Be a person, not a bot: don’t cheapen your social media network with garbage-like invites

“Feel like a number
Feel like a stranger
A stranger in this land

I feel like a number
I’m not a number
I’m not a number

Dammit I’m a man
I said I’m a man.”
-Bob Seger

Those lyrics come at the end of “Feel Like A Number,” from the 1978 album, Stranger in Town. It chronicles the alienation that comes from being just another “spoke in the wheel” of some monolithic entity.

Don’t add garbage to someone’s in-box — it’s already overflowing with unwanted stuff

However, with disturbing frequency, it is the feeling that arises at least once a week when I receive a LinkedIn invitation from someone. The pattern isn’t slowing down, either, even though a growing number of people have had more time to adjust to this social media space and come to their senses.

It’s time, then, to issue another plea for common interpersonal sense. If you are prone to inviting people to link-in with you, based solely on words on a screen and not any real-life flesh-and-blood interaction, then this is especially intended for you: stop cheapening your social network by inviting every Tom, Dick and Harry who has some remote tie-in to you (such as the fact that you both reside on planet Earth.)

Each time you issue an impersonal, shot-in-the-dark LinkedIn invitation, you are contributing to the overflow of garbage in the world. You are also revealing some damaging details about yourself. It’s lazy, it’s presumptuous and it positions you as a LinkedIn lemming–a follower (of all the others committing this sloppiness) and not a leader.

When you meet someone, preferably in person but possibly otherwise, that’s the time when you should consider connecting on LinkedIn. As you do so, give context and briefly state how you see such a connection serving both parties. Consider writing a recommendation shortly later, to cement the relationship and add value.

If you find yourself with hundreds of connections, but hardly anyone for whom you could write a recommendation, then that’s a red flag.

Conversely, being able–and willing–to craft recommendations results in value that flows not only to the people you recommend, but yourself. After all, your connections’ networks are more apt to read the relatively tiny number of recommendations your common connections have received than wading through the long list of connections they have amassed.

So, a parting public relations and marketing tip for you as you consider your own version of You, Inc.: when you remember to treat people like individuals, not another spoke in some expanding wheel of superficial contacts, you build up the quality of your relationships.

And in a world where it doesn’t take much to have quantity on the surface, it’s the depth of your quality relationships that will serve you much more in the long run.

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Overcome Your Social Media Misconceptions & Apprehensions: Three Truths

Contrary to popular belief, social media has been around for millennia.

For as long as there have been people, there has been a social component to life. On that same thread, as long as there have been people, there have been ways in which we have communicated with one another—whether on cave walls, through ancient precursors to “charades” or otherwise.

(Ever wonder how our ancestors conveyed the life-and-death news of “woolly mammoth coming our way!”?)

When I meet people in business, then, and the subject turns to social media, I frequently ask what they are doing in the social-media space.

As you might expect, the older that people are the more likely they discuss social media as something in a far-off land, light years beyond their grasp.

Their tone can range from wistful to dismissive, but the practical effect is the same. In the words of a woman who is at least in her 70s, whom I met today at a business-networking event: “That’s not me.”

At the same time, she expressed frustration that her company’s website was not attracting nearly as many visitors as she would like. Like so many others, she has yet to see the connection between social-media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and drawing prospective clients to her website.

So the next time you encounter that “not me” plea from someone, whether a prospective client, an existing client or any old (or young) person you encounter, remember these three truths to counteract their social media misconceptions and apprehensions:

Don’t Confuse The Process with The Goal

The goal is not to get thousands of Facebook fans or dozens of “likes” or even a bevy of comments on your latest social media post. It’s essential to view those as helpful parts in a process of raising your profile. Get your profile up high, where more people can see it, and then you get more people who trust you, who respect you and, ultimately, who retain your services or purchase your products–now that is the goal.

Kindly Ask What ‘Isn’t Them’

Is using a computer the deal-breaker for those who steer clear of social media? Do they have difficulty knowing how to navigate the online world? Or is their worry that they will become ensnared in trivial dialogues that diminish their overall work product?

These are all legitimate stumbling blocks. But overcoming them is readily achievable through the simple act of being teachable and opening yourself up to training from those who know how to deliver effective social media communications.

Emphasize the Existence of ‘Smart’ Social Media

There are plenty of social-media pages that traffic in “mind candy”—distracting, sometimes amusing fodder that dilutes your marketing message. Or, worse, there are those pages that detract from a brand by being sloppy (such as rampant misspellings) or offensive (such as crude language).

But there are good and bad examples all around us, in all areas of life, and that’s likewise the case with social media.

The leading social-media pages offer illumination about a topic or topics that demonstrate a brand’s expertise, empower its followers through inspirational content, and build constructive conversations with their audience. In the end, education, empowerment and engagement are a potent combination for any organization’s public relations and marketing effort.

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Facebook Shift to ‘Boost Post’ Inspires Bevy of Tongue-in-Cheek Ideas

Not long ago, I began seeing “Boost Post” instead of “Promote Post” on the various Facebook pages that I administer.

