Negotiating social media: the sequel

Negotiating social mediaLast week I posted “It’s a jungle out there: words of caution for negotiating social media“, an article with my recommendations about using social media wisely and courteously.  What spurred me to write it were some unpleasant and fortunately isolated experiences with shameless marketers on social media sites.

I noted the irony when yesterday I received an email from someone I’d recently connected with on one of those sites. The message read as follows:

You are among the many contacts of [name omitted]. Before we begin sending you any information, we want to be certain we have your permission.


[Link omitted]

Click the link above to give us permission to send you information. It’s fast and easy!

I was first baffled and then annoyed. I wrote back to the sender asking for more details about the content I’d be receiving. They replied, assuring me it would contain news along with highlights from the sender’s blog. I wrote back again, asking for the RSS feed for the blog so that I could follow it with my newsreader if the content interested me. They wrote back and told me that the blog didn’t in fact exist yet. No thanks, friend.

I realized that perhaps the contact settings on this particular account weren’t explicit enough. I added the following information in the hopes that this will deter similar communications going forward:

I am delighted to connect with others online. Social media make it possible to build relationships and forge alliances that transcend geography and time zones.

Please be aware though that my interest in connecting does not extend to receiving solicitations from you for services or goods that you or those you serve as agent for offer. Also, I am not interested in being added to your newsletter list; I get enough email as it is, thanks. If you publish a blog you think might interest me, you can let me know. I’m a blogger myself.

If you do not honor these simple requests, I will have no choice but to decline your invitation or to delete your connection from my account. I regret that I must even post this message at all, but unfortunately I’ve encountered a number of people using social media for persistent and unwelcome sales pitches and not for networking. I am grateful for your understanding and look forward to connecting with those who share my appreciation for building relationships distinguished by integrity and trust.

I’ve added a version of this notice to my social media page on this site as well. Against all odds, I remain hopeful that at last folks will begin to get the message.

10 responses to “Negotiating social media: the sequel

  1. Diane,

    What an excellent idea!

    Your disclaimer is well-drafted, too. And it gets the message across without being insulting or conveying a negative attitude.

    This kind of advice might help allay the fears of some who are reluctant to participate in social media. The only problem is that those people are not necessarily avid blog readers. So they might need to get the advice from traditional, print media or word of mouth.

    Thanks for taking an occasional time out from ADR blogging to pass on to others some very helpful tips on using social media!

    Phil Loree

  2. Phil, I really appreciate the feedback!

  3. Diane, I received the same initial message from a person who’d recently connected with me via social media. They must be making the rounds. Unlike your kindness, however, I just deleted the email message asking me to confirm my permission because the message was annoyingly vague and a turn-off. They didn’t even have a second chance because I’m so sick of the kind of thing you’re writing about.

    Folks are diving into social media because someone told them they should but they’re not taking the time to learn how do use it well before trying to use it for building market and credibility. It’s called *social* media for a reason, but too many of these automated follows, automated posts and automated-and-without-permission subscriptions feel more like anti-social media!

  4. Great point, Tammy. I came this close to just deleting it, but my curiosity got the better of me. I was also in a charitable mood – a mood which evaporated as soon as I learned that they didn’t even have a blog yet. You’re absolutely right – it is “anti-social media”. Who on earth is advising these folks that this is a savvy business strategy?

  5. Steve Woodin

    Diane, Tammy, et al:

    I understand the frustration of the “too much information” and “hey check out what I am selling” approach by using the social media concept.

    I supply CMEs for mediators and CLEs for attorneys and find it difficult to reach those that need/can use my services. I have/do use social media to “friend” those who have listed those professions in their profile.

    Having said that, don’t hate me, I try to be responsible and get permission to send contacts. Sometimes people don’t understand that they NEED what I have to offer. They decline because they do not “want to be bothered” (may they are having a bad day when I ask permission). Then when it comes time to renew, they are in a panic and on more than one occasion they have commented, why did you NOT send me notices months ago? (Which I attempted to do, but they declined) I totally forgot about the CME/CLE hours that I needed. How much “hand holding” must I do?

    Now, because of my position, I understand that this post may not see the light of day, but social media is just that, media. Media is a platform for advertising, and you have voluntarily given your contact information, in your profile. The best practice if you don’t want contact, is to not sign up, or leave your profile blank. Some marketers follow the rules, some do not. Plus, you cannot please all the people all the time.

