Would you buy Twitter followers?

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We all know that… Twitter is moving away from a friend to friend communication tool towards a company message catalyst. With this development in mind, a question may be raised that I stumbled upon this week.

Is social media spam the next big list rental business?

Some days ago, I wrote a post on Dell and their social media activities and compared the Dell Twitter account activity with email push marketing – and thought about how close this is to social media spam.

Now, these thoughts become even more relevance when we see the latest development in Australia where the social media marketing company uSocial is offering Twitter followers, next to their Twitter marketing offers. Followers can be bought in blocks for a cpm price of $87 (£53) – and blocks are available up to 100,000 people.

And the system of this concept sounds like in the (email) address broking industry. Or like a snowball system effect?

USocial finds potential followers by searching Twitter, categorizing user interest, profiling where people are and then matching users with those they might want to follow. Then, USocial sends messages to potential followers telling them about the new Twitter user they could follow.

So, USocial is monetizing its business by selling Twitterati to anyone who wants to buy them – for 10 cents and less. Nice idea… but is this not close to social media spam? It is like with any other media in the past. Where there is a huge target group option, new business finds an access to ‚abnormal‘ conversion.

What users probably won’t be happy about…: USocial already has about 150 customers that bought followers and are about to roll out 80-90 campaigns, reports BBC UK.

Spot On!
The list rental business or address broking is moving to another level. When we have been happy to get away from spam in our mailboxes, we are approaching a new level which I call ’social media profile broking‘. And it will only take a short while, when we will face company’s product or service offers that we have never given a ‚follower‘ or ‚friend‘ opt-in for. And this is definitely against all kinds of social media netiquette.

Interested in how you think about this…

The business network netiquette

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About four month ago, I wrote a post on the XING Netiquette which made its way to the XING experts blog. The reason was that some of my colleagues, relatives and friends realized the unfriendly and unprofessional style of communication with business contacts on business networks such as XING or LinkedIn. This was also some development that the XING expert experienced, Joachim Rumohr, who added the post to his professional blog. And, as this post was read very often in German, I decided to write also an English version about the topic: business network netiquette.

We all know from management trainings and media that the first impression counts to the highest degree. So, if we are reaching out for new contacts, or looking to kick off interesting partnerships, or just doing some ‚investigation‘, we should all be aware of the actions and reactions this might cause.

Why? Every single web activity might affect our online (and offline) reputation. There are several people already focusing on this personal branding topic as a business model in terms of ‚creating‘ books or blog posts, or reputation ID networks or they are just ‚visionering‘ about this topic.

In terms of business networks such as XING or LinkedIn, the stumbling block is not the contacts that we are linked or connected with. Normally, people know how to behave and interact there as they know each other. It becomes more difficult when contacting an unknown business user in an online business network. In this case, it does not matter if you are contacting somebody or if some business person is addressing you. Although the networks advise with ‚FAQ’s‘ and ‚Help‘ sites on how to ‚meet online‘ with somebody on a business level, these websites are quite often well-hidden and enlighten only some parts of this special topic called ’netiquette‘.

Let’s have a close look at some general principles which are definitely necessary and have to be taken into account when contacting somebody on LinkedIn or XING (or any other business network).

The business network netiquette

When you are contacting some business person…
a) Send a message: Be friendly. Keep your message short. Refer directly to your request.
Why are you approaching this special person? Be aware that the contacted person you are referring to might not have very much time for online networking – especially if this person has a high level of responsibility and credibility inside his company. Although all these people would love to have a personal web manager in order to spend more time for online networking, they actually don’t have any.

Be prepared to get some feedback. This feedback might be completely different from what you think and wish to achieve. Nevertheless, respond to this person no matter how the feedback ’sounds‘ in your ears.

b) Via direct connection: If you have had no contact before (online or offline), it is advisable not to contact these people directly without having addressed these people in an email, spoken on the phone or in persona before. Obviously not, when you are just a collector and hunter…

If you contact somebody, give this person the opportunity to communicate with you offline and online straight away. In some business networks you can also activate the contact details without being linked with somebody. Never stay incognito!

When you are being contacted…
a) Receive a message: In the ‚unlikely‘ event of receiving an email with some business network member contacting you, this person definitely has a very serious and valid business reason to address you…. and it is you, you, you! If somebody has chosen to contact you (and no-one else!), this is an honor – please look upon this action favorably.

b) Via direct connection: If you had no contact at all before somebody is contacting you (offline or online), please evaluate whether you accept this contact. Having tones of contacts looks nice (as does having lot of followers on Twitter) but does it serve your purpose? Caring about all of your contacts is difficult and becomes unprofitable quite quickly.

