But I Don’t Have Enough Klout: How To Be Good At Social Media By Not Being A Jerk

Oct 3, 2011   //   by Colette Bennett   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog, Social Media  //  46 Comments

If you’ve ever used Facebook, Twitter or any other social media outlet a single day in your life and done so with any rate of success, you’ve probably already heard the whines of other users who are mystified at how you did it, or been accused of making up the term “social media specialist.” In fact, some of the stuff people like to say is starting to sound positively rote by now:

“Look at you, little Ms. Popular! How did you ever manage to get all those Twitter followers?”

“I tweet stuff all the time, but no one ever retweets me.”

“I only have 100 friends on Facebook. No one cares what I think.”

The last sentence there is the most deadly — making a broad decision that isn’t yours to make, and giving up before you’ve even started to try. But many people do that, and it can be your death sentence in a digital world where your output can make or break your public persona. So here’s a handy list about what you can do to improve your social media standing and maybe get a few more people to notice you. Also, if you could stop whining about how unpopular you are, that would be super.

1. Decide What You Need to Say

One of the greatest dangers of social media is that it allows us to report information to the world stream-of-consciousness style, especially with Twitter. This is the reason that the service is crammed with photosofpeoplesfood and complaints about their ailments, which frankly is stuff that should be saved for your dining partner or the person you live with. Yes, I know you are excited about your food, but realize that no one else really is OTHER than you (unless you just so happen to be a master chef-turned-blogger tweeting pics of your newest mouthwatering creation.) We’ll delve into this more later in step two, but let’s keep a one-track mind here.

So if you can’t tweet/FB/blog about whatever you damn well please, then what can you write about? Well, that’s the first key — before you start blathering all willy-nilly on a platform where everyone can hear you, make a decision about what it is you want to talk about. If you’re coming up blank there, consider what you LIKE to talk about. Are you crazy about squirrels? Passionate about vintage computer collecting? Nuts about repurposed home decor? Whatever your favorite topic is, that classic and cliched old rule writers have been following for years still applies: Write what you know. However, there’s a new addendum for the modern world: Write what you love. Enthusiasm is catching, and if you communicate it with honesty, people will come. Except when it’s a picture of your lunch. But that’s all about consideration for others, and as long as we’re on that, let’s hit up step two.

2. Consider Your Audience

Any person who has ever bitched about not being listened to on a blog, social media network or other tool has no idea what this means. I will be happy to explain it to you. Before you write a single word of absolutely anything, consider the way your readers will take it. Will it be interesting to them, or is it only interesting to you? If it’s mostly just interesting to you, is there a way to angle it to make it interesting for them? Do you need to explain it to them first? Is there anything in it that could drum up feedback or start a conversation, and if so, is that the direction that you want the discussion to go in?

In other words, if the aim of whatever you are doing is completely self-driven and there’s no sense of regard for how what you distribute is going to impact others, you’re doomed to fail before you get out of the gate. I don’t mean that being self-confident is bad, because it isn’t. However, Gandhi put it best when he said “Action expresses priorities.” If you act with others in mind, that means you care about what makes them tick at the get-go. This is the foundation of any thriving community or network, and without it, success is not an option.

3.  Choose Great Content 

So now you have something to say, and you’ve thought about how it will impact the people you share it with. If you aren’t writing the content yourself, perhaps you are resharing it from somewhere. If the latter is the case, use a bit of step two to define what is great content — will it engage an audience? If you have decided it will, perhaps it’s worth sharing on your social networks. By building up a consistent history of sharing good content (and you MUST be consistent), people will want to follow you, give you Klout, and more. It’s because you have established yourself as a consistent source of interest. What’s most remarkable about this is that you do not have to produce the content yourself, only be proactive about choosing and sharing it. Many years back, bloggers were sometimes nicknamed “cool hunters.” It’s the same principle at work here, and you can absolutely make it work to your advantage.

4. Listen and Engage

So you’re trying all the steps above, and you’re starting to notice that they are having some effect. Maybe you have more subscribers, or followers, or some new people who are friends of friends have noticed what you’ve been sharing on Facebook and they want to add you so they can read your stream of content too. They may choose to hang around if they like your content, sure. But you know what will make them even more inclined to sit around listening to your endlessly interesting stream of shared information? To relate to you, obviously — the same way human beings have done in a variety of formats for thousands of years. Listen carefully to what your followers say. Reply to each and every one of them. And most importantly of all, think before you speak, and consider how what you say may affect them, even if it’s a person you may never meet face to face.