    Stephen Woodin, mediator

  6. Stephen, thanks for your comment. We all need to hear contrarian views, and the only time I would not post a comment is if it’s spam, defamatory, or threatening. (I did however delete the links to your sites. I’m not going to give you free advertising here. Sorry.)

    All I can say is, people who use these kind of tactics lose more potential clients than they realize. I couldn’t disagree with you more about social media – certainly done the right way it can be a way to market, but the fact that I participate in social media does not in any way signal my consent to be the object of marketing campaigns. On the contrary. The link to my Twitter policy is posted prominently on my profile, and my LinkedIn contact policy makes it clear that I do not want to be contacted for this purpose. Even if it didn’t, I don’t need nor do I expect junk mail stemming from my participation in social media sites. The vast majority of us are on social networking sites to do just that – to be social and network, not be subjected to advertising ploys. The only folks I’ve encountered out there who seem to think differently are the many flim-flam artists holding themselves out as social media experts-Twitter is full of them, and I apply the “block” button liberally when I encounter them.

    I repeat, social media is about being social – it’s about cultivating relationships and building trust with others. Post useful information or link to sites that will be of use to your audience, and they will want to do business with you. Try to shove your foot through the door to sell people vacuum cleaners, and you deserve the door that gets slammed in your face.

  7. Diane,

    Forgive me for chiming in yet another time.

    I agree with everything you said in your comment above. I do not think the issue is one of “access” — i.e., that social media is, from a legal perspective, a form of accessible media that, for the most part, is unregulated. I think that is where Steve is coming from when he argues that those who elect to participate must take the good with the bad.

    The issue is really one of etiquette and community norms. Social media takes place in a community that fortunately has been occupied by a very large group of people who tend to hold others up to certain very basic standards of conduct and colleagiality. People who cannot operate within the requirements of these general and not very demanding norms are effectively shunned, just as they would be in any social situation. And while the shunned will (and should) always have legal access to social media, they are probably not going to reap its many benefits, at least until they start conforming to community norms.

    I can understand Steve’s frustration about getting the word out to current and prospective clients concerning events that may be significant to them, and which might trigger a need for the services he offers. There are ways of doing that, however, within the boundaries of the norms espoused by Diane and many others. Impersonal, annoying, mass e mailings won’t cut it. But if you have developed a professional relationship with someone through social media, then a phone call or a personal e mail might just work.

    Social media is a wonderful marketing tool, but it does not yield the kind of instant results some expect from traditional advertising methods. It provides a platform to meet people you probably would never come into contact with through traditional networking methods, and build friendly relationships with those people, even if you’ve never met them in person. But it takes a considerable investment of time and effort, just as traditional networking does, and one has to be willing to expend that time and effort knowing that future business may not result, or at least may not result for quite some time.

    The reason that social media is effective is that it enables people to demonstrate their trustworthiness, competence, and social skills to a much larger audience than traditional networking provides. These are all traits that people in the market for professional services look for in providers. Social media allows you to demonstrate them without ever directly soliciting business or advertising.


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  9. Stephen, thanks for raising a counterpoint. I’m of the same frame of mind — solidly — as Diane on this. I’m mystified that you would conclude participation in social media = consent to be contacted with marketing campaigns. It strikes me as something you use as an excuse to justify something you just want to be able to do — perhaps I’m completely wrong about that and hope that I am.

    Deciding that participation = consent is the online equivalent of meeting someone in the bleachers at your kid’s baseball game, then repeatedly appearing on their doorstep with information about the services you offer that they “need.” You wouldn’t do that there (I trust), so why on earth would you do it online?

    There’s something else I can’t resist commenting on, given that I write and teach about marketing and mediation. You commented that you know people NEED (your caps and emphasis) your services and that’s why you contact them the way you do. This is troubling to me on several levels: (1) Mediators mis-market themselves too often based on assumptions they make about people’s needs — people don’t buy because they need something, they buy because they want something that fulfills a need (we have all sorts of needs we don’t act on with purchases) — there’s a huge difference between the two. (2) Blanketing a group with messages and marketing campaigns because a few in that market don’t take give you the permission you seek is like swatting a fly with a hammer. (3) That way of thinking feels paternalistic as a person who feels very capable of making my own best decisions for myself — it seems you’re saying you need to protect people from themselves. Is that really the brand you want to convey to your market? Is that the brand your market really wants? I’d be surprised if that’s the case.

  10. I love it when my fellow bloggers weigh in. Phil and Tammy, thanks for contributing straight talk and common sense. I could add nothing to what you’ve contributed – it’d be like gilding the lily. I salute you, friends.