Are you shouting "buy my widgets"?


Imagine you’re hanging out with some friends and along comes this person you don’t know, who gets right in your face and blurts out . . .

“HEY YOU! My widgets are on sale today. When you buy two, you’ll get one free. Go to my website right now and buy some!”

If you’re like me, you’re probably going to say something like . . .

“Uhh, ok. I’ll keep that in mind. And if I need some Widgets I’ll call Widgets R Us, not you!”

buy-nowInteracting with people online works much the same way. The fact that the word social is the first word in the phrase “social media” isn’t an accident. These days, if you want to be part of social media, one of the keys is to actually be social. Sure, old time advertising still works, but it’s important to know when to do that and when it’s not appropriate. Blurting out a sale on widgets is quite often considered spammy. If, on the other hand someone starts a discussion, and things lead to a point where it makes sense to mention a widget sale, that’s great. People are interacting and having a discussion, which is way different than sticking a widget in someone’s face and shouting “BUY MY WIDGETS!”

I have a group on LinkedIn for people who work in the pet industry, which I set it up so that I, and others, could network with like-minded professionals. I’ve been on many forums over the years, and have seen some very good ones go downhill fast once the “widgets for sale” folks took over. Because of that, I decided right from the get go to limit the amount of advertising that would be acceptable. So I wrote up a short list of guidelines for posting, including some info about advertising. Here’s the blurb about advertising . . .

Whether it’s on a personal or business level, the idea behind LinkedIn is to make connections that might be beneficial in a variety of ways. One of the many tools LinkedIn provides to do this is the discussion area. This area serves a way to interact with each other, talk about new ideas, get advice etc. With that in mind, I’d like to ask that everyone refrain from advertising in the discussion area. Feel free to introduce your company, product, etc. when you join the group and introduce yourself. Following that, include a signature line that includes your business name and a link to your website. Posts that are strictly advertising in nature will be removed.

If you have news about your business such as sales, press releases, special events, etc. please post it in the news area.

I think it’s pretty clear, to the point, and explains what the discussion area is all about. When people join the group, the advertising guidelines are brought to their attention, so it’s no secret. And, as the last sentence says, they can post some of their advertising stuff in the news area, which is set apart from the discussion area.

Thankfully, I haven’t had to delete very many advertising posts. Most people tend to understand why I don’t allow a lot of advertising and have emailed to thank me for keeping things on track. They aren’t interested in having widgets in their faces either, and appreciate having a place to network with each other without having to wade through advertisements.

There are plenty of websites where people can advertise for free – many are set up just for that purpose. Before posting advertising though it’s a good idea to find out if it fits in with the general theme of the website you want to post to. If it’s a discussion forum, like you’ll find on LinkedIn and other websites, going with the flow and trying to stick to the guidelines may get you farther than trying to set your own rules.

It’s not just advertising though. Regardless of what social media website you’re on, whether it’s a discussion forum, photo sharing site, video sharing, or other type of social media site it’s a good idea to get an feel for the written and unwritten rules.

Sure, there are places where it may be totally appropriate to shout “BUY MY WIDGETS,” but just be sure it makes sense!

[Tags]LinkedIn, netiquette, online advertising, social media[/Tags]

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