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Social Media Relationship Killers and the PR Effect

August 27, 2009

This is a collaborative post by David Spinks and Lauren Fernandez.

Social Media has opened a lot of relationship and network building doors, making it easier to connect with people you might only see at conferences or have never heard of before. It’s easy to be optimistic and think social media is the best thing since Johnny Bravo (I mean, you can’t argue how awesome his hair is) but its negative might loom as the ‘honeymoon stage’ wears off.


As PR pros, we are able to communicate with ease on a daily basis. This is in person, where you can tell tone. So does the platform make a difference? How can you keep your networking efforts and relationships with people at an even keel – and not push them away in disgust?

1. Self Promotion – The Me Me Me Effect
You know the type. The person that bombards you with DMs, e-mails and @ replies about their accomplishments, are always talking about themselves, and doesn’t even realize they  aren’t giving others a second thought. How can you change it? Tout someone else. Let others discover your talents – it’s much more believable if you aren’t shoving it down someone’s throat.

2. The Debbie Downer – Why Me Effect
Complain, Complain and Whine are three ‘friendly’ faces surrounding this Joe. Sure, we all have bad days. Things happen. We can complain. But if you keep doing it, you’re bound to turn people off. Mix a little positive in there, poke fun at yourself, and you’ll probably end up cheering yourself and your friends up.

3. The Needy – The Need Need Need Effect
These ones are online for one thing, and that’s your time and resources. You’ll only hear from this person when they want you to comment on their post, RT their tweet, make an introduction, give you advice etc.  They’ll act like your friend, they’ll say how awesome you are, but the only reason they’re on twitter is to get the most out of you.

You’re not going to please everyone. That’s an issue we’ll all face when using social media tools…when you speak, you speak to everyone.  Every once in a while, we’ll say or do something that might bother others in our social networks. Thats ok. Don’t however, let one of these “effects” rule your personality, especially when dealing with those you consider your close friends or contacts.

How can we combat this? What other ‘personalities’ should we look out for? Is it possible to educate? Let us know what you think.

David Spinks and Lauren Fernandez are co-moderators of #u30pro chat which is aimed at the generation gap and issues facing under 30 professionals. It is open to all ages on Twitter, Thursdays at 7 pm EST. They both like sour gummy worms.

*Photo copyright of New Line Cinema and any other production companies of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
23 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2009 7:53 am

    I think one thing that needs to stop? Consistent badgering via DMs to read/comment on blog posts. I have no qualms against a person doing it every once in awhile. But everyday? RSS exists for a reason…chill.

    • August 27, 2009 8:31 am

      I agree that it can be annoying – and it’s something that needs to be addressed. If you have great content, someone will comment. A lot of times, I am really busy at work and can’t comment until lunch, but I almost feel pressured to do so.

    • August 27, 2009 10:06 am

      amen. Unless it’s something that you know I would specifically be interested in, because I’ve spoken about the topic before, or because you know me that well, DON’T ask me to comment on, or retweet your post. It’s okay once in a while, but I feel like some people literally have a list of people to ask every time a new post goes up. Stop, please. You’re pushing your close contacts away.

  2. August 27, 2009 8:11 am

    I definitely agree with Stuart that the DMs for reads/comments on blogs needs to stop. I doubt that’s what the DM function was ever set up for.

    But then again, we all need to keep this in mind: Just like real life relationships, all social media networks were created to help build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. So to that extent, I don’t really mind all of that above examples, as long as the person keeps in mind that he or she is spouting off to potentially anybody and their brother, so yes, it can get a tad annoying.

    My common rule: If I wouldn’t want to read/hear it from others, I’m probably not going to do it myself.

    Keith Trivitt

    • August 27, 2009 8:32 am

      I think people can abuse SM networks more so than face to face contact – it’s how things usually are. What does it come down to? Tone. You really can’t tell how genuine someone is, what they mean, what their motives are, etc.

  3. August 27, 2009 8:26 am

    I think that if a relationship can be killed simply because someone asked you for help, then there’s a low tolerance issue that might not be that of the one in need of assistance (and maybe a ‘me me me’ issue too). I have people ask me to DM or RT them, and usually I don’t mind at all. If I feel their message adds value to a sea of tweets about what people ate for lunch, or the joke their colleague just told, then I’m in. Don’t get me wrong, I love the personal element. I think we need that. But generally, I find Twitter more useful for getting information out that I, or someone else, might really benefit from.

    On the flip side, I ask for help sometimes too, but only if it’s an issue that I feel really could use discussion or sharing. If someone chooses to pass that message along, I’m truly thankful. If they don’t, I don’t take it personally. Our values are all different, and all we can do is ask. The worst anyone can say is no. Or I guess get offended, but then, lighten up.

