By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
Seriously speaking, this is a post I should have written a decade ago. In that sense, I have been thinking about it and cooking up this post for the better part of the past decade. And to be honest, with the growth in popularity of social, aka, communication platforms, the problem has only intensified. It needs to be addressed.
Communication, as a whole, at least on the social web, is for the most part, done wrong. Let me explain.
Are you on Snapchat? How many “Let’s start a streak” messages a day do you get? How many blank messages with a follow recommendation do you get?
Are you on FB? How many “Please like my page”, “Please promote me”, “Share this, share that” messages do you get?
Twitter? Oh, don’t even get me started on Twitter. Auto DMs, spammy tweets, auto sales pitches, and on and on.
What about email? Poorly written cold sales pitches, mass emails to which you never subscribed, and context-less messages asking you for one thing or another.
Why do people do this stuff? I mean, we all know this isn’t effective marketing, so why do it? Why do people send out the same generic “Download my app” tweet 1000x over to journalists? Why do people send out mass emails to all the journalists on planet earth (sometimes, not even using BCC.)? What is the thought process of that person before they hit Send, Post, Share, Tweet, or any other button used to broadcast a message?
I will tell you what they were thinking. They were thinking “I need this.”
I have a KPI so I need to sell and in order to sell, I need to do outreach. I have a product I want to get covered in the press and for that, I need to reach out to journalists. Me, me, me. I need, I need, I need.
I kid you not. I was tagged in this Linkedin post yesterday. Look at this post. There is so much wrong with this type of marketing, I don’t even know where to start. But the dude has needs so he had to mass tag people and promote his company, right?
So, the person/company doing the communicating online often thinks about their own goals and needs. Can you imagine doing that in real life communication?
“Hi Robert, how are you?”
“I am good. Give me money.”
“Wait, what? Why?”
“What do you mean why? I need money. I want to buy stuff.”
That would be an awkward conversation offline and yet, somehow, online, this happens millions of times a day, across all platforms. I am talking to you and all I am thinking about are my needs.
So how should this work? Simple. I want something and I am now communicating with you, and hoping to “get something from you”, I should be thinking about ***your*** needs! What can I give you before I take? What are your bottlenecks that I can potentially help with? Where are you getting this message? Is this the optimal time and platform to be communicating with you? Where are you reading this message? On your phone? Then maybe sending 185 messages in a row, which means 185 push notifications isn’t the right route to go? What are your needs and how can I meet them so we can, down the road talk about my needs?
Every time you hit that send button, stop for a second and think to yourself “If someone sent me this exact message, would I respond positively to it?” If the answer is no, then don’t send it!
Someone accepts your Linkedin invitation, so you think now is the best time to send them a sales pitch, which is the only reason you added them in the first place. Here is a secret, but keep it between us, now is not the right time. If they just accepted your invitation, assuming you don’t really know each other, let me tell you what that person is thinking… “Who is this guy and why did he add me? Is he gonna spam me now and start selling me something? I hope not.” Then, at that very second, your message pings him and sure enough, a cold and often irrelevant sales pitch. Bam! Remove connection. Good work. Not what you were hoping for, right?
Here is how this all could have played out differently. You come across my name somewhere and think connecting with me would be beneficial to you. Ok, great. Well, first thing’s first, ask yourself “Is it really beneficial? Do a little research into what I do and make sure I am the right guy. Then, if you think it is relevant, add me on Linkedin. Assuming I accept, here is the first message you should send, and I am using Linkedin as an example, but this applies everywhere.
“Hi Hillel, thanks for connecting. Would love to hear more about your work, seems fascinating.” If I don’t respond to a nice friendly message like that, then move on, because I am not the type of person you want to work with. Seriously, people with large enough egos that they can’t engage another human being, those are people to stay away from. And don’t give me the “I have too many emails, I can’t respond to everyone. I don’t buy it. Wanna see my inbox? Reach out like a human being and I will always respond, 100% of the time. You can too.
So I respond. “Sure, here is a little bit about me. Thanks for asking.” Pro tip: Everyone likes to talk about themselves and their accomplishments, everyone likes to be on stage and everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated. Those are MY needs and you need to think about them when communicating with me. My needs, not yours.
Next message maybe a few days later… “Hi Hillel, loved the post you shared today. I think it was written well, but actually disagree with one or two of the points.” This is an example of a message that might encourage dialogue, which encourages trust, which lays at the foundation of any relationship. Key word: Relationship.
After a few messages back and forth, maybe over the span of a week, now we have trust, we have the beginning of a relationship, now maybe send a message along the lines of “I think you would have some great input for me about the product I am building. Any chance you would be open to speaking about it or me sending you more info?” Who is in the center of the ask here? The person with whom you are communicating. They are smart. They have insights. Would they be willing to talk. Them, them, them. Not you!
This is not about platform, this is about communication. Can you imagine walking into a store and instead of the sales guy coming over and saying “Good morning, sir, how can I help you today?” they say “Hi, I need to increase my sales today so you should buy that product.” No, you cannot imagine that because it is silly and ridiculous. Guess what? If it is ridiculous offline, it is equally ridiculous online.
That is a good rule of thumb, what you would do offline, do online and what you would never do offline, don’t do online.
Or, in other words, something I have been thinking about lately… Everyone is talking about bots. A sexy bot is one that acts as close to a human being as possible. Artificial intelligence is meant to try and imitate the human brain. So a bot that acts human? Awesome. A human that acts like a bot? Not so awesome.
If you are communicating online, instead of focusing on your short term goals and needs, put them aside and focus on the needs of the person with whom you are speaking. Stop selling and start really communicating!