Where there are social networks, there will be people who abuse them — and you certainly don’t have to go far to find them. Just rewind back to Friday morning for example: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff littered Twitter with tweets announcing the firing-squad execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, which stirred up just as much controversy as the actual execution itself.
Social media missteps like this happen more frequently than we care to blog on, and in a time where communicators can’t get away with avoiding the conversation, there’s one question that’s going to keep surfacing (other than what’s going on with the World Cup): Where is the line drawn between interesting tidbits and overly annoying posts? So, in an effort to help answer this trending topic, I’ve pinpointed three of the most common ailments that strike social media newcomers.
1. The pleading self-promoter: Most social networks boil down to a basic popularity contest, and secretly, we all want to have as many friends as Ashton Kutcher. But the last thing that you want to do is make a public outcry to follow you because it just leaves you sounding desperate. The best, and most effective, way to increase your presence is still researching and following other users in your industry on the different social media channels. Offering a signing bonus to your X follower is also a much less obtrusive way to build your network, but be sure this isn’t the only thing you’re posting.
2. The too-often tweeter: Signing in and seeing 248 new tweets is one thing. Having the first 48 of those all from the same person is downright annoying. Take advantage of apps and plug-ins like Twuffer and AutoTweeter to schedule your tweets to chirp periodically throughout the day. Unless you’re pushing out a lot of information, like news sites or popular blogs, leave at least (note the emphasis) an hour-long buffer between tweets. Don’t want another download? You can always type your thought on a virtual sticky note to remind you later. Remember, the last thing you want is to end up being as annoying to follow as Robert Scoble.
- Also seen as: The one-link wonder — If you only have one thing to promote, post it once, not once every 30 minutes.
3. The hashtag harlet: When you have more link text than actual text text, you’ve gone too far. What you’re telling people is that what you have to say isn’t nearly as interesting as what other people have already said, so you’re just going to follow the trending topic in hopes to get heard, rather than contributing to the conversation. Limit yourself to at most two, very relevant, hashtags per tweet, which should leave you more than enough space to gleefully insert your commentary.
Even though the above diagnoses were Twitter-specific — because, for some reason, it’s just easier to spot the scoundrels there — you can take the basic principles and parlay them to your other networks.
Let’s look at Facebook:
1. The same self-promotion Twitter problem follows suit on Facebook, either with asking out-right to like your page or posting too much one-way noise about yourself. Instead, let users know they can find you on Facebook through your other channels like Twitter, links in your blog posts, or even on your own website, but remember to make these posts few and far between.
2. Facebook is much more laid-back than Twitter when it comes to posting. Because your status updates have a certain stickiness factor on Facebook, stick with updating 3–4 times a week.
3. While hashtags are nearly nonexistent on Facebook, there is such a thing as overlinking, especially when it comes to linking back to your website. Social networking is about the collaborative sharing of information, so like any other source, give credit where credit is due.
Too much to take in? Don’t fret. No one starts out as an expert social networker, and if you take the time to click back to the first free tweets or posts from your favorite friend, you’ll see that they had to learn the game, too.
What are some of the other big problems facing communicators just joining the conversation? We’d love to hear your comments.
About Erin Everhart
Erin Everhart is the marketing associate for 352 Media Group, an interactive web design company, where she specializes in social media marketing, search engine optimization and content management. She is a freelance reporter for multiple newspapers and online sites and a frequent blogger for 352 Media Group’s award-winning blog, Ranting & Raving. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Florida where she won first place in the 2008 AEJMC Student Magazine Contest and has an unhealthy addiction to salt and EM dashes. Follow her on Twitter :: @erinever.