If you think this person is beneficial (in private or for your job), then there is no reason not accepting this contact. Don’t be afraid of denying irrelevant contact offerings though. BUT: Definitely use the ‚Add‘ or ‚Deny‘ button and don’t leave this person desperately waiting for an answer in your folder ‚Inbox‘ or ‚Contacts to Add‘.

In any case, if somebody is getting in touch with you via business networks, it is an ‚unwritten‘ duty to respond with an answer – no matter if long or short, positive or negative or if you have some business interest in this person. Even if this request is in your eyes uninteresting, boring or not fitting
your profile details. Everybody has deserved to get an answer.

Let’s take an example from the offline world… If an employee or some partner has a business idea that he wants to share with you, you are not just turning away, saying nothing, right? The same applies to the online world. And, premium-user do see and know more or less everything in business networks – also that you have been looking at the profile of the person that has send you a mail via the business network.

The above mentioned advice is also applicable for all group activity in business networks and for common email communication, too. Be friendly, offer the dialogue and be authentic.

Spot On!
Be the virtual person that you are in the offline world! This is the only way being authentic and successful. Contacts know easily by monitoring who you are, what you do and why you will be interesting – they might know your digital dna without even checking it for negative examples.

Always imagine you are joining a big business card party and you ignore somebody who might be introduced to you 5 minutes later. Remember… You always meet twice in life! In a digital networking world, when being a virtual person with a business network profile this might happen quicker than you maybe want it to happen…

10 Tipps für richtiges Business-Networking

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Passend zu meinen Gedanken über die Business-Netzwerke veröffentlicht Internet-World Business jetzt eine von LinkedIn in Auftrag gegebene Studie zum Thema Netiquette.

Hieraus die 10 Verhaltensregeln für ordentliches Online-Networking, die die Internet-World zum Besten gibt…

Do’s
1. Nutzen Sie ein Online-Netzwerk mit klarem Business-Fokus, um sicher zu stellen, dass geschäftliche nicht mit privaten Kontakten vermischt werden.
2. Gehen Sie private Social Network Verbindungen nur ein, wenn Sie auch außerhalb der
Geschäftswelt mit den entsprechenden Personen in Kontakt stehen.
3. Überlegen Sie genau, was Sie online veröffentlichen, da dies Einfluss auf die
Wahrnehmung ihrer eigenen Person auch außerhalb des Internets haben kann und möglicherweise negative Folgen für Sie nach sich zieht – überprüfen Sie daher regelmäßig Ihre Online-Profile auf ein professionelles Erscheinungsbild.
4. Achten Sie darauf, alle verfügbaren Sicherheitseinstellungen der genutzten Social
Networks zu verwenden. Auf diese Weise stellen Sie sicher, dass Ihre persönlichen
Informationen nur vertrauenswürdigen Kontakten zugänglich sind.
5. Scheuen Sie sich nicht, Kontaktanfragen von Personen, die nicht aus Ihrem beruflichen
oder privaten Umfeld stammen, auch abzulehnen.

Don’ts
1. Veröffentlichen Sie keine geschmacklosen oder gar illegalen Inhalte in Ihrem Social
Network Profil.
2. Machen Sie keine falschen Angaben oder erstellen Sie unechte Profile. Bei vielen Social
Networks kann jeder Nutzer Ihr Profil samt frei gegebenen Informationen einsehen und
verifizieren.
3. Führen Sie Ihre geschäftliche Kommunikation in Online-Netzwerken nicht öffentlich und
für jedermann frei zugänglich z.B. auf Pinnwänden, in Foren oder Gästebüchern.
4. Veröffentlichen Sie keine privaten Informationen wie Adresse, Geburtstag oder
Telefonnummer, die für jedermann frei zugänglich sind.
5. Akzeptieren Sie nicht jede OnlineKontaktanfrage. Überlegen Sie genau, wen Sie in Ihren
engeren Kontaktkreis aufnehmen. Beachten Sie, dass die Qualität Ihres Netzwerks wichtiger
ist als die Größe.

Spot On!
Es lebe die Etiquette der guten alten Offlinewelt 1.0: Trennen Sie Berufliches und Privates und sein Sie ein guter Mensch, der sich im Business online so verhält wie offline. Es lebe der moderne Knigge