David Spark is the founder of the brand journalism firm Spark Media Solutions. Spark blogs regularly at Spark Minute and you can hear him on his weekly podcast, the Tear Down Show. He is also the author of “Hazardous to Your Social Media Health: 50 Previously Condoned Behaviors We No Longer Recommend,” an ebook that was published earlier this month.
In this Q-and-A, Spark discusses the inspiration for the book, the worst mistake being made right now and the implications of his advice on the social media world.
What made you want to write an ebook about obsolete social media advice?
Three years ago I wrote a white paper, “How to #Trend on Twitter,” where I recommended people repeatedly ask for retweets. This is now officially horrible advice. While we want to help our friends out, doing so repeatedly, like asking your friends to help you move, becomes a nuisance and is in no way a form of engagement.
Realizing the folly in my own advice, I thought there had to be other really bad advice still popping up at the top of search results. It shouldn’t be there, but Google doesn’t really have an algorithm to degrade content when it’s no longer good advice.
Did anything surprise you while you compiled the information for the book?
I was happily surprised that all the things that were annoying me about social media were annoying other people too. I wasn’t alone in my irritation of moronic engagement-baiting questions (e.g., “What’s your favorite salsa?”), cross-posting using social media dashboards, or the trend to hire the most inexperienced person to manage an organization’s social media communications.
I was also surprised that a few of the pros I reached out to couldn’t come up with a social media tip they no longer recommend. How could anyone always be right, even in hindsight?
What is the biggest social media mistake being made right now?
Pitching people you don’t know still annoys me. Marshall Kirkpatrick, CEO of Little Bird, brought this up and he couldn’t be more right. Get to know people through content and conversation. Become a known and respected entity and when the time is right you’ll be able to pitch. That formula always works, and it’s the basis of my company’s “influencer relations through content” engagement strategy.
Problem is that strategy takes foresight and effort where there are few immediate results. You have to plan for it, unlike an e-mail blast to a list of names which can be done at any time by anybody. With an e-mail blast, a 0.5% response rate could be acceptable. Problem is you’ve done nothing to build your brand to the other 99.5%. You may have actually hurt it.
Are there any big names out there who are doing social the right way?
I’m actually impressed with everyone quoted in my book, but I’d like to call out something Ted Rubin said on the Tear Down Show, a podcast I co-host. Similar to Marshall Kirkpatrick’s advice of getting to know people before you pitch them, Rubin recommends actually digging through someone’s social feeds and honestly respond to something they’ve posted rather than trying to shove your own agenda down their throat. It’s a simple model that makes perfect sense, but practically nobody does it. Ted does.
Will social networks become unwieldy if no one changes?
Social networks have already become unwieldy, but luckily the Internet is filled with filters and new rules to squash the influx. Clay Shirky noted that we’ve been dealing with “information overload” ever since the Gutenberg press. Every time we feel overloaded, it’s because there’s been a breakdown in filters, and new filters need to be constructed. There are new ones being built every day, and next year there will be new ones to replace the ones that were built today.
Images reprinted from “Hazardous to Your Social Media Health” with permission.