How not to join an online (or offline) conversation

Imagine you’re sitting in a coffee shop, talking with a friend when you make a reference to an inside joke between the two of you about how you swore you could put windshield wipers on your own car but in reality, it’s not as easy as you remember. Then, right as you mention windshield wipers,  a stranger from the table next to you scoots themselves right up to your table and starts to sell you wiper blades.

Yes, it was semi-relevant to what you and your friend were talking about, but still, someone just joining your conversation like that is rather off-putting, whether it happens in a public place like a coffee shop or on a public forum, like Twitter. The latter happened to me the other day and it inspired me to write this post.

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A large part of my job is advising clients on how strategically use social media in their organizations. I do tell people that it’s a good idea to join online conversations about their product or industry, but there are a few ground rules to follow if you don’t want to end up off-putting potential customers.

1) While keywords are a great way to track conversations, just because someone uses that keyword on social media does not mean that they will be interested in what you have to say. Make sure you read what their actual update says before you respond.

2) Selling has no place in your conversation. Especially not in the first thing you say to a person. Try that in your everyday life and see how well it goes.

3) Only solve a problem if there is a problem to be solved. Yes, you may see how your product can be super useful to a person, but if they’re not looking to make a purchase, you’ll only end up destroying a potential relationship. Push no longer has a place in the market, as hard as it may be, you have to give customers all the information and wait for them to come to you.

In the end, joining online conversations can be an amazing way to build a lasting relationship with potential customers; however, don’t come to the party acting like you already know everyone and everything. Take the time to make the small talk and find out what people are like before you try to sell them anything. If the company who did that to make took the time to talk, they would have found out I had already bought my windshield wipers…I just haven’t installed them yet!

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