    I can’t imagine anyone’s requests for help making me feel they were needy or disrespectful. Maybe I’ve just never run into anyone who’s spammed me that much. If they did, I’d just ask them to stop and explain why.

    But I also look at it from the perspective that we do to others what we would like them to do for us. We also reap what we sow. If I can help, great. I know Chris Brogan has written about the ‘Quid Pro No.’ But I think it’s wrong. I know we can’t help everyone, and as a person’s ‘celeb’ status or reach gets bigger than the requests probably get more demanding. Still, I have a problem with people expecting to get something in return for a two second RT. (And I love Chris, BTW. I’m just challenging his post.)

    Plus, how much time does it really take to help someone else online? This blog post might take me three minutes. RT’ing it might take me 5 seconds. I don’t feel it’s too much to ask.

    This post by @ConversationAge sums it up well: Helpful is the New Black

    So there might be another type: The overly optimistic, naive one–aka, me. Lol.

    • August 27, 2009 8:31 am

      Bryna – I don’t think it’s being naive at all! I used to have that mindset as well. I am more than happy to help someone, and always have been that way. I think that it can be spam when it happens everyday, more than once, or someone asks you to comment when you already have. It’s not being authentic with the specific person. I’m ok with it, but I do believe there is a threshold.

      I think, as a society, we expect things in return because of the give and take mentality. People, most of the time, don’t like to only be the giver.

      I don’t think it’s too much to ask, but I want a person to tell me why they think I’ll find it interesting. I don’t want it to seem like every other person got that message. I think it pushes the envelope.

      Very insightful, as always!

      • August 27, 2009 8:50 am

        I totally agree about having a person explain why. I think that’s a really good point. With the myraid of tweets we see, and new blog posts, I don’t think it’s too much to ask someone to prove the worth of the post. Pushing the envelope is important because I think it does put pressure on us all to up our game; to think outside our boxes, to communicate more concisely, to provide value.

        Good thoughts for the day! Thanks Lauren and David 🙂

        • August 27, 2009 10:16 am

          Thanks for your thoughts Brynna.

          I agree, and I hope it’s obvious that this post was more to make a point, or provide a check, rather than offer a guideline. It’s okay to ask for help, and often, if you’re sincere you’ll get it. I just know that sometimes, once you’ve developed a relationship in this space, we sometimes get taken over by the “networking” focus, and take for granted those who have helped you the most. It’s unfair to assume that because someone has helped you before or communicates with you regularly, that they should help you every time.

          So this post, for me, was more reflective. Take a look at your actions and you’ll know if you’ve crossed the line here and there.

  4. August 27, 2009 9:09 am

    I think we’re aware that self-promoters typically don’t get far in this space. What has me scratching my head at times though is actually commenting. I’ve seen people, who aren’t ‘n00bs’ in SM, leave comments on numerous industry blogs just to get their name/face there. They don’t provide value or add anything to the conversation and are typically one-liners with little substance. Their focus – post a comment to get their blog linked. Worthless IMO and doesn’t build any respect for that person.

    But you know, in the end it’s about us and what WE do to move needles and do good in this space. These people will always exist and we could sit here and complain and analyze, or we can continue to produce great work and get recognized for that.

    • August 27, 2009 9:12 am

      I guess my issue is how to approach it if the behavior happens and bothers me. I have a pretty high tolerance level, but I’ve been pushed beyond it for the past couple of weeks. I think there is a balance, and I think the issues need to be addressed. Hopefully we didn’t come off as complaining too much!

      I have gotten a lot of comments recently that refer to someone’s blog post – and they link to it. I scratch my head at that one. I’d rather comment on things I find insightful – not just to push my name. Lame IMO. 🙂

      Thanks Sonny – you always have a great perspective.

      • August 27, 2009 9:30 am

        I hear ya. I guess it’s the unfortunate part of the ‘flow’ in the online world. If it happens to you directly? I usually brush it off. But if it’s continuously aimed towards you/your blog/twitter, then there’s a point where you voice your side directly towards them.

        And hopefully I didn’t sound like I was insinuating that you and Spinksy were complaining here 😉 Thoughts were stemming from Amber Naslund’s post yesterday on keeping our eye on the ball. But it is something that should be talked about, but eventually laid to rest as well.

        Always got me yapping away here, thanks 🙂

        • August 27, 2009 11:18 am

          Nah, we know you dig us Sonny. It’s all good.

          I find it hard to voice it sometimes, as I don’t know how well it will be received. In SM, so many people say ‘Wow youre awesome!’ ‘That’s so great!’ that I think people have big heads – even when they might not have any right to. So will they listen?

          I like your yapping!

  5. August 27, 2009 11:34 am

    And there’s always “The Macho Punk — The ‘You’d Best Not Challenge Me, or There’s Gonna Be a Fight’ Effect”


    (But I guess I kind of covered that one yesterday!)

