6 Ways to Lose Customers, Credibility & Friends On Social Media

by on 09/10/2010 • 27 Comments | Social Media

My morning alarm goes off at 7am. To be honest, it’s less an alarm to wake me and more to alert me that I haven’t checked Twitter in six hours. When I do take a hit, I find lots of people chatting about breakfast and what’s coming in their day. I also find people screaming, throwing things and promoting the same post from 12 hours ago. Looking for relief, I do what anyone would do – I go check Facebook. When I get there, it’s more of the same. More anger, more rage and more updates that make me want to delete all my social accounts and hide under my desk. By the time I scroll through it and finally get out of bed, it’s not the dog barking, it’s me.

I live in social media, but some days even I get the urge to run far, far away. Don’t get me wrong. I’m obsessed with the opportunities these sites provide businesses and brands of all sizes and I love the conversations. But sometimes that other side really gets to me. You know, the side where people are angry all the time.  It makes me wonder what people think they’re doing.  I bet your customers wonder and feel that way sometimes, too.

I’m not naïve. I get that that rants were created for social media. That kind of behavior practically is social media. And that would be okay if you were a normal person. But, the fact that you’re reading this means you’re not normal. You’re a marketer. You’re not in social media to stay in touch with your Aunt Alma and her seven kids. You’re in social media to market yourself, your business and build your livelihood. You have to act smarter.

I challenge you to take a look at your last two-three weeks of social media activity. What do you see? What do your customers see? It’s time for a reality check.

Do any of these social media behaviors sound familiar? If so, smack yourself. Then stop doing them.

You beg for favors before you’ve had a conversation.

Almost as awesome asking someone to pick their brain, is to beg them for favors before you’ve earned one. If you don’t know someone well enough to ask for a cup of sugar or borrow their phone, then you don’t know them well enough to ask them to write about you/link to you/promote you/hug you. Just because you have a business and an agenda doesn’t mean that social norms have gone out the window. The fact that you have someone’s phone number doesn’t mean you have the right to call them during dinner and ask to borrow $20.

Whine that social media “isn’t fair”/ [Social Media Guru] gets more attention than you.

If this is you, you need to go find a shovel and hit yourself in the face with it (it can be lightly). Your brand has been given this HUGE microphone to talk to consumers, potential partners and, essentially, the whole world. Are you really going to use it to whine that Chris Brogan and Danny Sullivan have more followers than you? Are you really going to moan that you should been included on that 10 Best list and that life isn’t fair? That’s the impression of your brand you’re going to choose to give off? One that says you’re lesser than and all you know how to do is whine about it? I mean, that’s one way to brand yourself. Another would be to go earn the attention and recognition you’re after. No one was born with a silver spoon. You create who you are.

Ignore your audience.

Hi. It’s called social media, right? You’re here to create relationships and build awareness for your brand, right? Then why are you ignoring your audience? Why are you not responding to their messages, ignoring conversations about your brand, and missing opportunities to assert yourself? If you’re going to invest time in social media, then stop ignoring the people you’re supposed to be connecting with. I’d rather a company not be on social media then have a presence and not use it.  When I send you tweets asking questions or inquiring about you, it makes me want to stab you when you ignore me. Also, stop talking about yourself while you ignore everyone else. You’re not the best thing ever. If you were, you’d have other people to sing your praises for you.

Bitch. About everything. All day.

Look, I know I’m not exactly sunshine and rainbows every day myself. When my computer dies, I go straight to Twitter to complain about it. When my lunch sucks, there’s no one I want to tell more than absolutely everyone. But I do my best to balance out the ranty tweets with information that my network will find useful or will at least inspire a smile. Aim to make 80 percent of your social messages useful to your audience and material that is helping you to build your brand. There’s a place for the “I’m so angry” spice-of-life stuff but be aware of the image you’re creating for your company by always coming off as the angry townsperson. It’s not natural to be happy all the time, but it’s not natural to be angry all the time either. And if you show customers that you are, then don’t be surprised when they start following your competitors instead. Some people are getting plenty tired of #fail.

Be a jerk.

You know when you’re being a jerk. You know when you’re being purposely rude. You know when you’re being condescending and when you’re simply correcting mainstream media’s bad SEO information. You know when you’re being useful and when you’re being, well, a jerk. If you can identify it, so can anyone else who is following your account. While it may be fun to throw things at people still learning, remember that you were learning once too. And that someone probably helped point you in the right direction. There’s a difference between pointing someone in the right direction and simply pointing at them. Making someone feel dumb is a great way to lose them as a customer or a friend forever

Auto spam them.

