Social media fans and followers are like new neighbors

Shutterstock_20760379 Imagine glancing out your front window just as the moving van pulls in at the house across the street.  Oh goodie…a new neighbor!

As soon as the moving van unloads everything and pulls away, you brush your teeth, run your fingers through your hair and head over.  After all… you've got to check them out, right?

Their garage door is still open and it's packed with stuff.  You start rummaging through the boxes and are pumped when you see the power tools.  You have a lot of uses for those!  You hear the door leading into the house open up and a startled man looks at you in surprise.

With skipping a beat, you look up and say, "Hey neighbor!  Nice to meet you.  Mind if I take these tools for a couple days?  I'm finishing my basement and…"

I know…it sounds crazy doesn't it?  Everyone knows that you don't treat a new neighbor that way.  The proper way to get to know a new neighbor is to take over a little gift or some freshly baked cookies.  You ask if there's anything you can do to help them settle in.  Maybe you watch the kids while they unpack or you offer to bring dinner over so they don't have to worry about getting to the grocery store.

In other words — you give without expecting to get something in return.

The same is true in social media.  When you get a new neighbor in the form of a Facebook fan, Twitter follower or blog subscriber — you don't dig through their proverbial garage, looking for what you can get from them.  You don't immediately try to sell them something or make them jump through a bunch of hoops. 

And yet that's exactly what most businesses do.  Automated DM tweets pushing their product, Facebook updates that are all about them and blog posts that are just self-promotional press releases.

No wonder most companies abandon their social media efforts and declare it all a waste of time.  Because they're lousy neighbors.

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5 comments on “Social media fans and followers are like new neighbors

  1. WOW! What a great article – spot on… I am ashamed to admit that I have been previously guilty of being a crap neighbour. More virtual cookie baking to be done! Thanks for the wake up call – and giving me a reason to delete a bunch of shameless self promo diatribers 🙂

    Great article!

  2. Drew,

    It’s definitely not just companies that suck at being bad social media neighbors. 🙂

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been friended, followed, or connected to on LinkedIn and then had an immediate request for something (usually an introduction or a job inquiry). I’m more than happy to do this, even if it does feel a small bit presumptuous from time to time, especially if it’s coming from someone I don’t know or have not had any previous connection with.

    Your core message is still spot-on, though. Give first without thought of receiving and the universe will answer.


  3. Louisa,

    It’s a fine line that we all dance on — how to balance sharing our knowledge and skills while still remembering that we’re here for a business purpose.

    I think much of it is about intent and timing. It sounds like you will be refining your timing — but that your intent was always where it needed to be.


  4. Michael,

    Boy, do I hear you! I find myself put in that position as well. On LinkedIn, I’m careful to only make recommendations or connections for people I do know. If a request comes from someone I don’t know, I’ll ask them a little bit about themselves and do a bit of digging before I pass on the request.

    I don’t want to risk damaging my reputation or imposing one someone I know — without doing a bit of homework.

    Ultimately you’re right — the same rules apply, whether its a company or an individual.


  5. Drew,
    I really like this perspective. Makes me think about neighbors bringing cake and gravy when there’s a new comer in the neighborhood and loved it. It’s all about “spirit” and sharing. : )

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