by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC

Illustration by Shane Clester

"Social media marketing suits me perfectly..." (illustration by Shane Clester)

If this is the social media revolution, wake me when it’s over.

Social media was supposed to forge stronger relationships between companies and customers. It was also supposed to provide a massive improvement over traditional advertising, since social media doesn’t “interrupt” people when they’re trying to enjoy their favorite reality shows set in New Jersey.

In this revolution, customers aren’t pestered by marketers; rather, they give “permission” to marketers by visiting their websites, signing up for their newsletters, or following their social media accounts. It’s an idyllic marketplace where companies and customers all like each other and swap +K’s in exchange for “value” and “utility.”

Too bad it doesn’t exist.

Plus, we all remember what lurked in that other Garden of Eden…

In Twitterland, amidst the chirping blue birdies and plummeting whales, a new creature has emerged from the undergrowth: the Twitter Stalker (a Twalker?). He won’t interrupt your valuable stream of tweets about where you had breakfast, the deaths of celebrities who haven’t really died, or retweets of articles talking about other people’s thoughts about Twitter.

No, interrupting all that would be sacrilegious.

Rather, the Twitter Stalker just follows you. He doesn’t attempt to send you a message or even comment on your tweets. He just saw that you tweeted something about, say, SEO, and since he works in SEO but isn’t very good at it, he decided the best way to sell you his services would be to simply follow you…

Silently…

In hopes that you’re one of those tweeters who mindlessly follows everyone back, so that you might see his tweets about algorithm tweaks. And then, maybe, you know, hire him.

It didn’t have to be this way…

Had he done any research, he might have learned that you have no interest whatsoever in search engine optimization — indeed, you don’t even have a website — and that you meant to type “SFO” at the airport, but the damn autocorrect changed it.

But he’s a Twitter Stalker. He don’t do no stinkin’ research. ‘Cause everyone told him “Twitter is revolutionary” and “all you have to do is start an account and start following people.” He was told not to try to sell anything — that would violate Twitterquette — but to just build relationships.

But they never explained to mediocre SEO guy how to start and maintain relationships with thousands of people at the same time. Indeed, he turned to the Internet in the first place because building relationships in real life wasn’t his thing, either.

So he just follows. And follows. And waits. And if you don’t follow him back, he might unfollow you… wait a few weeks… then follow you again, so that you might respond to the second notice that you’re being followed. And somewhere in the background, you hear The Police singing, “Every breath you take…”

You may think I’m exaggerating, but some guy from something called Social Media Marketing Magazine kept doing this to me again and again and again. Given this demonstration of his social media prowess, I ignored him. But he kept trying and trying and trying. A regular Energizer Bunny of Twitter stalking.

But he’s not the only one. I also have all these tango schools and instructors and nightclubs following me, failing to note that Atomic Tango is a marketing agency, not an explosive new dance program. They all follow. They never say a word. I do like the image of being stalked by tango dancers, though.

And the stalking isn’t limited to Twitter.

LinkedIn seethes with stalkers who barely have anything on their profiles, and who invite you to their networks by claiming that you’re a “friend.” I’ve messaged a few of them with a, “Sorry, my memory cells are toasted. Where did we meet?” but they never respond. Some are obviously spammers. Others are apparently startled that their stalking generated an actual human conversation. “Wait, you mean we’re supposed to talk to people in our networks? I thought we just connected with them, and they would offer us jobs and money…”

To all these people, I just want to say, knock it off. If you want to sell me something, fine, just go ahead and interrupt me already. Look up my contact info and drop me an email or a letter with a thoughtful offer based on my interests. I have actually responded to some of those.

And just run some freakin’ ads already.

Particularly clever and creative ones. I’ve responded to more than a few of those, too. Really.

In fact, lots of people do. For all the claims of social media’s superiority as a marketing tool, there’s far more proof that traditional advertising drives conversations and sales, and that social media rarely sells anything but kogi tacos. (Hint: “friends,” “fans,” “followers” and other f-words do not necessarily translate into sales.)

What I don’t respond to: silent lurking in the background of my social networks. When it comes to marketers like that, I don’t want a relationship — I want a restraining order.

  • My Twitter account has over 6,100 “followers.” I estimate that no more than 1,500 “followers” have anything to do with financial services. Of those, few have any real interest in bank/credit union marketing. Many have inactive, abandoned accounts.

    I am followed by hundreds of bars, hotels and restaurants from places like Poughkeepsie, Peoria and Pensacola. And then of course there are the hundreds of social media experts and SEO consultants.

    I scanned my newest 200 “followers” earlier this week. I estimate that no more than 20 could have even the slightest interest in bank/CU marketing.

    All these non-engaged “followers” want the same things. They either want me to:
    1) Follow them back
    2) Tweet about them
    3) Write an article about them

    That ain’t gonna happen. Ever.

    In the end, when I subtract all the silly fools who have zero interest in The Financial Brand on Twitter, I’m left with about 400-500 “real” Followers (about 7%), and that’s a rosy estimate.

    • Unbelievable, isn’t it? All this technology has actually led to the worst marketing ever. For all that Twitter stalking, they might as well be throwing business cards out of a low-flying plane.

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