5. Keep practicing

You’ve done it. You’ve built a thriving network of followers, your scores are high, and people always reshare what you have to say. You’re at the top, and it’s pretty up here. So now what do you do to stay up here? You practice the stuff you’ve already learned, of course, You get a bit better at it. You learn to listen a bit more. You notice when you make a mistake, and you improve on it next time. After all, at the thriving heart of any social media network, no matter how large, are people. Be cool to them, and they will often be cool right back. It works best by being a person worth knowing, no matter what the medium.

You’ve learned not to be a jerk. Congratulations! Now if you can stop tweeting pictures of beer and entrees using Instagram to make it all look vintage, you might be able to join the ranks of experts dudes like PeteCashmore. I know it’s hard to resist. But I assure you, so many people are doing it for you, your input on such topics will never be missed.

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Colette Bennett

Colette is a freelancer writer and a member of the Content Management team at Search Influence, a a full-service website promotion company. Read her and her other team members' views on internet marketing and social media on their blog, or follow them at @SearchInfluence.

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  • corinne says:

    I think in this day and age where being a celebrity only requires you to be an interesting person, this is solid advice for individuals as well as organizations and businesses. With twitter & tumblr you can fall into bad habits and profligate useless, self-centered information that is best left said to friends in person. Novice facebook users have the same problem, although we now have the “grandma” filter, where you wouldn’t want to say anything that you wouldn’t want them to read.

    As an active blogger, I believe the most important step is to have a focus of content, fracturing my interests into several blogs that are subject specific. Also, to separate your personal and professional internet handles with appropriate restriction levels and sharing capabilities.

  • Colette Bennett says:

    @Corinne — Thanks for reading! I agree with you that focus on content is key. There’s no reason you can’t have a personal space to express whatever you like and not have to worry about “the rules”. Your friends won’t mind seeing cool pics of food or other cute stuff, you know?

  • Ross Taylor

    Hey Colette, good stuff. Too many on twitter are thinking “what’s in it for me?” Actually, same goes in business in general these days. Not to get all hippy dippy on it, but the social web is a karmic thing, everything you put out there, everyone you comment on, every tweet you retweet, and with every +1, you’re sending out signals that you’re a part of this ecosystem and it all matters.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Ross, thanks for the feedback! I totally agree with you, although I don’t know if most SEO companies would be freaked out by the idea of karma in play in our business lives…but I think it’s effective just as much there as it is in any other part of our day, and I see positive results when I apply it personally 🙂

  • Kim Stoneburner says:

    It’s very informative. You have written great facts about engaging with followers, managing social media accounts & also blogging. The post improved my knowledge about using social media. Also I like your blogging style.It’s interesting.Thanks for sharing these details!

  • Ann says:

    Hi Colette,
    Awesome article – I love your style. As a newbie, I am always looking for ways to improve and learn. I’m with you on the social media, it can really put you on the map or get you stoned by a mob! I’m also very interested in the ‘resharing’. I definitely give that some thought. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Thanks for reading Ann! It really can be a big world to explore when you are getting started, and there’s so much out there. It is really a challenge to know where to begin. I don’t claim that this practices are the solution for every blogger, but for me they have proved invaluable.

  • Good to consider. There’s no easy solution out there, is there! 😀

  • Evan Przydzial says:

    Wish I could say more than what’s already been said by the others, but all I can say is I agree with virtually everything you’ve written. Online karma is a very real thing and this should be read by anyone wanting to understand it and grasp the core concepts of it.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      I’m glad to hear you say that about online karma, Evan — I believe in it VERY strongly. It’s no different online than it is in real life!

  • PersonaSpace says:

    This kind of hit home today actually. I lost a key follower today, and up until now, I didn’t realize that I actually cared about that kind of stuff. I’ve been using Twitter as my personal stream of thought and communication tool for awhile now, but I guess I’m starting to wonder if that’s what I really want to do with it. I’m kind of conflicted about how to actually use Twitter I guess. This was a thought provoking read. Thanks for that.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Thanks for reading Personaspace! I have had the same experience with losing followers, and while some people will just brush that off, I tend to try to think carefully about what I put out there too. Especially if the account is related to business or my work in any way. I really enjoy fining content that I think my readers might enjoy. I figure, if they are kind enough to read my work, I should put something great out there for them too!

  • prryjcksn says:

    More people should read this article since some people I know still believe Twitter is just “Status updates from Facebook” when I use it as a blogging tool to know people in the gaming industry and talk about videogames I love which can get you places and make great connections. Really amazing article Colette!

