Build a community around your organization. Tell your company's stories. Humanize your brand.
Contrary to popular belief, this is all bad advice.
If you're staring at your screen incredulously or are about to write an angry comment, hold on a minute.
David Spark, founder of Spark Media Solutions, recently published an ebook filled with 50 pieces of social media
advice that, over the years, has gone sour.
"Hazardous to Your Social Media Health: 50 Previously Condoned Behaviors We No Longer Recommend," lists 50 behaviors communicators should stop. Spark shared with us the five he thinks are the most controversial.
Before you come after us with torches and pitchforks, hear him out.
1. Stop focusing on your nonexistent community.
"Very few companies truly have a community," Spark says. "It's kind of a misnomer."
The book explains that true communities are in places like churches, synagogues or little league teams. People join these communities because they're
passionate about a certain topic and want to talk about it.
People don't typically form communities around brands. They follow brands on social media not because they want to talk to each other about their passion
for the brand, but simply because they're fans.
Spark uses Oreo, which has thousands of fans, as an example: "They don't want to talk so much to each other as a community. People talk to each other to
make jokes or share something here and there, but they're not truly a community."
Instead of focusing on nurturing a community, B.J. Mendelson, author of "Social Media is Bullshit," recommends creating good content that can help people.
He says in the book: "I don't recommend people focus on the 'community.' The only thing that matters, and arguably ever mattered, was generating good
material and then using the media to get it in front of the right people."
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2. Stop telling your stories.
"This is going to be a pretty controversial one, I know," Spark admitted. He also acknowledged that for everything the book tells people to stop doing, he
knows there are still good reasons to do them.
That said, Spark explained why stories are not always necessary: "There are many brands and products out there for which we do not need to know their
story. And yet I'm a very, very happy consumer. People consume products and buy products all the time not knowing—never knowing—the story."
Lisa Barone, vice president of strategy at Overit, puts it this way in the book: "Don't assume all your customers want to be tied into your every action or
that they care about you. Some just want your news, or your offers, or, more likely, your discounts to your products."
3. Stop pitching bloggers you don't know.
"I get these mass emails that just say, 'Would you like to talk to our CEO of company XYZ?' Spark explained. "And, sure, if you send a thousand of those
emails, one or two people are going to respond and say yes. Kind of like if you put something on Craig's List asking for anonymous sex, one or two people
would probably come back and say yes."
How's that for an analogy?
Spark's point is that you shouldn't waste time sending generic mass emails and hoping for the best when, instead, you could be building relationships with
journalists and bloggers who will then pay attention when you pitch them.
"Discover people now," Marshall Kirkpatrick, CEO of Little Bird, says in the book. "Get to know them over time … and then pitch them later once
you're a known and respected entity."
4. Stop humanizing your brand.
"Stop humanizing your brand" doesn't translate to "be stuffy and corporate." It just means you should consider the differences between humans and brands,
and act with discretion.
"Humans bicker, brands shouldn't; humans behave frivolously, brands shouldn't," Joe Chernov, vice president of marketing for Kinvey, says in the book.
Chernov goes on to say that humanizing a brand was good advice initially when brands acted too corporate on social media, but now, "I see brands sharing
absurdist memes or making politically charged statements, and I realize it's time to reintroduce a measure of sobriety into our corporate feeds."
5. Stop ignoring people who don't agree with you.
It happens—some customers aren't always happy with your product, website, what you wrote on the blog, the way you handled something, etc. But you shouldn't
ignore them simply because the two of you don't see eye to eye.
"If we have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with one of our users, we will usually have a fan for life," said Ethan Austin, co-founder of
GiveForward, in the book. He admits that most of GiveForward's most loyal users were once complainers. "We treat every email, complaint, or inquiry about
the site as an opportunity to inject humanity into the conversation and win over a customer," says Austin.
"Now, granted," Spark added, "if they respond back, 'You're a moron. Go away,' don't respond. But if it's a thoughtful response, obviously you respond."
To see all 50 tips, you can
download the ebook here
Kristin Piombino is associate editor of Ragan.com.