A social media no-no (for ad agency new business, of course!)

A funny thing happened on the way to Ad Age the other day…

When I have been paid to offer an opinion on social media, I sometimes use my own example. Fully disclosing, of course, the relative newness of the effort you’re now reading. And in the same breath, suggest the agency take a look at good ol’ Michael Gass @ Fuel Lines.

I also have suggested they identify a couple of online locations where prospects are likely to gather. Agencies are to listen in a bit, then look for ways to contribute. In some cases, this can mean making a comment on a story or a blog post. And, I’m not opposed to adding in a link to your own blog or site.

Well, sports fans, there is such a thing as too much. And this is personal experience talking! Yours truly has been practicing what he’s been preaching for a couple of months on agency trade magazines. And always adding a link. Well, I just got spanked for it by another reader. The words stay with me even today, “You comment everywhere. The self promotion is getting rather annoying.”


I share this because it might have a bit of value as you… explore your social media plan. And you know, I think the reader just might be right! While it would be easy to claim these are the mistakes of a social media rookie, and that the traffic spikes have become like crack to this new blog… I really should have known better.

The mistake I made was looking at stories and thinking, “what might I say that will enable me to put my name on it” vs. coming up with an honest thought or two that will be valuable to other readers. (And to really mean it.) To be clear, this is not to suggest that whatever’s said isn’t interesting, of course. But I will admit that the balance might have been a bit off recently, particularly on Ad Age comments.

So, yours truly still likes the tactic. But it is possible to wear out a welcome. The lesson here for you and me? Identify a few places, say something substantive, and self-edit if need be. Also, consider taking a step back every so often. Compare current behavior with what you originally set out to do. (You did write that down, didn’t you?!) Course correct.

Now, as to attaching a link to a post? Well…from what I’ve gathered the social media experts seem dead set against it. They say never do it. Apparently we aren’t supposed to sell in social media. I look at it a different way – the link increases the speed at which you get to a transaction point. You know, some benjamins! To me, a simple link can monetize awareness. And there’s a right way and wrong way to do that. Execution.

Trust your instincts. Listen to that inner voice. Pay attention to how others are behaving. The really blatant, awkward plug hurts, rather than harms, me thinks. But I’m very OK with a bit o’ selling.

Just thought you’d appreciate a lesson from a slight stumble. If you want to hear more, lemme know. Thanks!


  1. Now you’ve made me afraid to comment — but I’ll do it anyway! LOL

    I tend to be of the “if you don’t have anything good to contribute, don’t say it” school. That’s why I blog so infrequently. And most of the time I’m Retweeting instead of generating my own comments.

    On the other hand, when I DO have something to say that I think is important, I want to get it out there. And everyone says to repeat your Tweets throughout the day because they scroll by so quickly.

    So what’s the answer? I’m not sure. On one hand, people use the links as blatant lures to their sites in order to sell their products and services. Then there are people like myself who link to a blog with no promotion — simply because we believe in the topic under discussion.

    I can read informative and interesting blogs, Tweets and FB posts all day long. It’s sorting them out from the “drech” that’s becoming more difficult.

  2. Steve. I agree that too frequent self-promotion can backfire. You mention Michael Gass, and he is a prime example of what not to do in my mind. I’m sure he uses HootSuite or Tweetdeck, or some tool to send out his tweets, because they just keep coming. His information is usually good, but the frequency is annoying. I have unfollowed Michael more than once, when it gets to be too much. Currently, I follow Fuel Lines, but because his tweets are so frequent, I don’t even bother to look at most of them. Only the ones that intrigue me with their title.

    Now, with all that said, if you don’t promote yourself, who will? The key is to do it in a way that people appreciate, not get frustrated with. @admandonmorgan

  3. Steve Congdon says:

    Hi, Sara! MANY thanks for your comment. I think you’re dead on re: when to comment. If you’re not adding to the conversation or being helpful in some way, you’re at risk of being flamed. (Like I was so. Even though that was back in September – just a few months ago – it feels like forever!) Funny, since thinking about being helpful, I haven’t been called out for too much self-promotion.

    And my bet is that with your perspective, you’ll be OK, too. I believe that it all works out – if we say something smart or helpful, and good things will happen. Perhaps the key here is that it is unique and that you put some kind of thought into it. This helps avoid all of us avoid being a part of that loathsome “drech” that’s out there!

  4. Steve Congdon says:

    Hey there, Don! Great to hear from you. But… you’re picking on one of my heroes! You have to respect the success Michael has had with agencies. He’s a true social media expert. And I’ll be one of the first to sing a praise or two. (And – full disclosure – he has given me some terrific advice that works.)

    I do appreciate, though, your perspective. It’s sometimes a fine line between appreciation vs. frustration. But given the VERY short life of a tweet, I’m OK with breaking a rare egg.

    Yet again, you have given me a thing or two to think about. Expect a future post related to this notion!

  5. I feel your pain! 😉

    The current trend of over using social media only provides us with a learning experience! Finding a good balance will work over time… so thank you for the timely reminder!

    Hope all is well!


  6. “Apparently we aren’t supposed to sell in social media.”

    Interesting. Is it okay to sell, but just not okay to sell ourselves? If we do it on behalf of a client or a friend is that okay? And since when is self promotion verboten? Beyond boring our “friends” to death with our vacation photos, just what ARE we supposed to do in social media?

    “You comment everywhere. The self promotion is getting rather annoying.” Really, I wouldn’t take the comment to heart. Coke doesn’t. Apple doesn’t. McDonald’s doesn’t. They’re doing okay.

  7. Steve Congdon says:

    Thanks, Sharon, for the support! I agree. I think it’s OK to sell within reason.