Play Nice With the Other Kids

“It doesn’t matter what you say you believe - it only matters what you do.”  ― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

As much as I love social networks, I am often surprised at how some people choose to behave when participating in them. On open forums or blogs, it is not difficult to create an anonymous persona that can be hidden behind. Some of these players then use anonymity to unleash their lunatic fringe style fury on anyone who dares to disagree with what they have to say. While I will never understand the need to be so vicious toward others who merely have a different point of view, it happens because these types feel there are no personal or professional repercussions. After all, no one actually knows who they are.

Now let’s switch gears and talk about LinkedIn. Unless you create a fake LinkedIn profile, people know who you are. For that reason alone, I’m even more surprised when I witness people behaving like idiots in discussions. After all, their picture (most of the time), their name and even the terms they use in their profile headline, which often includes the name of their company, is there for everyone to see.

I’m thinking about netiquette because of an exchange I watched play out in a LinkedIn group a few days ago. It is a classic example of what happens when people let their egos and ultimately their anger get the best of them.

It started with the questioner asking people in the group to share their 30-second elevator pitch. The individual asking the question needed to create a pitch and was trying to fire up their creative juices by hearing what others used in their own selling.

That’s when it started.

Another group member confused by the request or merely trying to be helpful, shared a pitch as an example of what the guy asking the question could use.

It didn’t go over well. That happened because:

  1. That wasn’t the request.
  2. The guy who started the discussion didn’t feel his company was represented correctly or fairly.

Then it began to get worse.

Member making the suggested pitch justifies his response. He went on to offer other elevator pitch possibilities. Trying to be funny – always dangerous if someone doesn’t know you – he includes this as one of his suggestions… “I lend money to people who can’t get it from normal sources. Kind of like the mafia. Most people choose me instead of them because they get to avoid the broken kneecaps.”

Another member jumps into the fray and likens pitches to “carnival barkers” and says that while the other guy was being funny, he was making a serious point.

Now question asker is really offended and says so. He feels, and I have to agree with him, that comedian wannabe should be more careful about how he jokes about someone else’s business, especially in an open forum. He goes on to remind both responders that he asked people to share their pitch. He did not ask for suggestions on how to write his. And he certainly wasn’t thrilled about the negative comments made about the industry he works in.

At which point, more justification and arguing and drama ensue. Not good for the reputation of anyone involved. Me, I wasn’t about to say a word, but I was certainly wondering where the group moderators were while this was going on.

The rules of social netiquette are quite basic.

Use common sense, be respectful, don’t attack people, don’t critique unless asked and for goodness sake, do not argue with each other in a public forum. In short, play nice with the other kids. Your brand and reputation depends on it.

P.S. this is group is “open” so there is no expectation that comments made remain private inside the group. Fair game to write about folks.

Brand Killer: Part III

If you read posts 1 and 2 on the topic of busting your brand, you know that I didn’t take kindly to the dimwit who decided it was okay to send me spam, because we were members of the same LinkedIn group. You also know that he didn’t care for me making the suggestion that spamming people wasn’t the way to go about driving successful sales. His response said it all.

But, that wasn’t the end of it, because as you know I felt compelled to let him know for the second time that he’d now taken rude to another level. I figured that would be the end of it. Ah, but not for this guy. Here is his final response. There are soooo many things that I wanted to say in return, but what would be the point? He considers me “sanctimonious”, perhaps because I was the first one to tell him his approach might be losing him sales. As for the rest of his logic…one can only wonder.

“You were never going to buy from me to begin with. Just because you wrote just another book on sales doesn’t mean your way is the only way to get new business. (Hey I have a book published too. 5 stars on - which is really great, but I don’t consider my book to be the definitive answer to anything). There is still plenty of room for cold calling in the market today - and you are wrong if you think otherwise. There is rude, and there is sanctimonious. Besides, those in your network, who like you, believe that there is no room for Cold Calling were never going to buy from me anyway, so be sure to let them know. Actually, I am sure that some sales professionals will be interested to speak with me just because you tell them not too.”

By the way, some of my colleagues suggested that I was only wasting my precious time responding to this guy and then blogging about the situation. My feeling is that every now and then you’ve got to take a stand. I’m getting far to many of these cheezy sales pitches thrown at me via LinkedIn, as are many others, and I felt that I needed to speak up. Whether he hears the message or not is really not the point. Oh, and if you are one of the sales professionals who want to talk to this guy just because I suggest you look elsewhere, please let me know. I’ll happily pass along his contact information:)

Brand Killer: Part II

Well, clearly some folks just do not understand that the way people want to buy products and services has changed. Imagine my surprise…well, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised…when dumb & dumber sent me a LinkedIn email in response to my suggestion that his sales spam was not appreciated.

