Friday, July 20, 2012

The Worst Advice Possible for Social Media

Get this: There's a nifty thing you can do on Twitter. Direct-message a canned welcome note to everyone who follows you. Your followers will feel special, and you'll look like a pro because you figured out the auto-reply thingy, right?
Actually, no.
When we went trolling for the worst social media advice, Alexandra Dao, community manager of the city transit guide, quickly mentioned the instructions she sees in blogs telling how to send auto-DMs.
"Auto-DMs are widely considered spam, and personally I'll unfollow someone if I receive one," Dao says.
The world is awash in awful social media advice, as iMedia Connection demonstrates in an article on the topic. One takeaway: People don't want to get social with your brand of toilet bowl cleaner.
In order to help you undermine your own messaging, we've asked communicators, professors and others to share the worst social media advice they have encountered. Here are some of their thoughts on what not to do:

1. Don't bother drawing up a social media policy.
E. Blake Jackson, social media coordinator for Chesapeake Energy, once read a blog post by a "guru" which chastised companies with social media policies, saying they don't get it. "I pray for the legal and human resources departments of his clients," Jackson writes.

2. Put the intern in charge of social media.
Stephanie Johnson, director of public affairs at Advocate Health Care, says social media is essential, so "you need a team that is invested in staying on top of these changes and adapting new elements that may benefit your audience."
Don't pawn it off on the kids.

3. Try this gimmick, and you'll win a flood of new Twitter followers overnight.

Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, says that "the followers you get organically will likely stay longer." It's also terrible advice to follow a whole lot of people on Twitter so that you can get followers in return, he says.
(Oh. Rats.)

4. Ghost-tweet your CEO.

A word to the wise: Playing sock puppet with the CEO's Twitter account can create trouble if said CEO doesn't read the tweets in advance, says Tripp Frohlichstein of MediaMasters.

"This can lead to many problems ranging from views not really shared by the CEO to misinformation being distributed," he says.

5. Insist that when you retweet without comment, it doesn't constitute an endorsement.
"If you RT something, the third-party perception is that you agree with it, unless you specifically state otherwise," says Arthur Yann, the Public Relations Society of America's vice president of public relations.

6. Avoid anything personal in your social media presence.
Someone once told Becky Graebe, corporate communications manager at SAS, "Don't wish someone a happy birthday or tell them you're excited about attending your child's graduation if you want them to think of you as professional."
Not so, she says. Social media lets users get to know one another and form relationships as they would if they lived next door to each other.

7. Automatically incorporate blog posts onto Twitter.
Jenny Leonard, editor of Futurity, notes a push to automatically link blog or newsletter posts to Twitter and Facebook.
"As a colleague once told me, 'Automation is not social; it's the opposite of social,'" she says.

8. Wait! Send everything to counsel first to prevent social media disasters.
Philip Ryan Johnson, adjunct professor of PR and social media at Syracuse University, disapproves of those who do this because "we definitely do not want to miss anything important."

9. Insisting that because Groupon tripled your sales, you should do more such promotions—and offer even deeper discounts.
"Deals increase one-shot sales, and [those occur] among a large group of one-time customers," Johnson says. "They also discount the actual value of products or services ... and [this] has negative effects for the long-term."

10. If you post it on YouTube, they will come.

The biggest mistake on YouTube "is that people will post a video and expect the magic to happen instantly. You really have to do some promotion of your content and make sure it's authentic for your audience," said one communicator who preferred to remain anonymous.
She added that "if you tried to persuade a friend to buy a product, you wouldn't go ahead and shove the product in their face and say, 'Hey, you should buy this.' Then 10 seconds later, 'No, you really should buy this,' and talk endlessly about the features and benefits. It has to be genuine, and you have to get people to watch."
Russell Working is a staff writer for This story first appeared on PR Daily in October 2011.

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