  • shawnrhill says:

    This is really good info. Definitely food for thought 🙂

  • prede says:

    Well put. People often ask me how I have so many follower (note: I don’t think I have that many), and want to know how to do it. I guess this is as good a roadmap as any to do it. One thing I’d add to it is follow some interesting people who talk about the same thing you do. get involved with them. Move your way into their little social group. Since you all talk about the same stuff, at least some of them will be interested in what you have to say about it.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Prede — you are right, and I also find that this method introduces me to tons of new contacts and friends. I really appreciate being able to connect to people with like interests, and if I keep my online posts on topics that I relate to and are also interesting, the people that read that seem to respond in kind. It’s pretty wonderful 🙂

  • Bryan says:

    Pretty much dead on about all of the above. Following these guidelines to make sure my twitter/fanblog dedication to Bruce Boxleitner becomes the number one Bruce Boxleitner fan site on the internet.

  • Cathal says:

    Cool read, if only I could convince my friends and that the people I follow to read it and stop asking twitter what they should have for lunch.

  • Joe Peacock says:

    I kinda agree, but i think “Jerk” tends to be subjective. Some people feel like they’re jerks just by speaking up, while others feel like being a jerk is only something you can do in person. To really win at social media, it’s less about being or not being a jerk, and more about being 100% relevant to some aspect of your topic 100% of the time.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Joe — that is an excellent point, and one I wish I had addressed directly in this feature. I was always taught to blog with consistency, and I believe that same rule should apply to the way we use social media as well.

  • Nick from AllYourGame says:

    Great article! This is something I’m specifically trying to figure out at the moment. On a personal level, I’ve been able to get my friends on facebook consistently engaged with my status updates. Over the years of using fb, I’ve figured out what people are interested in and will respond to and what they will ignore. This was a bit easy because I’ve known these people for a long time.

    On a business level, I’m trying to figure out how to engage with people that I don’t know. My experience so far has been that, as a representative of a company, I’m immediately disregarded along with all the other companies vying for their attention.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Nick, I’m not sure if this advice would be useful, but when I had smaller blogs I read my comments *very* carefully. I tried to really hear out what people liked and what they did not. I also tried to think if there was anything I could provide on my blog that otherwise was not available in the world I was writing in. It’s hard to think of something different to contribute when something is as often written about as gaming is, but no matter what the topic, there is always some new way to go at it. You just have to find it. 🙂

  • These are really good tips. Great article, Colette! 🙂

  • MtAdkins says:

    For me # 4 is the key…it’s easy to get over confident & little rush of power when you begin to notice the impact you (appear to) have. Being open to connecting with others and compassionate will take you farther than any dodgy SEO plan…

  • KyleGamgee says:

    Great how-to article. I really liked #3 and the emphasis on being consistent. I subscribe to around 10 blogs, but most of them go for huge periods of time without updating. I’d like a new blog or two to bookmark, which makes me realize that as much as there are those that want to use social media to get their message out there, there really are people actively looking to RECEIVE it.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Thanks for reading Kyle! I was taught early on in my blogging career that speed and consistency were key to success. It helps me to hear from readers that updating really does mean a great deal to them. I know the blogs I love reading are always consistent and supply me with a steady stream of great content, so I figure, why not try to emulate that?

  • Samit Sarkar

    Well, I tweet like crazy during Yankees playoff games, and I still have 2,600+ Twitter followers, SO THERE.

    Seriously, though, these are all really important for people who want to grow their online following. The crazy thing? Most of them can be applied to writing in general, whether it’s 140 characters or 140 pages.

  • Jenny R says:

    Although I have posted MANY pictures of the food on my plate, I have learned to only do so while reviewing the restaurant or providing a recipe. People like that.
    All aspects of this works. Think about what annoys you in viewing social posts, and avoid doing them yourself.
    Signed…always learning! (great article!)

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Good call Jenny — and when I read food reviews I DO want to see what people are talking about. I mean sometimes, seeing that food will make me go to the place that is serving it!

  • Lucas M. says:

    Very interesting (and true) article. Another obstacle that I’ve come across while using Twitter is the so called language barrier. I speak both portuguese and english, so I have to think carefully if what I’m posting would be more interesting to my english-speaking or portuguese-speaking followers, and at the same time, I have to be careful not to alienate them by only using one language for a long period of time. But then again, I have few followers, so it’s not really a big deal.

