28 August, 2009

How to be a Social Media Jerkhole: Talk about yourself all the time.

Click to feel the bigness. (from xkcd.com)

This is the inaugural post in a series that will probably be abandoned when the next big project at the agency comes down the pike and buries me (in a good way, of course). But for now, let's talk about social media. I mean, really talk about it.

More specifically, let's talk about brands. Brands aren't that much different than people.

People are inherently narcissistic. We love to talk about ourselves. So do brands. And with the proliferation of digital channels, there are more ways to do it then ever.

I've got a problem with that. Because, unless you're a good friend or you're saying something really interesting or you're paying me to listen to you, I don't care how awesome you think you are. I'm pretty sure most people would back me up on this one.

So here's my first tip for brands looking to break off a little social sumpin'-sumpin':

Stop talking about yourself all the time.

Don't think I haven't noticed. We've all noticed. The spammy self-promotional tweets. The over-amped, unsolicited press releases to bloggers.

You may own that media buy. That 1/4 page ad. That :30 broadcast spot. But you don't - and can't - own a conversation that happens off the reservation. It belongs to the people, comrade.

I'm always reminded of the not-so-old adage from Hugh McCleod:

Brands shouldn't be afraid to go off script. In fact, I encourage it to clients. It breaks the barrage of sanctioned messages consumers are used to seeing. It makes a brand seem more human.
Some ideas:
  • Retweet a dumb video of puppies.
  • Share photos of the marketing director whiffing at the company softball game.
  • Write a company blog about something you're passionate about- and are not paid to do at work (P.S. I strongly recommend that you avoid religion and politics. The discussions they rile up rarely end well.)
  • Promote someone else's blog post that you like - maybe even a competitor (If you're confident in your service and dedicated to giving your customers content of interest, what have you got to worry about?)

Just like in real-life interactions, no one wants to talk business all the time. Every now and then undo that top button. Loosen your tie. Lighten up a little. And take the emphasis off your business. You'll find it'll make folks more willing to listen to that promotional bit your brand throws out into the social ether next time.

So, when you're not talking about your business, what are you talking about?

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