Quit P’ing in the Community Pool

pushyLately, I feel like the Pied Piper of social media tooting my little netiquette horn as a reminder to offenders of what not to do online. Granted, it’s just my opinion, but heck, that’s why it’s my blog:). Given the discussions I’ve had with other colleagues, I am pretty sure I’m not the only one who asks “if you always plug yourself, what value are you really adding to the community discussion?”

I was prompted to ask the question after watching several people over the last few days add one LinkedIn status update after another that talked about how great they are. And lately, not a day goes by that I don’t receive some sort of network invitation that is a thinly disguised sales pitch that isn’t all that great anyway. What’s up with that?

Stop Pitching – Create Value!

If all you do is talk about you, you, you…no one will care and they will just tune you out. Frankly, that’s what gives sales a bad rap. It isn’t the profession though, it’s the people who can’t comprehend that it is the sharing of “relevant” information, making connections for others, touting the horns of your colleagues and adding value to the conversation is what ultimately benefits you.

Listen, I’m a business owner with products and services to sell, and I consult with companies about how to use social media effectively to augment their sales efforts. Obviously, I believe that social media tools like LinkedIn are a great way to increase visibility for what you have to offer. My point is that it is OK to mention your services, but that should not be the ONLY thing you talk about.

What about your brand?

This is all about perception – your brand. What message do you really think you are sending to prospective buyers when every post, group comment or newsletter you send out is all about you? I can’t think of a quicker way to turn people off. When it comes to sending LinkedIn invitations, please stop trying to sell me before you know a thing about me. Here is an example of an invitation I received over the weekend that illustrates what I’m saying. I’ve removed the names to protect the hapless.

On June 19, 2009 2:27 PM, XYZ Salespersonwrote:
I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. I have worked with XYZ Colleague in the past & she recommended you to me as far as someone who would probably benefit from XYZ company’s industry intelligence. Please call me as soon as possible at …, so I can help you grow & be THE most consultative person you know!!

Sales person

So let me get this right? You don’t know me from Eve, but you are sure that you can help me be THE most consultative person you know? Now I don’t know about you, but this is both rude and presumptuous. What does this person know about my consultative sales skills? I’m kinda wondering if she might want to get some training in this area herself, but that’s just me. This is exactly why people are annoyed by vendors and their arrogant, untrained sales people who assume that what they have to offer is just what everyone on the planet needs. Not to mention that this individual was lazy. What if she had done her homework and then crafted a message that told Barb what was in it for her? Then I would have been paying attention. The problem with these types of emails is that the opportunity to sell what you offer is probably blown. Forever.

I was feeling charitable, because it pains me to see sales people do such dumb things, so I responded with…

XYZ Salesperson,

I am not including you in my network and have already passed along my feedback to XYZ Colleague. Your email is offensive in that you know nothing about me, yet assume you can make me a better consultant. Why would I call you? You have provided no value to me as a business owner at all. You may have a great product, but your sales approach and netiquette may lose you more sales than you gain.

To this person’s credit, they got the message loud and clear and responded with an email that apologized for their thoughtless words and asked for another chance. I haven’t decided if another chance is warranted or not, because at this point the product better be awfully damn compelling and something that I cannot purchase elsewhere.

As for the guy in one of my LinkedIn groups who complained about the arrogance of someone who wasn’t interested in his product and then kept justifying to everyone why he and his company were so great, I have two words for you…dumb ass.

If all you do is talk about you, you, you…no one will care. It’s OK to mention your services, but that should not be the only thing you talk about. Most people worry about “how much is too much”, because the focus – consciously or unconsciously – is on the sale they hope to make. Now. Instead, they should be racking their brain to come up with content that has value and creates a relationship that over time leads to sales. And you know what…that’s tough to do. It takes thought and time to pull it together!


  1. says

    Great topic for discussion Barb – as usual.