On 11/17/10 9:52 PM, XYZ wrote:

If you don’t want to receive messages from other group members you can go to your group settings and check a box that says you don’t want to receive messages from other members of the group.  Its that simple.  Nothing wrong with Cold Calling either by the way.


Really? Instead of considering the feedback you decide to school me on how to use LinkedIn?

Here is the response that I sent this morning…

Well, XYZ thanks for taking rude to another level. You’ve certainly convinced me that I would never buy from you, and I’ll be happy to share that news with my network. I’m well aware that I can turn off messages. If you had bothered to read my profile, you would know that I’m quite experienced in the areas of social media and sales. In fact, my book was just published on the topic. I do not turn off messages because I like connecting with others, and I trust that professionals will not abuse the privilege. Sending me unsolicited sales spam is not connecting. You are simply pushing your own agenda. And, yes, there is something wrong with cold calling. Clearly, you do not understand the buyers of today. -B


Folks, this type of mentality is exactly what today’s buyers HATE about sales people. Frankly, that ticks me off, because the majority of us are very professional and understand the social rules of engagement online. What this person fails to realize is that he is doing more harm to his brand than good. But I’m not that shocked actually. He sells a sales dialing service AKA automated cold calling and in reviewing his LinkedIn profile, it’s clear he doesn’t have much of a network. It appears he’s only using LinkedIn for his own self serving agenda. That’s unfortunate, because in the long run, it will never serve him.

Should we all take bets on whether or not he’ll be dumb enough to reply again? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Quit P’ing in the Community Pool

Lately, 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!

Play Nice With the Other Kids Online

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the grasp of the netiquette do’s and don’ts of communicating online is critical to your success. One misstep can be all it takes to sink your ship. Whether you are posting in LinkedIn groups, talking to friends on Facebook, participating in blogs or tweeting on Twitter, you need to understand that netiquette covers both common courtesy and the informal “rules of the road” of cyberspace. In this world, you must be even more conscious of how and what you are saying; otherwise you run the risk of tarnishing your brand, tearing down your credibility or offending people who not only won’t take it kindly, but will vigorously pass on their displeasure to everyone they know.

I watched an example of a meltdown of ego’s in a LinkedIn group discussion today. A colleague alerted me to the situation and frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is exactly the kind of thing that in an instant can destroy your credibility as a professional and put your company’s brand at risk. It started innocently enough with each person putting their opinion forth…and then it got nasty. Here are a few of the excerpts:

Guys, I don’t want to rain on your parade but…. this happens to be my area of expertise for the last 10 years. Dolly, it has nothing to do with the intended audience or whether it is formal or informal learning. Roger, when I refer to hard baked I am referring to static content which is a blob and not easily maintained or all that intelligent. Roger, I will need some time to educate you. I am not sure there is enough space in this forum to do so.

Rule # 1 - Don’t insult other people by making it personal. Everyone has their opinion. Be careful not to confuse your sales agenda with contributing ideas to the discussion. This isn’t about winning or insisting that people believe in your point of view.

After those thoughtless comments, as in everyone else is wrong but her, the game is now on. It was painful to watch, and I’m only giving you the highlights. Believe me, it was much, much worse!

Sorry Brenda, It looks like you haven’t been paying attention for the last ten years. Maybe you should find a new career. Your ideas are strictly 1997, and you clearly haven’t been looking closely at the online collaboration and learning repository technologies that have evolved in online tools such as ours, or in Rapid intake’s new online version, or in Atlantic Link etc.

As I stated Roger, there is not enough room in this forum for me to educate you. I know your system; I know Atlantic Link and the many other online authoring tools. I don’t think you are a smart as you give yourself credit for. Do your homework. LCMS’s have matured over the last 10 years. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Duh, what do you think tools like Lectora and yours for that matter use to animate objects in a browser? Scripting Languages or proprietary authoring tools like Flash. I know more about web services than you could even imagine.

And it kept going…

Wow, Brenda, I really hadn’t intended to turn this forum into a personal vendetta, your arrogance is as deep as your ignorance. You are the classic case of the salesperson becoming indoctrinated by their own BS.

And going…

Dude, can I have some of whatever it is you are smoking. It is not productive to go point on point because clearly you know I am right. I am so far from just a salesperson. You have no idea who I am otherwise you would not be so arrogant. Right, Boeing, World Wide, Enterprise Wide is my customer. They are building and managing many thousands of courses and deploying that content to 160,000 world wide employees. How many Boeing employees are you serving, LOL. Lets not even go there.

And going…

Your too funny with the founding father thing. I challenge you to find out who I am. Roger, you are smoking your own crack. No one is locked into our own authoring capability. There you go again. Do your home work, old fellow.

