Social media turn offs

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One analogy and five examples

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A couple weeks back I wrote a post called ‘There is no such thing as a social media campaign’ which generated a lot of debate.

The point of that post was to emphasize the importance of treating social media engagement as a long-term investment, as opposed to a ‘smash ‘n grab’ publicity push.

This is a huge challenge for many communicators, especially PR folk, who have been taught that massive news splashes are the pinnacle of the publicity mountain.

So, how can we explain difference between? How do we start thinking with a longer-term mindset? Here’s an analogy and five examples that might help…

If you walked up to a girl and said…

When I was at University I worked as a sales assistant at Foot Locker and my manager was incredibly good at getting the team to focus on commercial goals while creating an environment customers would enjoy.

This was one of his more frequent sales analogies…

“So, let’s say you’re at a bar and spotted a girl you liked. Would you go up to her and say ‘You’re hot, I want to take you home with me right now!’ or would you perhaps open with some general chit chat, taking a genuine interest in her, and see where the conversation went?

“I guarantee, you’d be much more successful taking the second approach as opposed to the first one.

“That’s what sales is about. Finding out what a person wants and helping them get to that point as opposed to telling them what they want.”

We all used to giggle at that analogy, but he was right. Jumping on a customer the minute they walked in with a greeting like ‘are you looking for something today?’ always seemed to be received more poorly than a simple ‘how are you today?’

Social media: Judgement and tact

The same goes for social media channels.

You don’t want to make people feel like they have a target hanging over their head when you engage with them.

Ideally, you want people to engage with you because they have an interest in what you do and want to get closer to you by following your social media activity and interacting when comfortable.

It is the same with influencer engagement – getting a real understanding of what they are passionate usually helps generate a more positive response.

Five social media turn offs

Here are some of the things I find particularly of putting on social media channels…

  1. The blatant sales pitch at the end of a blog post – this is a great example of being impatient and short-sighted. If you have a service of interest to your reader(s) they’ll take it upon themselves to find out more. And, this is much more likely to happen after 12 months of solid advice as opposed to being punched in the face with one massive post signed off with a sales message. It looks desperate and will do more harm than good.
  2. Not acknowledging blog comments / feedback – I’m guilty of this and am trying to improve in 2011. If someone takes the time to comment on a post or give you feedback, acknowledge that input in some shape of form. As Richard Bailey put it so eloquently recently: “Blog sparingly, comment frequently.”
  3. Blatant conversation jacking – everyone has a different opinion on this, and as a consumer I’m quite agnostic about it, but getting involved in a live conversation after a keyword has popped up requires tact and good judgement. 
  4. General narcissistic behaviour – a few weeks back on this blog we talked about corporate narcissism and how it is the single biggest problem with corporate blogs. Only talking about yourself won’t win you many friends. To use another analogy it is like going to a dinner party and talking about yourself all night – by the end of it you’ll probably have empty seats on either side of you.
  5. Opportunistic self-promotion – slightly related to point four, I find it odd when people use comments sections of blogs to highlight something they’ve done in relation to the topic. Sometimes it adds value, and sometimes it is desperate and tacky. But, each to their own…

Do you have any social media turn offs?

What are they and why do they rub you up the wrong way?

Adam is the blog from Adam Vincenzini which focuses on social media and PR. Connect with Adam on Twitter or subscribe to his blog

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  • Reply February 6, 2011

    Helen Hammond

    One of my pet hates is people that think of social media as some random stand-alone thing. You see fantastic blog articles or tweets and then go onto their website or look at their adverts/brochures and the message doesn’t link. Personally, I think the most effective use of social media comes from viewing it as another tool in the marketing tool box and integrating it into the whole strategy. Ok, stepping off the soap-box now…

  • Reply February 6, 2011

    Adam Vincenzini

    Agreed. It is very clear when it is used as a one-off tactic versus something that helps shape the behaviour of that organisation. Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply February 6, 2011

    Heather White-Laird

    I think Kenneth Cole learned about the value of #5 the hard way 🙂

  • Reply February 7, 2011


    Great post – and that real-life sales technique analogy is a good one. It’s interesting how sensitive we are to ‘authentic’ behaviour (as opposed to ‘phoney’ narcissistic/self-promotional behaviour) even, and perhaps even more so, in our virtual communication. I would add to that list, anything that feels automated or not like a genuine response (the automated direct message to new followers for example….it’s not terrible, but it’s not a real response either)

  • Reply February 7, 2011

    Celia Lacy

    I have to say dull and meaningless updates are a real turn-off for me. A tweet or status which is simply posted for the sheer hell of saying something, anything, is not useful or interesting social media. I try and put thought into my updates so that at least someone might find the thought, article, link or image intriguing. Oh and repetition of the same tweet. Talk about get me to unfollow you in an instant! There’s also a real turn-off in Auto-DM’s coming through after you follow someone. It’s very lazy business.

  • Reply February 7, 2011

    Robert Pickstone

    My pet hate is spending time to read someone’s profile, activity stream and see that they’re interesting and social enough to connect with, to then receive automated messages from them.

    Some people who use social media as a blatent marketing channel make it clear that they are doing so – it’s the sneaky ones who pretend to be something they’re not that annoy me and my inbox.

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