    There is a real simple framework to use when starting to construct your social media dialogs. It’s the “NCP” framework:
    N = Network. The success of your social media interactions will depend upon how you cultivate a network. Sure, you want a large network, but you want it to be a large network of qualified folks. If you talk about knitting, but your network does not include any knitters, then there is a problem with the network/community to which you are speaking.
    C = Contribution. This is what you post is all about. What value are you contributing to your community?
    P = Participation. This is an extension of contribution. Has someone posted a question? Can you answer it? Can you add value to someone else’s response?

  2. says

    Thank you, Mark! That’s a great concept for everyone to remember. I like to say that quantity + quality = access and that’s what makes a great network. As for contribution and participation. Absolutely! This is about giving not taking and that’s an online lesson that many have yet to learn!

  3. says


    Loved the blog posting. Thank you for so eloquently and clearly making the point about what online community networking is all about. Sharing is the key.

    When I receive some of these announcements and pitches, I sometimes I feel like I have just walked onto a car lot and every untrained, fast-talking, used car salesman with his beer belly hanging over his white leather belt, wearing matching shoes, and wiping his mouth with a mustard-stained paper napkin is making a beeline for me. “Sign here! Sign here for the car that was just made for you! What a deal!” they all belch as their eyes flash commission-dollar signs.


  4. says

    Ain’t it the truth, sista? It becomes tiresome…how difficult is it to understand that you will have a hard time building relationships with people if the focus is solely on yourself?

    At least it gives me writing fodder:)

  5. says

    The era of the self-promoters is over, but many have not yet seen the memo! No wonder. They are too busy tooting their own horns. The only thing worse than a me-me-me communication is a me-me-me communication that is poorly written. I cringe every time I see one and I get them routinely from people I truly like. How does one try and convince them that there are better ways, that we have moved on to the era of new media and new ways of reaching our goals? I’ve already offended or lost friends and potential clients by trying to steer them in a different direction; not pretty!

  6. says

    Barb, I caught your comment on Pete Caputa’s post. So, I had to read yours. Like you, I’ve received LI invites from ‘connection building LIONS’. I typically reply with, “I hope that I’m not embarrassed when you answer, but how do we know each other?” I typically never hear from them again. Thanks for the comment and the post!

  7. says

    Thanks Rick! I love what you posted on Pete’s blog, so I’m going to share it with everyone.

    “I’m reminded of the story that Philip Styrlund shared on World Trade Day, 2007. When Philip was leaving to make his way in the world, his father advised, “Philip, be interested, not interesting.”

    That is so totally it – care about helping others first!

  8. says

    Great post, Barb.

    I was just catching up on reading Rick’s blog posts (I’m woefully behind.) and saw that he linked to you here.

    So, by way of my blog post, your comment, then Rick’s post, I’m reading your post. Funny thing how this networking thing works.

    I’m going to send this around to some sales people I know as a reminder for them to ask questions.

    With email and social networks, it becomes so easy to just to spam-spray people with “thinly disguised” sales pitches, and see who pops up.

    I’m reminded of what my soccer coach used to make us do when we were dribbling too much. He created a rule that we could only touch the ball twice before we had to pass to a teammate. Funny thing is that we always played amazingly better when we did that.

    Applied in an online networking situation, the rule should be that you must ask a question, listen/read other people’s conversations before you start making statements. And then do the same thing before you make another statement.

    What other tricks/guidelines do you use?

  9. John Lien says

    I love it. Well said!

    Does this mean you will practice what you preach and stop with your status updates telling us where you are speaking next? They can be a bit much at times!

    What was that old saying about glass houses?

  10. says

    Thank you, John!

    Yes, I do practice what I preach and blend different things into the LinkedIn status updates. It is a delicate balance. As I said in my post – it’s OK to promote what you do, but I do not believe that should be the ONLY thing you ever do.

    If you watched this week, I promoted my colleague – Monica Ricci – who was quoted in a great article in Success magazine. Then I mentioned how I was enjoying contributing to the LinkedIn community discussions and right now my status poses the question about creating relationships. Not a post about a speaking gig in sight:) On that note, when I do talk about where I’m speaking – I do that as much for me, as I do to promote the organization hosting me.

