As you may know, I manage the Indie Beauty professional social networking site. The main purpose of the site, which is hosted on the Ning network, is to facilitate professional connections for Premium members of the Indie Beauty Network. If you are interested in connecting with people who make health, beauty and lifestyle products using a large proportion of natural ingredients, and who care passionately about the products they offer, you should connect with us!
For the first few months, the site was open to members only. Today, it's open to the public and there are nearly 3,000 people learning, sharing and having fun. We experience a little of the typical spam and obnoxious behavior, but I quickly remove it and ban people when necessary. It's easy to ban the worse actors, but the challenges occur when someone is neither spamming nor distasteful, but is clearly trying to take unfair advantage. When I call it to people's attention, they typically change their approach and have a great time. Because social networking is new, it's not unusual for people to engage in unacceptable behavior and not even know it. This article shares a few examples of how not to use a social networking site.
Posting Self-Serving Discussions and Commenting On Them to Force Attention. “Trina” joined the site and immediately posted a display ad for her products in one of the discussion forums. She immediately commented on what a great ad it was, I suppose to make it look popular so others would be more interested in her.
Of course there's nothing wrong with advertisements, but I clearly mark them at my site so people can quickly recognize sponsored content. I consider this crucial for transparency and professionalism in our community.
I deleted “Trina's” post and she left the site.
Posting the Same Cut and Paste Message to Dozens of People Simultaneously. Once, “Sally” joined the site and went straight to the photo area, which displays pictures of products made by Premium Indie Beauty members. She clicked on about 10 of them, and posted the same exact comment on each one.
Her post complemented the members on their products and asked where they had their labels printed. Her cut and paste message concluded with a demand of sorts: “Get back to me as soon as possible.”
I banned her from the site. Later, when I explained my decision to her, she acknowledged the issue and I removed the ban.
Posting a “Sort Of” Comment Followed By a Trail of Never-Ending Links. “Marsha” joined the site and her first comment was about 10 words long. It was followed by dozens of links. She included her blog, her e-commerce site, her YouTube page, her Twitter page, a long list of awards she had won and more. The links took up 20 times the space of the comment, literally! All this does is take up space.
The person who maintains a social networking site is not doing it solely to boost your search engine rankings. When your promotional and signature links are appropriate for the contribution being made, it shows respect for everyone at the site.
Posting With the Clear Intention to Drive Traffic Away. Adding a blog post that tells everyone that you posted a great blog post somewhere else operates as a blatant attempt to take away from rather than add to a community. Doing this is like going to someone's birthday party and asking people to leave and come to yours. It's like visiting someone's blog and leaving a comment that tells everyone about a great article you wrote at your blog, and what link to click to go read it.
Such posts take the host's efforts for granted and clearly indicate a desire to take rather than to give.
Demanding Free Consulting Services. This happens a lot. People come to the site, spot someone with specific expertise, and then post messages seeking to pick their brain for free. A little bit of this is one thing. After all, if it never happens, people would not be able to share their specialized experiences and expertise. But posting messages that indicate an expectation that you will receive one-on-one assistance is a bit presumptuous.
You can learn a lot by asking questions in discussion forums and blogs, and by digesting information posted throughout a social networking site, and then applying what you learn to your business. But demanding free advice that is specific to your business makes a poor impression and does not contribute to community.
Collaboration and Exchange
The essential thing to remember is that connecting with other people at a professional networking site is about collaboration and exchange.
When you join a social network and begin reaching out to see what others can do for you, you should bring something to the party too.
The Never Ending Pot-Luck
Think of a social network as a never-ending pot luck dinner. You wouldn't show up at a pot luck dinner empty handed, right? The same manners apply at online social networks.
As the host of the pot luck dinner, I want everyone to have a positive experience. It's not OK to come and hog the potato salad, toss a business card in everyone's face or demand extra dessert without giving anything in return.
The dinner is a continuous shared event, and the only reason it's fun is because everyone brings something to the party.
Question: What do you think of these suggestions? Do you have more to add?