Like many others, I’m a social being. I like people and I like their stories. For instance, last week I sat down with a 99-year-old gentleman for a story I wrote for Grand Rapids Magazine. If I had just been doing my job, the interview could have lasted a couple hours at most. Instead, I spent four hours with Bill wandering through the past century from his perspective. He told me about growing up in southeastern Ohio, about launching a career in the middle of the Great Depression (of great interest to me, given that I’m starting a business in the middle of a great recession), about achieving business success by dealing with basic human nature.
You’ll have to read the magazine to get Bill’s story, although I have to say that I could have shared so much more than what space allowed. Perhaps, after the story is published, I will share more about Bill. By the way, Bill also had a program he was promoting, something he hopes others support. But it’s an outgrowth of who he is. Sharing 99 years’ worth of experience earns you the right to share a position.
Social media allows people to share their stories — bit by bit or in larger chunks, depending on the person and their ability — or desire — to share. By its very nature, social media allows ideas to spread from person-to-person and, in many cases, from one to many, which is why everyone with something to sell is looking to tap into social media. It’s also why social media is so important to public relations — it has so much potential to get your message out to your key audience.
What often bothers me, however, are the blatant attempts to force a sales message into a conversation where it does not naturally belong. You know the ones I’m talking about. The conversation is about XYZ, and suddenly Joe Shmoe who you barely know is trying to sell you something totally unrelated.
Nothing wrong with Joe trying to sell his stuff, by the way. He just needs to do it in conversations geared to that or start his own conversation and invite others to find out more. It would also help if Joe earned the right to pitch his wares by first being an active and engaged member of a community. When Joe is a respected member of that community, he might be surprised when others ask him what it is he has to sell. Because they like and respect him, they want to support him. He was inviting without having to overtly and frequently state his invitation.
I am a consumer and have invited people who have excellent products to sell me into my home to show me. Typically it’s someone I already know and respect. I want to support them! But I really don’t like it when someone I don’t know as well sticks his foot in the door and then attempts to shoulder his way through when I’ve clearly stated that I’m not interested. In some cases, I could be interested in what they have to sell, but they have to give me a little time to get to know them.
So, to those who are applying shoulder pressure through people’s social media experiences, please stop! It wrecks the experience for everyone and it’s just not that effective. Start with being social and friendly and inviting. Then you sill earn the right to eventually show me what you got to sell!