    Again, nice article Colette, always enjoy reading your stuff.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Lucas, I never even considered Twitter from a language barrier perspective — that is an excellent point. Do you find that you have to consistently post in both languages to keep both types of followers happy?

      • Lucas M. says:

        I think direct replies are a great way of keeping the followers happy; it shows you are interested in their comments, while at the same time, you avoid filling up the timeline of other followers who can’t even understand what you’re saying.

        In any case, I try to post on both languages, though a little bit more in english, because while most of my portuguese-speaking followers do know english, I’m pretty sure none of my english-speaking followers know any portuguese.

  • Great article; totally agreed! I’m fairly new to Twitter and haven’t even LOOKED at G+. But from what I can tell, the main selling point for me with Social Media is my ability to interact directly with fans, colleagues, and general supporters. So in that light, not being a jerk should really be a vital part of everybody’s Social Media strategy!

  • Shannon says:

    This was an enjoyable and informative read. One always hears that being nice chic and this just proves it. I am just getting to know the ropes of social media as well. Just by talking with people ( not to ) you learn so much more. When tweet your passion, even celeb’s respond if its a topic that they are passionate about. ( as a geeky fan girl this is the bee’s knees ) I am definitely re-tweeting this. Thank you for posting it.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Thank you Shannon! I appreciated your feedback and thoughts. You hit the nail on the head about talking with people, not “to” them. I’ve become very aware of how to listen and how to talk in these last few years, especially with the rise of social media. I hope I can always get better at it 🙂

  • Anomoirae

    I found the article very well written, and informative. I would also like to add that knowing the social platform you are choosing to use helps you gain followers online as well. An example of this would be that I find some people far more interesting on their twitter, then on their tumblr, or flickr account; others I find more interesting on their personal sites but not in social media. I think that is more or less practicing Stylistic sharing.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Great call Anomoirae — I have gotten so many ideas for new posts from these comments! I think finding the right platform is key. Some of the Tumblr users I follow genuinely transform their blogs into art, and I love that. While we all want to be on the most popular platforms for the sake of exposure, I think considering what platform works best for your style is very important.

      • Anomoirae

        I enjoy immensely the creativity of people’s personal tumblrs too. I follow one user whose layout and picture posts are wonderful, but she tends to post about her personal life; which is fine (it’s her blog she can do what she sees fit), but I believe it is important as well for one to consider public/private persona. To examine which social media sites are suited to meet the needs of the persons personal connections and close friends; as compared to which sites are better suited to create a public online persona that you want to gain followers to. Some might even consider using some sites to do both since G+ is great for the separation of public and personal sharing. On the flipside there are people like said tumblr user who would prefer to have their public/private persona to be open.

  • Beverly

    Great read. Definitely going to pass this on to some of my clients 🙂

  • Josh W says:

    Really great article. I try to avoid the failbook as much as possible, but am always on Twitter and I did once make the mistake of making an awesome dinner then tweeting it. Great job and it’s easy to see why you’re so well-liked.

  • RivalShadeX says:

    Great article! I know it has been said before but this is definitely fantastic advice. I remember when I started Twitter I started deciding what I wanted to talk about and who I wanted to follow. Took a while to get followers but now I have some amazing, interesting followers and have made a few friends. I remember, when I first started, always watching my follower count but now that I have a nice bunch of followers who can start conversations with although if I do lose a follower I look at my recent tweets to see what I can do. I will definitely keep following your advice and keep practicing.

    • Colette Bennett says:

      Good luck! I’m glad you’ve seen some success with Twitter. It’s always so rewarding to me to make new friends and contacts through it 🙂

  • Stephen says:

    Content is key. Like you said, people do not want to hear about your breakfast.
    I am in the Marking field so I write about Marketing topics. What are your thoughts about businesses using Social Media Sites to try and gain more business?

    • Colette Bennett

      I believe it can be useful. However, there is a fine line between promoting your business using social media and spamming people. It’s hard to know where that line is — it seems to differ with each situation. I recommend testing the waters slowly to anyone who asks about this topic because I think good results are all about feeling out how the audience reacts. On the other hand, since social media allows us a level of interconnectivity that we haven’t had in the past, we can safely use it as a platform to keep people more in touch with our businesses. I think the magic comes in learning what they like so we can continue to learn about them and what they want. As long as we really listen, there’s success to be had.

  • Peter Palme says:

    This is so true what you say about the right behaviour in media. The tool even doesn´t matter. I see it happen in network plattform, in Linkedin, in email list etc. And it has also be so true in any kind of communication. The message is for the other and it should be well selected gift and it is not about me, me, me….