OMG - someone please tell this woman to shut up is all I kept thinking. She is rude, arrogant and evidently has no social graces whatsoever. This is a classic case of a sales person who ventured far, far off the reservation. She was so caught up in winning that she evidently lost her mind. Trust me, I scaled it back significantly. I can’t imagine what would possess anyone to behave that way, but clearly she was too caught up in making sure that everyone else knew she was the smartest person on the planet. She isn’t. Giving no thought to the fact that she risked damaging the reputation of the company that she represented, she kept mouthing off. Actually, she did do harm to her employer and more. For anyone reading, I have to believe that her image was forever tarnished in their minds, as it was in mine. I know whenever I see her name I will say to others - buy from someone else. That does significant damage to her company.

What happened today is a company’s worst nightmare. Some idiot employee mouthing off doing damage to the company brand. Instead of running away or saying that this is why social media should be avoided, it is an opportunity for a company to ensure that they have some guidelines for their employees to follow. I stress guidelines that come tethered with accountability. Don’t hamstring people with oversight, rigid control and micro-management, but do insist that certain types of behavior will not be tolerated.

Respect and appreciation for the diverse viewpoints of others is as critical in the online world, as it offline. I wonder, would she have really said those ignorant, stupid things if she was talking to him face to face? Would he have said those things to her if they were standing toe to toe at a networking function? My guess is not. And that’s the moral of the story. Loose lips definitely sink ships. Be careful what you say online!

Are You Netiquette Savvy?

As the use of social media networking tools continues to grow in popularity, understanding the netiquette do’s and don’ts of online communication is critical to your success.  A blended word for “network etiquette”, Wikipedia defines netiquette as “a set of social conventions that facilitate interaction over networks, ranging from the internet and mailing lists to blogs and forums”.

Whether you are posting in LinkedIn groups, talking to friends on Facebook, participating in blogs or tweeting on Twitter, you need to understand that netiquette covers both common courtesy online and the informal “rules of the road” of cyberspace. In this world, you must be even more conscious of how and what you are saying; otherwise you run the risk of offending people who not only won’t take it kindly, but they will vigorously pass on their displeasure to everyone they know.

Here are my 3 top tips for avoiding online communication disaster:

Tip #1: Don’t sell.

This philosophy may seem counterintuitive if you believe that using online tools is just a cheap way to market and sell what you have to offer to a large number of people. Wrong!  Nothing turns people off faster than having some “slick Willy” enter the scene, who within minutes is hawking their latest product or service. If this is the approach you take, be prepared for a community smack down that will damage your reputation.

Tip #2: Give to receive.

People will always want to do business with people they know, like and trust. That takes time! Throwing up a LinkedIn profile today will NOT mean a sale tomorrow, so learn to be patient. You must first build a relationship with others in the community by giving more than you receive. Share information; make connections, and as people get to know you, they will naturally want to know more about what you have to offer.

Tip #3: Be human.

While technology is an amazing enabler, people are still on the other side. Think carefully about what you say and do. It’s certainly OK to be yourself and share your opinions, but always treat others with courtesy and respect. If you wouldn’t say it “to their face” then absolutely do not say it online.  If you are angry or annoyed then take a breath before you type those words and push send. As many have learned the hard way - what’s said on the internet definitely stays on the internet!

The Accidental Spammer

One of my pet peeves is receiving broadcast emails from people who neglect to use the “bcc” line in their communication, thus leaving all email addresses exposed to everyone else on the list.

If you are going to use standard email versus a program for email marketing like Constant Contact then please hear me when I tell you that you leave the window wide open for that unscrupulous someone who will push out a sales pitch to people that YOU know, but THEY don’t. Well…until you gave out everyone’s email address that is.

This happened to me earlier this week.

The email was an announcement about a business endeavor a friend had recently put together, and I was glad to receive the information. Unfortunately, he used email for the message and put everyone on his list in the “to” line exposing all of us to potential spam.

And you guessed it…minutes later, David - who needs a few netiquette lessons - “replied all” to the message and tried to sell us his interviewing products. Sending unsolicited sales propaganda without securing permission while trashing my friend’s network at the same time is really tacky. The guy lacks an integrity gene in my opinion, and I would NEVER buy from anyone like that. And the worse part is that he didn’t care one iota about how it might affect my friend’s reputation. All he cared about was himself!

Tips to avoid this happening to you…

  • Unless you are positive that everyone on that list knows each other - use BCC (blind carbon copy) to hide the information.
  • Use an email marketing system like Constant Contact. Not only does it resolve the thorny issue of exposing your network accidentally, but email marketing systems are designed to handle the opt-out stuff required by law.
  • Communicate your spam policy to you network. Let them know that you are not giving them permission to sell to your network and that if they do they become “persona non grata”.

Always remember that your “network” is a precious asset that must be protected. Make sure that you do!