I hope that there is a special corner of hell for people who use auto-DMs and messages to throw their stuff at me. If you are doing this, you’re a bad marketer. You may also be a bad person.

Businesses lose customers and relationships on social media when they forget why they’re there. Sure, your brand may be that you ARE a jerk to people and that you tell them off, but it’s more likely that it’s not. It’s more likely that people are following you for insight and conversation about your corner of the world. Keep those spice of life tweets in there. Keep the sunshine days and the rants – but use them carefully. Be aware of the overall picture you’re putting out there.  You’re not normal.  You’re a business.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

27 thoughts on “6 Ways to Lose Customers, Credibility & Friends On Social Media

  1. Can I please borrow a cup of sugar? LOL…

    Great, great post and so right on the money. Especially love this line “You may also be a bad person.”

    I’m sure that will raise the ire of some but who gives a crap? They know it’s true more than likely so deal with it.

  2. You just made a lurker fill out a comment form with this excellent post.

    If you replace “social media” with any other form of media (radio, television, etc.), and conduct the type of behavior you’ve outlined, it’s almost automatic that you’ll eventually alienate your entire audience (except maybe in the case of radio shock jocks).

    Plus, some negativity can be funny, overdoing it just makes you obnoxious. Nobody likes a whiner or a mooch.

    Great post.

    • Hey, thanks for being a new commenter! We love those. :)

      You’re right on the money in that if you took the stuff listed below and did them anywhere else you wouldn’t be surprised to lose your audience. Yet, people do it on Twitter and don’t understand why people don’t want to hear it. Sometimes I think people forget that other people are reading their tweets. They think they’re just being shot into a vacuum.

  3. The worse part of all is that the people who MOST need to read posts like this are the ones that don’t stop to evaluate their own behavior for very long, nor would they ever think you’re talking about them. Le sigh. :)

  4. I admit when I read “Do any of these social media behaviors sound familiar?” and I scrolled down to the list I expected to read some of my behaviors and fall in a deep depression mood, but wewt I am all good phew!
    Nice list, some points should SO be taken for granted but the fact you had to write this post kinda suggests many people still have to tune their social media attitude.
    I am curious though, did YOU fall in any of these mistakes in your earlier days? What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done? Ok you don’t have to answer of course but I am a curious soul, what can I do :p

    • I’ve definitely fallen into some of these social media traps. I’m naturally very snarky, so early on I think I allowed myself to get caught up in the negativity of social media way more than I do now. I think that turned some people away and it also didn’t really help me any. I’m a bit more chipper now and try to focus on the good stuff. :)

  5. I unfollowed a professional I respected once who collapsed into a black hole of bitterness on Twitter. His daily rants — an entire continent away — affected my moods. And I didn’t even know him, just his work.

    I’m not a sunshine-and-rainbows gal, but I don’t want to be a social media meanie, either. Thanks for the reminder to check in with myself every once in a while.

    Oh, and a few months ago, I peeked in on the guy who was having the Twitter meltdown. Apparently, it mirrored a real-life meltdown. And now I wish I had known him well enough to say, “Know what? I think there’s something else going on here. Are you doing all right?” Remember to check in on your flesh-and-blood friends when their social media negativity seems out of character, or out of control.

    –Arienne

    • I unfollowed a professional I respected once who collapsed into a black hole of bitterness on Twitter. His daily rants — an entire continent away — affected my moods. And I didn’t even know him, just his work.

      I could NOT agree with you more on this. It’s amazing how someone else’s negativity and bad mood can really play with your own. I’ve tried to prune these people out of my streams when possible. We all get grumpy but if you’re grumpy ALL the time, you have bigger problems.

  6. “Ignore Your Audience” is the one that surprises me. Why did they get on Twitter or Facebook? Because someone told them that was the thing to do I imagine. Except that now they’re here, letting some auto-tweets happen – and ignoring those actually wishing to speak to them.

    Everyone loves a good rant – but actually only from someone they feel comfortable with. That’s why I think a Twitter rant isn’t the place to do it.

    • Shawn,

      I’ve thought a lot about the “Ignore Your Audience” factor. One big possibility (besides laziness, apathy, and being on their only because someone said they should) is that these businesses are taking the media part of “social media” and ignoring the social aspect.

      For as long as there has been advertising and media, it’s been a one-way-street. Businesses advertise their message through a television ad, radio, a billboard, or a hand scrawled paper nailed to a post in the town square. There’s no feedback, no conversation, no one-on-one communication.

      Until a few years ago when businesses began leveraging social networking outlets like Twitter and Facebook. A lot of businesses look at it as a form of media (mass communication) rather than a networking medium (two-way).