    Seriously, though … interesting ideas here. And I have to disagree w/Sonny to an extent. I can think of LOTS of self-promoters who are quite successful in this space. However, they probably didn’t become successful by self-promoting. It’s probably more that their success has made them feel entitled to self-promote. And I don’t know which is worse. LOL!

    • August 27, 2009 2:09 pm

      That’s an interesting distinction for discussion. What came first the success or the self promotion?

      I don’t see anyone being successful strictly through self promotion.

      I actually think everyone should self promote, just don’t make it the sole focus of your agenda. In this space we’ve condemned self-promotion so much that people are afraid to promote themselves whatsoever. It’s okay to promote your work.

    • August 28, 2009 9:19 am

      I just can’t believe that Shameless Self Promotion will ever get your far- might get you in the door, but not much further. I think a nice blend can be ok – but wouldn’t you rather other people talk about you without prompting?

  6. jaykeith permalink
    August 27, 2009 12:44 pm

    I’ve seen all of the behaviors mentioned on here, and they certainly exist. But what I have seen even more of is what I’d call “Bum Kissers.” I see a lot of this, people constantly agreeing with anything and everything that a certain person/thought leader/group might be talking about or posting, simply to gain acceptance. Like I’ve said in the past, people are far more likely to agree than disagree on Twitter (a post by @edwardboches today somewhat looks at this), basically to “fit in.”

    I think this is especially true of people starting out – they are quick to “jump on someone’s bandwagon” in order to fit in and get access to their groups/followers, etc. Personally I see that a lot, and I’ve never been a fan of it. While I certainly don’t go around openly disagreeing with everyone, I also think before I say “great point, you’re totally spot on.” You just have to pick your spots. It’s ok to agree, but if you’re agreeing with literally everyone, you lose some credibility don’t you?

    I think a lot of Twitterers (especially in PR) fall into this trap. Has anyone else noticed this, or am I just being pessimistic?

    • August 27, 2009 1:56 pm

      I don’t think you’re off base Jay. I think one of the wonderful things about SM is that you can meet a lot of great, smart people that you wouldn’t otherwise connect with. That connectivity can lend itself to some very sincere “great work” kinds of comments but if you constantly tell eveyone that they’re outstanding then it dilutes the value for everyone. The SM space isn’t the only area where this comes up. It’s at the heart of the debate for many parenting experts, for example, who are wondering if over-praising all kids has really set up problems for them handling failure or just being “normal” versus outstanding.

      Bottom line for me is just remaining genuine in all your interactions. Don’t be afraid to express gratitude and praise but make sure it’s sincere and not just a habit.

      • jaykeith permalink
        August 27, 2009 2:12 pm

        Exactly Dave, and good example with the parents. And who doesn’t want a little disagreement here and there? It’s good for all of us in the long run. It’s funny I see people having little disagreements in blogs and on Twitter, but I’d like to see some more in depth ones, especially regarding SM tactics and methods. Sometimes I don’t see the passion that I do in real life. Maybe it’s the subject matter though?

        We all love praise, and I also think that Twitter is a bit of a funnel for that too. Oftentimes I think that people actually flock to Twitter to get a little praise, some acknowledgment, and some love. That’s great, but if we’re talking real issues, let’s have some debate and some disagreement.

        Never hurts to shake things up a bit.

      • August 28, 2009 9:21 am

        I love the parents example – right on point Dave. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    • August 27, 2009 2:21 pm

      Great comment! You’re totally spot on.

      haha but seriously, that is absolutely an issue. Talking about people that are new to the space is a good spot. When you’re new, you just want to be accepted, and it’s a lot easier to be accepted for agreeing than for disagreeing.

      This is certainly an issue for young graduates just entering the field. Try disagreeing with a more experienced professional and things start to get real messy. There’s a lot of hypocrisy in this situation. I can’t count how many people say to “speak your mind” and to be honest about your opinions…but if someone says something that directly challenges their ideas or opinions, they get offended.

  7. September 12, 2009 12:28 pm

    Lately I’ve had to deal with someone who is “needy”- when they found out that I had started a job in an industry they were interested in, they started e-mailing me and speaking to me on a regular basis as a means of networking. I have no problems with this, but once they realized they couldn’t get what they wanted from me, all communication stopped. It really bothered me that this person was so blatant about it (and is doing the same thing with people I follow on Twitter), but at the end of the day I realized that there’s nothing I can do except ignore it or confront it. And since it isn’t a big enough issue to confront, I’ve decided to let it go.

    I think in social media, as well as in life, you’re going to come across “needy” or “selfish” people, but as long as you’re also engaging with great, smart, funny people, good outweighs the bad.

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