Last week, fellow Twitter user Mel Brooke raised the issue of companies taking up space on social networks without actually adding any value to those communities. Her comments included:

… if you join to push something and don’t immerse in the culture, I feel you are taking advantage.


… if meeting your own needs interferes with the community’s intent, a big problem arises.

Her point raises serious questions for companies seeking to join any online communities for purely promotional purposes: does your marketing create value for the users of that community, or is it just generating more noise and distraction (and, in the end, causing resentment of your brand)?

You can often infer this answer from measurable factors, like:

* Does the community respond when you ask a question / offer them information?

* Are a large number of the people you choose to “friend” or “follow” also following you back, or are they ignoring you?

* What are the people in that community saying about your brand?

If all seems well — and, if you’re truly conducting two-way dialogues with your community — then you have no reason to worry. But if the above factors are turning up overly-negative results, it’s time to ask yourself what you’re doing wrong AND how you can better interact with your fellow web users.

Long ago, that problem might have been solved by guessing at what the underlying issue might be, and then trying a new (and untested) approach. But in today’s age of increased business transparency, there’s another, more valuable solution available: ask the users. As irritated as they might be if they feel they’re being marketed at too heavily, some will appreciate your honest interest in finding a value-added middle ground, and they’ll be willing to help you set a tone / frequency / approach that more people will consider beneficial to their own needs.

Because you’re not getting involved in social media to annoy your customers — are you?

Image by kimba.


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