      By the way, Lisa/Outspoken, every time I see your logo in a blog comment I’m compelled to think it’s a button to listen to play an audio reading of the comment. Maybe it’s just me.

  7. Hi, and thank you for this post.

    I think that this is a load of tripe. I don’t think anything in this post (nay, in this whole blog) is worth a dime bag of pork rinds. I just got done with my daily mourning that Lisa has more followers than me and took some time to post ANOTHER blog post about how I know more than her, so I thought I would come over here to leave my quota of mean commentary. Having done so, I wish to say good day sir, and did you know that my husband was a wealthy banker from Nigeria but now I need $5 million to get him out of jail?

  8. Once again, superb post Lisa. Social media networks reflect real life in that some people witter about the minutiae of their life, some talk a lot but actually say nothing much, whilst others still seem to spend all their time whingeing and moaning. At different times, we become aware of these different strands in our own timeline as our own moods change and shift, often unwittingly.

    But as marketers, any tweet or status update should be made with an end in mind … that could be to educate, to build a relationship with a customer or prospect, to connect with others in the same sphere … or any number of other things. But they should be framed in the context of what you are marketing, what you are trying to get other people interested in. Trash-talk is rarely useful in this context !

    As somebody once said, the meaning of your communication is the response that you get. It’s as true online as it is out in the “real world” ;-)

    Props to many of the great comments here too.

    Have a good weekend everyone …

    Roger

  9. Well I *was* gonna spam you and beg you to whine about me being ignored for being a bitchy jerk…. but not anymore lol. Jeez, does Lisa = funsucker or what?! ;)

    On another note, I could read this post 10 (or 85!) more times. Loved it!

  10. Yeah! It’s hilarious the amount of people who do this, though. It happens often. When these sort of people follow me on Twitter I imagine they get pissed when they eventually realize I’m not following them back… The only reason to connect with anyone on FB or Twitter is if they have some relevancy and content to share. If they use it as a conversation, and treat it as such. It doesn’t take all that much, either!
    Anyways, great post. Love it. I agree with Melanie – I could read it again.

  11. Along these same lines, Lisa, I’ve often wondered why you are so violent…always wanting to stab people (in this very article) punch their faces in, etc. While we know you’re kidding (at least I think you are ;) and the remarks do illicit a chuckle, you might want to take your own advice and rethink using that tactic as often as you do to illicit a reaction from you readers. (Sorry, it’s the mom in me!)

    • This may sound odd (or make people really wonder about me) but I don’t find the “punch you in the face”, “hit you with a shovel” comments to be violent because it’s clear (I think) that I’m kidding and being lighthearted. I think it’s much different than someone who is legitimately angry and throwing a tantrum. The tone changes the comment. Or at least it does in my head. Maybe it doesn’t for others. A valid comment. :)

      • If it were just “I’ll hit you” or “I’ll kick you” that makes sense, but (and maybe it’s just your creative writing skills) stabbing and shovel smashing just seem awfully graphic to me.

        But this is from one who can’t watch gory movies and stuff. :)
        Even worse for me is if you talk about medical procedures….ewwwww

  12. Excellent post, Lisa. Who wants to be in a community of grouches? I know that I am not the only one quickly clicking away from the negativity out there. If someone is ranting about what this idiot does, how crappy that is or how much it all sucks, then I am not going to take the next step and click on their website link to find out more about them.

  13. I did good on this except for… “Ignore your audience.” I get a big ZERO for that, especially in the summer. Time off the grid is critical for me and sometimes things come up outside one’s control (like family drama) that brings that about as well. I can do better, that I’m aware of.

    On a side note, I like your violent descriptions of inflicting bodily pain and injury, although I have yet to have a client listing Lisa Barone as a chief complaint. :D

  14. @Lisa — Awesome post! You got to be snarky for a few minutes, but in a way that educates. Love it! Like

    @Gabriele — I’ll bite. The most embarrassing thing I did in the early days (just at the end of 2009 for me) was think I would have a zillion followers by just tweeting information all day. I didn’t know you were supposed to actually TALK to people. Ha!! ;o)

    @Arienne — Thanks for pointing out that sometimes, a slow spiral into bitterness and anger is really a sign of a deeper issue, if the Tweeter/Facebooker wasn’t like that before. I hope someone was reaching out to him.

    and @Marjorie — Cute! Made me laugh! (Following you!)

    Michelle for New England Multimedia & New England HD
    Twitter: @NEMultimedia

  15. Between the “Ignore your audience” mistake/way and the “Be a jerk” one there is a whole range of possibilities to sentence your social media efforts to death. Great post, Lisa — as always.

  16. I think I just fell in love with you.

    Great article, really great points- this is my first time on your site & i’ll surely be back.

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