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How Not to Do Social Media

And a few tips to set you on the right track
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You’ve got to be on social media! You must have your business set up on social media! You can make so many sales through social media! Boy, if you are not set up on social media yet, you are far behind! Have you heard all this before?

These are some of the discussions taking place on the Internet lately. Social media is the new darling of all the self-titled “social media experts.” Seriously, social media is less than four years old—how “expert” can they be? You can’t toss a tweet without hitting someone who has that title in their profile. Social media has been hot for a year or so, but it seems to me that, lately, the push is heating up even more so. Perhaps it’s all those experts who need work?

I’ve been on Twitter for more than two years, and have 41,000+ followers on my two main accounts. I’ve been on Facebook for longer than that, and have 1,400+ friends there. I was among the first group of eBay sellers to be awarded the title of Social Media Seller by eBay Ink blogger Richard Brewer-Hay. I don’t claim to be a social media expert, but I have been around the arena long enough to notice what is working and what is simply annoying.

I’ve heard many examples of how to behave on social media, but in my opinion the most authentic example is to imagine you are at a party or reception to meet and network with real people. Would you ever walk up to someone you don’t know and say, “Hi, my name is Kat Simpson. Please buy my stuff. Here’s my business card with my Web site link,” and then walk away? Hopefully you are socially educated enough to say no.

So if that scenario is an obvious “no,” why is it OK to set up a Twitter or Facebook account and immediately connect it to your eBay account so every item you list gets sent out immediately, and then walk away, never to tweet again?

Believe me, it’s not OK. In fact, it’s a good way to get your feed hidden or even blocked, depending on how irritated the recipient is by the number of items you list in a day.

80 percent of your postings should be content, that is, conversations, interesting articles, cute pictures, comments or retweets

The ‘rules’ of the playground

Is it ever OK to post, “buy my stuff” on social media? Here I go with my very favorite answer: It depends. Have you built up relationships with your followers? Have you given them some good content? Have you had a conversation with them? Commented on what they are posting? If so, then you may post an item now and then.

Remember the Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule, and you should be OK. That is, 80 percent of your postings on Facebook or Twitter should be content—conversations, interesting articles, cute pictures, comments or retweets of your followers’ information. Then you have “earned” the right to post some links about your business, or about an item or line of products you are selling.

Many folks I respect say that with social media, even the 80/20 rule is not enough. They maintain that it’s best, because of the number of people overdoing the selling, to stick with a 90/10 ratio.

Are there exceptions? Absolutely. There are gurus out there who highly recommend posting every single item you put up for sale at every place you can. They talk about building backlinks and getting traffic to their businesses. Some even claim an increase in sales by doing this.

I caution you to be careful. I speak from long experience, and from many recent conversations with other e-commerce folks. Could you be getting traffic and maybe some sales by flooding Twitter with listings? Yes. Could you also be getting on many people’s blocked lists or hidden on their Facebook pages? Also yes. Even those who don’t hit that Hide button on Facebook may be irritated enough that they will consciously choose not to read anything you post. Or perhaps they’ll just make an association so that every time they see your avatar, they are vaguely irritated and not even sure why.

Tips for social media success

You will need to work through your business plan and your marketing plan and see which factor affects your business more, and go from there. Are you going to go for the sales you might get at the risk of turning off the potential customers you will be annoying? Only you can answer that for your business.

How can you use this information? That is totally up to you, but here are my top three suggestions:

  1. Disconnect any RSS feed or other connection that automatically posts your eBay listings to Twitter or Facebook. If you are going to post an occasional listing, make it personal. Make a comment about why you are posting it and then send it on with the link.
  2. Watch your ratio. Aim for 90/10 or, at the very least, 80/20. Talk to folks. Say good morning, ask how and what they are doing. People love to be asked about themselves and it starts a conversation, which is where social media started, after all—conversations.
  3. Consider where you should be spending your time. Are your customers on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Google+ or elsewhere? If the purpose of your social media presence is to sell your stuff, you need to make sure you are on the network where your customers are.

About the author

Kat Simpson
Respected as a trusted e-commerce speaker, educator and entrepreneur, Kat Simpson has been a successful e-commerce merchant for more than 10 years. Simpson is an eBay education specialist and Silver PowerSeller, who also maintains stores on Addoway, Bonanza, Buy.com and iOffer. She is the co-host of the popular weekly e-commerce podcast, eCom Connections. Connect with Simpson on Twitter and Facebook. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.