and engager. You’re the one who should care.
The solution: balance the automation with the personal touch
But you’re still limited by the same number of hours per day. Automation may be a key component of the way that you communicate with the world. It may be delivering valuable results to you. If you want to automate Tweets to your blog posts, that’s fine. But mix it up. Respond to feedback, both on your blog and in Twitter. Carve out some time to look for relevant conversations.
If you feel comfortable doing so, try:
- using your Twitter accounts to just “hang out” and being social
- acknowledge people (customers, suppliers, potential customers, remarkable people)
- strike up a new conversation
Just don’t be the guy or gal who gets a machine to talk into the wind. After awhile, too much “helpful” and too little listening just makes your voice blend into the cacophony we all live in today. And that’s when you surrender the permission you earned to be listened to.
As Jason says, the comments section is yours.
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