Before the internet – yes, there actually was such a time and it wasn’t that long ago – I have believed in following a code of conduct in business and in life. It’s called manners and includes being respectful and honoring boundaries. Sometimes not easy, especially if someone treats you badly, but I don’t sink to their level. That’s doesn’t mean I’m a doormat. I’ll speak up if I need too. But I can still be professional about it. My code of conduct also includes being aware that there is a time and a place for everything, which is what leads me to my post today.
Earlier in the week, I posted a status update on LinkedIn that related to some interesting statistics from Forrester about when B2B buyers want to engage with salespeople. Some social selling guru’s act like all you need to do is tweet all day long to make quota, which, of course is not true. Buyers may not need to talk to you the first minute they are thinking about buying something, but they do when the solution is:
- Requires service or installation
- The price needs to be agreed upon
My status update was meant to get people thinking and hopefully, spur some dialog. Well, imagine my surprise – though I shouldn’t be, because I see people do this often – when someone added a comment and included a link back to a recent webinar their company had conducted. While there isn’t a rulebook related to how you behave when participating on social channels, there are some generally accepted best practices. One of them is that you don’t hijack other people’s status updates to push your own self-serving sales agenda.
I was annoyed by that action. Do we really have to spell out what common courtesy is to people? Anywho, the action led me to post another update mentioning that I didn’t think it was cool to hijack the conversation in that way, but I wanted to know what other people thought. Overwhelmingly, people do not like it. Naturally, the person who did the deed thought it was just fine if the information was relevant. I don’t disagree that sharing relevant information is helpful. Why not post a link to Forrester then? Why the link to your webinar?
Proponents argue that they are just “adding value” by linking back to their blog, their website, their podcast, their video, their webinar. You get the idea… THEIR STUFF. Usually, they add a one sentence comment and then say, “go read my blog/watch my webinar to learn more.” These people justify their actions by saying that they don’t want to leave a lengthy comment, but they are resolute in their belief that they are just being helpful by sharing their knowledge. Sounds charitable doesn’t it?
Nope, it is self-serving.
Here’s the thing, no matter how you try to dress up your argument, what you are really doing is trying to get exposure for yourself. Unless you run a charity and don’t need to make money, I assume you sell something. If you really want to contribute value to the conversation then why include a link to push people somewhere else? Specifically, that somewhere being to YOUR PAGE.
The final kicker is that this person I’m talking about works for a competitor. Yes, I know and respect the owner, but a competitor none the less. That makes the action, in my opinion, more grievous. There’s something called professional courtesy, and I’m all for co-opetition. There is plenty of business for everyone. But using my LinkedIn profile as free real estate for anyone to push people to their website is rude and self-serving.
Salespeople (and marketers) are feeling the pressure to hit revenue goals. I get that. The problem is that the pressure can lead to short-circuited thinking and bypassing common courtesy and accepted best practices. I have no doubt that the individual who did this to me, does it to others. All the while justifying that he’s only being helpful. There are other ways to share your great content, but hijacking someone’s status update on their profile to do it… not cool. Period.
In most LinkedIn groups, there are specific guidelines about not linking back to your own sites, but I suppose there are people out there that just assume that your status updates are fair game. They aren’t.
What did I do?
After giving it a day to ponder, I eventually – and for the first time, I might add – deleted the comment and disconnected from that person as a connection. I decided it was an opportunity to make my point. That point was really driven home – well, maybe – when the offender noticed I deleted his comment and sent me a LinkedIn mail about it. I told him straight up how I felt about what he did. Will his behavior change? Doubtful.
There are reasons why sales gets a bad rap. The people using social media to try and short-cut the process aren’t helping things. So, here’s my sales tip…
STOP TRYING TO MAKE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU!
Participate in the conversation taking place on someone’s status update to share your knowledge and expertise. If people like what you have to say, they will check you out to learn more. Be patient and respect the process. When you disrespect others, that will come back to bite you.