Social Media: What Not To Do 101

I’ve pissed a few people off on Twitter this morning.

Even people I like and have considered buds. It happens.

And, no, this isn’t an apology, because I think offense was either a) wrongly taken or b) deserved, depending who’s doing the saying.

I ranted about business-types and how keen they are to ladle praise onto their colleagues or companions, but how little genuine thanks gets expressed for the Little Things.

Like anything sandwiched into 140 words, a lot gets painted in broad strokes, and people get hurt, and I’m sorry for some of the offense I’m sure is being felt right now. But I don’t think it makes my point any less valid or needing of saying.

As an example, I’d like to tell you about my youth and a friendship I had then.

Me, I was 13, as was my friend Joyce. Everything I was, Joyce wasn’t. I was insecure, unsure how to act with others, and generally fumbling through my life. I had this habit of saying sorry for EVERYTHING — way more than my Canadian passport demands.

Joyce one day said to me, “No, you’re not. You’re saying sorry because you think it’s expected. When you say sorry every single time you do something, it makes the word mean less. When you really do need to apologize one day, it won’t mean anything, because you’ve given it all away so freely. Sorry, sorry, sorry.”

I’m pretty sure Joyce didn’t say it like that, but my 36-year-old mind remembers it that way. It hit me like a brick. She was absolutely right. If I was sorry all the time, I was never really moved by that sorriness, right? Sorry was just my state. *I* was sorry.

That’s what “daytime” Twitter strikes me as, when everyone’s bouncing around platitudes about their favourite service folk, et cetera.

And you know what?

As someone who’s not selling anything, who is a member of the buying public, if I think these service-provider tweets praising colleagues, exalting services they received as a business exchange, et cetera, SOUND inauthentic, isn’t that a point of concern?

I’m pretty “average person,” you know. My money gets spent, too, and it ain’t loyal ‘cos someone on Twitter says so — it’s getting spent wisely.

And this is the problem with using social media to drum up business. It can hurt you as much as it can help you.

Social media for business needs to be authentic. It needs to have credibility. It ALL reflects on you.

If you haven’t got the authenticity or credibility, you just sound like any other company pouring on the syrup in advertising.

Don’t kid yourself. Just because you’ve got a personality and meet people in the flesh doesn’t make you have one iota more credence than Coca-Cola or Ford. Not until you’ve proven it, not until you’ve genuinely connected with people more than a 30-second latenight commercial does.

But back to authenticity.

At the risk of not making anyone paranoid, let’s pretend I’m all rah-rah keener about my good buddy who I think makes THE best pancakes in the world.

If I tweet several times a week, “@PancakeFlipper makes THE best pancakes in the world!” or “No one makes me better pancakes than @PancakeFlipper can!”, then it loses ALL power. I’m not SAYING anything. It means NOTHING. It’s just words.

It’s like any kind of writing. Don’t TELL me, SHOW me.

“BREAKFAST! I can’t decide whether I should have the blueberry or the maple, because @PancakeFlipper makes it all so damned good!”

That gives @PancakeFlipper’s service value, and your TWEET a point.

My whole rant this morning began when I took offense at a friend asking for advice about something, and I took the time, like I always do, to give the advice sought. Then, I didn’t get a reply or a thank-you.

Yes, I take offense to that. Why? Because I’m old-fashioned and I believe in etiquette all the time. What are some etiquettes I live by I think should become eponymous in social media, too?

  • I might be mouthy. I may swear constantly. I may say THE most inappropriate things — and say them very, very well. But you know what I don’t do? I don’t not thank people. I don’t deliberately offend people. And when I know I’ve offended someone, I will almost always apologize. I might not take back what I’ve said, but I’ll try very hard to at least be sure I’m understood, so that if offense remains, it’s for the right reasons.
  • I have incredibly high standards for how I treat others and how I behave with my friends. I expect others to meet my standards. The good news is, I meet them too. But if you don’t? Tsk. How most of us judge people, whether you like it or not, is through little events in life. Are you on time? Are you grateful when it’s not a big deal? Do you treat little people well? That sort of stuff.
  • I don’t flatter people needlessly. When I do praise someone, you KNOW I mean it, because I say it so infrequently. I won’t kiss your ass, retweet your stuff mindlessly, or say how much you rock.
  • I don’t give my stamp of approval willy-nilly because I know it reflects on me. Until you have proven to me that you’ve earned my approval, you probably won’t get it in a public way. No one comes back to bite me in the ass, capiche?
  • I want those who get my stamp of approval to feel like they’ve earned something. I’m not rich, I’m not famous, but I’m authentic, and when I say something, I say what I mean. Hence, Steff’s Stamp of Approval is oh-so-rarely given.

If you’re using Twitter and the like to drum up business, you better be aware that you’re not the only mouthpiece out there.

If you’re constantly lauding praise on “friends” in business, you better be sure your business practices are impeccable. If you fuck up, if you hurt clients or business relationships, all those people you’ve been singing the praises of, it tarnishes their reputation as well.

For most, this isn’t a worry. For some, it should be. There are those out there that would make me cringe if I received their approval, because we play from a very different rule book.

What else do I mean when I talk about “authenticity”? Hmm. Let’s see if I can nutshell this.

Happiness: Put a lid on it. Too much of a good thing is too much.

There’s a lady in my neighbourhood that I feel more sorry for than anyone — I think she had an accident and can never stop smiling. Seriously. Her eyes are so tragic, but her face has this awkward strained smile ALL the time. I’ve lived here for 10 years and that smile and sad eyes have never, ever left that face.

Imagine, never being able to show displeasure? Well, that’s what some people on Twitter seem like.

For some reason, when I think of all the happy-happy frou-frou types who are only ever cheerful, only ever singing the praises of others, and are never, ever authentic, I find myself thinking about the Dalai Lama.

See, one time I saw the Dalai Lama admit that he ALWAYS looks in people’s medicine cabinets when he visits private bathrooms. He’s fascinated by the reality behind that door. This makes him, among the holiest and most unattainable of men in the world, human. He’s nosy. He looks.

I’m pretty sure that when the Dalai Lama stubs his toe, he says something colourful, too. Because he’s human.

And that’s what some people are missing on Twitter. Humanity. Have a bad day. Share something boring you were thinking when you brushed your teeth. Be real. Look in the Twitter medicine cabinet, then comment about it.

And if you have something nice to say about a person, say it with meaning — give it value by showing us an example of why they’re awesome, like with @PancakeFlipper.

After all: Words are cheap, why should I buy yours?

Finally: I don’t care that we live in a faster, more harried world. You’re not entitled to my time. When I give you the advice or help you seek, then say thank you. Acknowledge it. Acknowledge anyone who takes the time to help.*

Life’s getting pretty stupid in the 2010s. Everyone’s on their hamster wheel, running like mad, seeing and doing all the same old shit, so lost in their days and ways that they forget what life was like when it wasn’t all about getting the next commission.

Stop it. Stop it now. Be real. Be grateful. Be genuine. Be present.

Otherwise, this whole social media shit’s going to the dogs.

*Sometimes, I get so many Twitter replies — I mean, I have 3,000 plus followers — that there’s no way I can thank everyone individually, but I do say general thanks in my stream, and would hope it’s noticed.