How to Market Yourself on Facebook Without Annoying Everybody
Well, let’s face it: we all have something to sell (and if we don’t yet, we probably plan to someday), and we all want all of our Facebook friends to buy whatever it is we’re selling. The trick is to let everyone know it’s for sale without annoying everyone into removing us from their friend lists. So before you start marketing your book or your business or your product or your service, you can begin promoting your reputation as someone worth paying attention to.
Why start here? Because, as Michael Hyatt outlines step-by-step in his knock-their-socks-off book Platform, you can build your platform before you even have a product to sell. You can establish your presence, provide a lead-in to your products, and introduce your voice via social media (among other channels), all while you prepare for launch. Among other online outlets, I've used Facebook to launch numerous brands from scratch, and those cases resulted in interested, engaged Facebook audiences that were ready and waiting to see what those brands had to offer by the time the product lineups rolled out. So what can your audience expect from the brand you present as an author, business owner, or service provider?
When used smartly, Facebook is one of the most powerful, far-reaching online platforms to connect with a near-limitless pool of potential buyers, and that makes it a great place to start connecting with those buyers before you start plugging your products. But remember... everybody has something to sell. When you form pre-existing relationships within your target audience, you give your target audience a reason to pay attention to you when you come up with something to sell later. The trick is to offer a meaningful relationship before you offer to sell a product.
So here are a few basic guidelines about marketing yourself on Facebook without annoying everybody. I’ve gleaned these principles from my own experiences and observations as both a Facebook marketer and as a Facebook user. In other words, I've learned the following from things I’ve done that annoy others and from things others do that annoy me. End the abuse. Don't pass it on.
- I shouldn't even have to say this: enough with the Facebook gaming invitations and gifts. I'm not kidding. You should understand that your request for a book review is going to be tempered by your request for an Untraceable Cell Phone on Mafia Wars. Yes, I know, everyone uses Facebook for different reasons. Fine. Personally, I really don’t care if you spend eight hours straight playing Candy Crush Saga, even though the whole world can see you’re just screwing around all day while the rest of us are working for a living. All the best to you, my friend. But you might notice at some point that I don't come here for the applications. And it really makes me think twice when I see your page suggestion, only to visit your profile to find nothing but miles and miles of irrelevant Farmville, Social City, and Daily Horoscope posts. You have four seconds to keep my attention, and you just lost it in two. This might be evident in the fact that I never accept your applications, invitations, or gifts. You might have noticed I never post any of that junk on my own timeline or send any of it to you. Social media is all about reciprocity. Which leads me to my next point...
- Social media is all about reciprocity. Answer your messages, why don’t you? If someone takes the time to comment on something you’ve said, the least you can do is drop a line to acknowledge their interest and thank them for stopping by. You don’t always have to snap back with a witty response or a thought-provoking addendum. We don’t all have something intelligent to say all of the time. Just be polite, for goshsakes. Be friendly. Appreciate the people who appreciate you. When your timeline is littered with a long string of unanswered greetings, questions, and comments, you put out “I’m rude and self-centered” vibes. Your new friends see there’s no need to bother with you, and your old friends wonder why they ever bothered with you to begin with.
- If I don’t know you from Adam, give me the chance to at least view your profile once before you start nagging me to like your page and buy your stuff. I don't accept a friend request from just anyone. In fact, I'm pretty darn selective with my Facebook crowd (I personally use Twitter and LinkedIn for most of my marketing stuff these days). So if I click Confirm, and you instantaneously add me to two dozen of your groups without my permission, I’m going to be annoyed. Real annoyed. I know, I know... the Web breaks down social barriers, and social media encourages us all to drop the formalities so we can engage in casual online exchange with strangers around the world. That's outstanding; the key word there was exchange. Try starting a conversation by saying, "Hello, Serenity. Nice to meet you." Give me a chance to respond. Take a look at my photos and links. Let me wander over to take a look at your photos and links. If we have anything in common, the rest will follow naturally.
- If you're posting repetitive, duplicate updates and links that no one ever likes or comments on - ever - it means no one likes them, and it’s time for you to try something else. If you cultivate no interaction, no level of give-and-take or meaningful engagement with your audience, then you are apparently offering nothing of value that will keep people coming back. And that means you’re just one more annoying self-marketer who doesn’t listen to your audience or try to understand their likes, interests, or needs. Don't be that guy. Position yourself as a helpful resource. Pay attention to the stuff your audience likes about you, and give them more of that.
- You can let people know what you’re up to without shouting your marketing message from the rooftops. No one likes advertising, and no one likes see-through imperatives to buy, buy, buy. Connect with your audience and take interest in what they’re doing. Instead of blasting your friends’ News Feeds with “order, reserve, and buy now” messages, you can simply report on your good news, your exciting developments, and your sense of accomplishment. Don’t forget to wish your friends well in their pursuits of similar goals. Listen, commiserate, and congratulate, and others will do the same for you... and they’ll remember you when they come across something that might help you out.
- Do not spam me every day through Facebook messages. Seriously. Some of you really don’t know when enough is enough, do you? So you wrote a new blog post. Good for you. I wrote a new blog post, too. But I don’t broadcast each and every individual link to each and every individual blog post to each and every individual on my friend list each and every freakin’ day, now, do I? If I’m interested in your blog, then I read your blog posts on your blog, or I subscribe to your RSS or email updates, or I click the link to your blog that you already posted on your timeline. Save the group announcements and mass messages for things that actually impact large numbers of people. Preserve these channels for important items that you really want people to notice. If you abuse these channels, none of us are going to pay attention to anything you ever send us again - ever. You’ll descend to the ranks of our online irritants who hawk illicit pharmaceuticals: when we see your name in our inboxes, we will naturally gravitate toward Delete without even batting an eye. Or we will unfriend you. Because you’re annoying.
- If I ignore your page suggestion, I’ll probably continue to ignore it, no matter how many times you send it to me. Now, I don’t expect anyone to keep a checklist of sent Facebook invitations or anything like that. I realize we’re all adding new friends all the time, and I realize all our new friends might not notice that we have really cool pages to share unless we tell them. But practice some moderation, okay? Pick a day, no more frequently than one day a month at the most, and on that day - and only on that day - go ahead and troll through your friends list to send page suggestions to all the people who haven’t liked you yet. Just don’t overdo it. I’ll forgive an occasional repeat invitation to something I don’t care about. I understand that you might not remember that you sent it to me already. If, however, you send me the same page suggestion every day, I’m going to ignore it every day... until the day you suddenly rocket straight into the red zone on my annoyance meter and I suddenly, irrevocably want nothing to do with you ever, ever again. Then I’m going to unfriend you. Because you're annoying.
- Get this: we can still be friends, even if we don’t like each other’s pages, and even if we don’t buy each other’s stuff. Believe it or not, it’s really okay if we don’t have anything to offer one another right now. We might one day, and we might not. In the meantime, let’s just be friends. Okay? There are plenty of other ways you and I can learn from each other and share with one other without any obligatory public endorsements or financial transactions between us.
- And finally, the Spot-Check Rule: if you’re not sure you should do it... don’t. If you feel like something you’re about to post on Facebook might be construed as self-serving self-marketing—if you think something you’re about to do or say might annoy everyone—it will. When in doubt, just don’t do it.
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. We've all annoyed others in scores of other ways, and we've all been annoyed by legions of the same. So what else can you add to the mix? What are some of the "do's" and "don't do's" that really get your blood boiling online? What are the most annoying Facebook marketing strategies the rest of us can learn from?