Facebook is now 10 years old. And even your father-in-law knows how to tweet. So professionals should have these social tools mastered by now, right? Wrong. Thanks to the blurred line between personal and professional social networks, people still tend to mix them together into an Arnold Palmer of terrible, embarrassing ideas.
Here are five social-media habits of some of the least successful people I've ever met. Make it your mission not to repeat them.
1. Your LinkedIn Profile Reads Like A Marketing Campaign
Last week, I received a LinkedIn invitation from a user with the title "CEO of Top PR Firm." I immediately navigated to Bill Gates' LinkedIn page. Is Bill's title "Top Fortune 500 CEO" or "Founder of World-Changing Tech Giant"? Not so much. In fact, no genuinely successful person needs to add gratuitous puffery to their LinkedIn profile.
If you call yourself an "expert," then chances are you're not one. This isn't to say you don't have expertise or you aren't an intelligent, unique human being. It's just a reminder that calling yourself an expert is useless; demonstrating it isn't. Show the work that you have done in your time.
The fact is that if you succeed in bamboozling someone into hiring you for something you can't do, it'll catch up to you.
2. You Treat Your Friends and Family Like They Work For You
Wrote a book? Great! Tell your friends and family about it. Your company scored some good press? Super! Post a few articles. Once in a while.
A PR professional I once knew harrassed her Facebook friends constantly to "Like" her clients' projects, from wine tastings to book signings to random pictures or articles. Her Facebook feed began to resemble a corporate stream of on-brand client messages, lightened with occasional twee statements about the beauty of New York.
If you use your Facebook account to connect with your friends and family, treat them like friends and family. If you need their support, ask for it bluntly. Don't force-feed them your professional garbage. You'll become the professional equivalent of a Candy Crush Saga notification.
3. Your Twitter Feed Is Professionally Boring (And You're On Brand All The Time)
Marketing 101 dictates that you use Twitter to promote your specific industry or company, right? The answer is yes, but not always.
If your entire Twitter feed becomes a stream of on-brand blather all the time, you will become a deeply boring and uninteresting human being to the world at large. Yes, you will get a drab industry-related following if you work hard enough at it, but no one will related to you. Unless you're providing actual data or real insight (no, that doesn't mean "expertise.")
People read and follow people on Twitter because they have something interesting (or funny) to say or share. If you are only able to talk about your industry, you may as well be an RSS feed.
(Also, stop thanking people for retweeting your posts. It looks desperate.)
4. You Don't Pay Attention
I recently used social media look-back service Timehop to revisit my embarrassing tweets from five years ago. I saw lines and lines of desperate attempts to hound reporters into covering my clients. Naturally, I never got any responses. I did get blocked more than once, though. Why? Because I treated Twitter like a lame version of speed-dating for my clients.
Had I actually looked at how people were using Twitter (even back then), I would have seen that reporters never take pitches over Twitter. They were sharing their stories and talking to each other (and readers). In other words, they were making Twitter into a great way to get to know them on a basic level.
Today, Twitter is part of my "media relations strategy," which is to say that I usually follow a reporter for a bit before I email them asking them what they want to hear about, somewhat tilting the odds in my favor by knowing a little about them in advance. It’s hardly rocket science.
5. You Socialize Like A Robot (or Sound Like Shingy)
Many skewered AOL (rightly) for pushing a "Digital Prophet" (What?) to the forefront of their publicity campaign. The insipid meaninglessness of what "Shingy" has to say (For example: What does "fragmentation is the world we live in" mean?) is actually very common throughout Twitter and LinkedIn. Many people simply say things to sound important, or intellectual, or deep (i.e. to sound more like Aaron Levie's Twitter feed), or use big words and terminology like "growth hacking" or "mindshare" or other terms that Fake Jeff Jarvis would post.
You should not be posting things on Twitter in order to look "cool" or "impressive" or "interesting." Drop all of the jargon and "messaging" littering your head; it makes you look like a quasi-intellectual quack. Focus on talking to people you want to talk to and sharing things of interest to them. It's a long process, and one you cannot fake through maniacal over-wording.