Are you a fan of Arrested Development? I sure am. If you aren’t familiar, Arrested Development lasted 3 seasons on Fox. It is about a super rich family that’s totally dysfunctional and becomes even more dysfunctional when the dad is arrested by the SEC for illegal doings at the family-owned company. There are a lot of delicious moments in the series that could really be used to illustrate things about the world of social media, but I’m just going to talk about one today.
The two oldest brothers, GOB (stands for George Oscar Bluth, played by Will Arnett) and Michael (played by the still cute Justin Bateman) had had a huge argument. Michael came to realize he needed his brother’s help with something. He runs into GOB and says, “Oh, I’m so sorry about our argument. You’re a really great brother and you deserve more respect.” Michael then pauses for about 5 seconds. Then he says, “I need a favor.”
GOB responds, “Well, that was subtle.”
This interaction, unfortunately, captures almost precisely (minus the “brother” stuff) some experiences I’ve had online lately.
Give to get, but wait a minute (at least) for the getting part
If you’ve been in the online world for 2-3 minutes, you’ve probably heard something like “give to get.” When I first was starting out last year, this was like the social media mantra. Promote others more than yourself. Give more than you get. And so on. The problem is that people have started taking this kind of….literally.
Here’s the thing. Getting compliments, retweets, or other nice things online is something we all enjoy. However, if you are too quick on the draw after doing something nice for someone, a few things happen. A few bad things. For example:
• You lose your credibility with that person
• Your compliment or complimentary action becomes null and devoid of meaning
• The person (if it’s me) will likely feel disinclined to do whatever you want because, let’s face it, no one likes to feel like they are being completely manipulated.
But…what about give to get?
The truth is that the give to get dance is a delicate one. It’s one that requires some common sense and a light touch. Let me see if I can break it down for you a bit more.
Send an email that seems like it is really personal on the surface and then end it with, “by the way, here’s a post I’d like you to tweet out.”
Keep your actual friendly relationships with people separate from the favors you want them to do. If you are really friends with them, they are likely to catch up on your blog, and your kind email will motivate them to support you.
A favorite trick, I’ve noticed, is to say something super nice on “Follow Friday” on Twitter and then direct message me about a post you have written. Literally, within seconds of typing the “I appreciate you for,” you send a DM asking for the “get.” This makes me feel very icky.
If you want to say something nice about someone, say it. If you are only saying it because you’ve written a post that you think is your masterpiece, forego the note of appreciation and ask for the favor from that person. If you only wait a brief pulse before asking for the favor, you’re taking all of the meaning out of your beautiful statement anyway. Better to preserve your authenticity, right?
Don’t leave comments on peoples’ blogs just so that you can plug your own post and ask them to retweet it. I am a firm believer in the idea that blog promotion should come from a place of genuine feeling and authenticity. If you like my blog post and you want to comment on it, I will tell you how much I appreciate it. I will try my best to visit your blog when I can. If you use my blog to guilt me into visiting your blog, you’ll turn me off the whole concept.
Use commenting or blog promotion to build a relationship with the blogger. If the relationship becomes a genuine thing, that blogger will want to check out what you’re writing anyway. You might have to wait a few minutes or maybe even a few weeks, but it’ll happen, and it will mean more to you in the end because the blogger would be reading your work with no sense of obligation.
The concept of transparency online is really important. However, if it is transparently obvious that you are just doing nice things so you can get nice things, it’s going to backfire on you. One thing people are quick to pick up on is when they are being used. It can create really bad feelings about you, which is really sad. I don’t want that to happen to you, so I hope this post helps.
Does this make sense to you? What would you add?
This is post #95 in The Engagement Series. I hope you enjoyed it!
Image by Thomas van den Berg. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/thomasje