    You are right to remind me to practice what I preach, and I do appreciate your participation!


  11. says

    Peter – thanks so much for joining in!

    For me, I’m all about contributing to the discussion and doing whatever I can to add value and help others. In my LinkedIn groups, I do not mention my company, my services, what I do, etc. I believe that if you contribute value, people will naturally want to check you out and they do. I’m often asked to join other networks as a result.

    I contrast that with a guy I’ve been watching in the ASTD National group. He just cannot refrain from mentioning his company and how great their products are. He poses questions/he answers them, but is clearly using that as a self serving way to brag about himself and his company. People see through that. He started getting smacked down pretty hard in one discussion recently.

    IBM’s sales training approach was like that of your soccer coach. When you went on sales calls, you were NOT ALLOWED to mention your products even once during the first 3 meetings with a customer. The goal was to really learn about the clients needs. BTW – I didn’t work for IBM – I worked for their competitor:) I loved that approach though and trained my sales folks the same way.

    The online world is awesome! I love how I can monitor blogs I like – Hubspot is definitely one of them – participate and then other people contribute in my discussions. So cool!


  12. says

    Hi Barbara:

    Love the title, love the philosophy. People like xyz, make my job easier by eliminating themselves as my competition. It’s amazing how people just don’t know how to be themselves.

  13. says

    Nice post, Barb and lots of good discussions…

    I don’t know what I can add that hasn’t already been said in many good ways, but I wanted to chime in with a few brief thoughts anyway.

    I commented on a blog yesterday (http://budurl.com/ubmb), responding to a comment that even though this person had been networking on LinkedIn (engaging in discussions, commenting, blogging, etc.) but nothing ever came of it….and he seemed to think that by doing all of that some magic was supposed to happen and bring him new clients and new business.

    My somewhat lengthy comment focused on ‘expectations.’ I tend to do all of that and more (blogging, commenting, podcasting, posting videos, connecting with other people) with no expectations, so when some nice referral or online mention or solid connection does come about it is a pleasant surprise.

    The second point I hoped to make was the to truly make those connections work, you have to pick up the phone, reach out and become ‘real’ to those online connections. Hopefully you’ll meet face-to-face someday and strengthen those connections even more.

    The challenge as I see it is that most people want results NOW, and that impatience shows through and guides their aggressive tactics. I feel that patience and persistence will win out – and ultimately show good results.

  14. Nicole VJ Allen says

    Hey Barb, I just stumbled on to your site and I am VERY glad I did! This post especially hits the nail on the head. In fact I just joined a facebook group that had a TON of potential, but the first 5 posts were people peddling their wares! I kindly reminded them that facebook is like a party–you wouldn’t walk up to a complete stranger at a party, flash open your trench coat and say, “hey I don’t know you, but buy my stuff!” and you shouldn’t in facebook –or anywhere online for that matter either! Seems like some of us get the clue, but the rest, well, they sure do a good job of eliminating themselves as competition!

  15. says

    Mort, Tim and Nicole,

    Thanks so much for joining in the discussion and sharing your perspective and ideas.

    Tim – you are so right. Many people want a sale now. And it doesn’t work that way off line or online. Patience and a blended approach is key.

    Nicole – your party analogy is so great…though the MLM types would still not understand party etiquette.

    More – authenticity is key…why that’s so hard for many folks I just don’t know.

    All I know is that building quality relationships that lead to business results takes time and effort. And all 3 mentioned something key…our approach sets up apart from the competition.

  16. Nicole VJ Allen says

    Hey Barb! I am taking this online class on social marketing called Social Traffic and one of my assignments was to find 5 thought leaders in the social marketing community, create a twitter feed of their blog posts and begin contributing to the conversation. I did a search in Google Blogs for “online marketing” and your blog came up! Glad I stumbled upon it!

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