Whether it was the Five Seasons Family Sports Clubs in Northbrook and Burr Ridge, McAdam Landscaping in Forest Park, the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, my own Inside Edge PR page, or any of the others, “boost” became an everyday presence in my professional online travels.

At first sight of this semantic shift, I had to chuckle. It’s apparent that Facebook is tinkering with different words or phrases to see if they can boost their success in this realm of revenue creation. Or maybe “promote” is a better word?

As this Inside Facebook post indicates, another term that has popped up for people is “get more reach.” And if there are not any other variations aleady, it is undoubtedly only a matter of time before Facebook tweaks their approach even more.

Having employed words extensively to make a living for more than 25 years, I respect and appreciate what Facebook is striving to do. That’s why in this piece, we will offer a little (tongue-in-cheek) assistance to the not-quite-10-year-old social-media phenomenon.

Let’s have some fun and start by imagining Facebook could tailor its words and phrases based on certain traits of any given individual. Oh, yeah, they already do that in myriad ways, don’t they? But in terms of the whole “boost”/”promote” thing, try these on for size:

For publicists/marketers (gotta poke fun at me and my colleagues first): Spin This Up Good.

For take-charge, big-ego types: Disseminate at Will As You Dominate All Discussion.

For shy, reserved types: Psst…Perhaps Let a Few Others Know?

For the paranoid: They Are All Watching, Waiting & Wondering Why You Haven’t Shared This Yet!

For narcissists: Everyone Deserves to Know What You Have to Say–And To See Your Gorgeous Face Too.

For politicians: It’s Never Too Early to Start Campaigning for Your Next Election.

For Nike fans: Just Share It.

For NSA top-secret information leakers: Go To Hong Kong, Then Spill the Beans.

What are some other categories and accompanying phrases that you would add? Drop me a line at and we will add the best suggestions to this post in the future. Of course, we will ‘boost’ your name by including it as credit.

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Mancini’s Shows Small Business Need Not Fall Victim to `5 Stages of Facebook Grief’

Over the past three months, Mancini’s Pizza Pasta Cafe has nearly doubled its Facebook fan following, to 130. But even more important than that statistic is the qualitative change that’s occurred on the Oak Park restaurant’s Facebook page.

On that platform, the Downtown Oak Park mainstay is engaging its fans, providing visuals, running a weekly contest and exploring new ways to improve fans’ experience. In short, owner Al Mancini has taken my counsel, found someone in-house to get the ball rolling and given her the freedom to be creative.

Alas, the restaurant’s efforts remain an exception, as I noted today in my Chicago Marketing & PR Column at

A screenshot from today’s Facebook page for Mancini’s Pizza Pasta Cafe.

Over time, there have been ongoing wrinkles on sites like Facebook, but one thing hasn’t changed: the sense of dread that Facebook and its social-networking brethren routinely strike in the hearts of many business owners that I encounter.

This need not be so. For more details, check out the column, which is my updated version of “5 Stages of Facebook Grief.”

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Resist Tunnel Vision About Your Value, Heed Market Feedback & Turn Failure into Success

In today’s rapidly shifting strategic marketing and public relations landscape, being willing to change is only one part of the equation.

You’ve also got to be continually alert to those ways in which you must embrace change–or invite extinction. That truth comes to mind as 2010 draws to a close and I reflect on what was happening in my professional life five years ago.

In the January 2006 issue of North Shore magazine, I bought an advertisement for Your Front Page. It was part of my big promotional push for a personalized writing service that until that point had been a fun sidelight to my journalism career.

I hoped the ad would trigger a deluge of business from folks in places like Winnetka, Northbrook and communities all throughout the Chicago area who wanted a distinctive way to commemmorate birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other celebrations.

Alas, the placement sparked a grand total of one phone call. And here’s the kicker: it was from a salesperson hoping I’d buy an ad from his publication.

The “Your Front Page” ad
in North Shore magazine

I realize that with advertising, repetition is vital, so I don’t in any way fault the magazine (which has recently been assimilated into the burgeoning Make It Better empire). Besides, I made other grassroots marketing efforts to get the service off the ground.

Despite my grand ambitions, Your Front Page has attracted a mere three clients in the past five years. And while enthusiastic responses to the pieces have been gratifying, it’s obvious that on a commercial level, my blueprint of how I’d shift from journalism has been a resounding flop.

Fortunately, I wasn’t hung up on the exact nature of my value to the marketplace. As a result, YFP’s failure has opened the door to the success of what has become Inside Edge PR.

Like a quarterback who spots a coming blitz and calls an audible at the line of scrimmage, I have been open to market feedback and carved a niche as a Chicago-area publicist who uses a journalistic sensibility to help small- and medium-sized companies and organizations.

Over the next five years, where will it all lead? Will I continue along this path of helping mostly Chicago-area businesses connect with, and expand, their market?

Maybe–though I wouldn’t bet on it coming via some orderly trajectory. New wrinkles continually emerge: over the past few years, for example, Inside Edge PR has jumped feet-first into the use of videos for PR as well as developing a strong social media presence for clients.

Through it all, one thing is for certain: nobody, least of all me, can afford to stay stuck in any preconceptions about how they can best serve the marketplace.

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