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William is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Department of Business Administration and Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is fascinated by research around how individuals construct and create their social realities, intrigued with the powers of creativity and innovation, and an avid proponent of outstanding service experiences. When not teaching, writing, or researching, he tries to spend time with his family and occasionally paint. He is currently completing his PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Don’t forget the ‘social’ in social media

Back in my early days at university, I knew a guy on a quest. He would go out every weekend to the clubs. He was brutally honest about his end game – he wanted to ‘pick up’. (One day my kids might read this; I’d rather explain the concept of ‘pick up’ over some of the other terms.) His technique was always the same: walk up to his first potential target, make introductions, ask if she was interested in his ‘sale’, duck, control the damage, move on to the next girl. 

When asked why he used such an incredibly aggressive approach, he would always reply that if he asked enough people, he would generally find one person who would say yes. To him - this meant success.

"Let's try listening!"

However, the metrics of his actions were always lost on him. Horrible success rate! Terrible conversion! Too much talking and absolutely no listening.

But much more important: How many people did he leave insulted and offended in his wake? And how many of these people talked to others about him? His reputation as a weasel (sometimes ridiculously classified as a ‘player’) was solidified quickly and lasted an incredibly long time.

In the social environment, he was less interested in engagement and more interested in closing the deal…a deal…ANY deal!

This story jumped into my head today as I was scanning my twitter feeds. I noticed a bunch of tweets directed right to me from people I have not yet spoken to or engaged with. Many of them wanted me to go to their Facebook page, their webpage, read their business model, or look at their Amazon book.

I’ve just met them in a social media universe, and there is nothing social happening. Twitter and other such online tools are social in nature. Whether you’re communicating, collaborating or putting out multimedia, it’s all primarily social. You share with me, I share with you. We get to know each other over time. Within our first 50 tweets, the odds that I’ll look at your twitpic of a rain puddle or a cute puppy are exponentially higher than the chances I’ll like anything on your FB page.

I’m relatively new to the twitterverse (@williamcmurray), having been there about 5 months. I have 300+ followers, made 1700 total tweets with an average of 11 a day, and I’m following nearly 500 people. However, following some early advice from Scott Stratten (@unmarketing), I’m maintaining a reply / retweet percentage of over 70%. Seven out of every 10 tweets I make are either engaging in a conversation with someone or sharing content that I think is cool. My community is slowly growing at a manageable pace, equal to the amount of time I spend engaging.

To my friends in social media, both today and tomorrow, let’s make a pact. We’ll keep listening, continue to engage, commit to interacting with each other, and agree to stay real. And no, you won’t need to sign up for my newsletter to do that.


  1. Great post, William. That 70% ratio (or something very similar) is how I have approached my own tweets, status updates, etc.

    Social media isn't another place to push a brand, product or service, it's a place for sharing and communicating - and SOMETIMES, within that communication, a brand, product or person can have that long term relationship affect on a person.

    But unlike your university buddy (couldn't have been me, because I never "picked up"), there's a meaningful relationship born out of the communications, not just a pushy, in-your-face salesperson.

  2. You make a lot of salient points. I don't care for people who constantly self-promote on social media. If it's only about you, you're not engaged. At the same time, I'm thrilled to support people's achievements when we've had actual dialogue or commiserated together in the past. Much of this seems common sense, and follows similar rule to socializing in the face-to-face world, yet it seems some people don't quite get it. And BTW, how do you calculate reply/retweet percentage?


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