Nobody likes creepy guy at the bar who suddenly decides he wants to be their pal.

He’s intrusive. He’s insensitive. He doesn’t know you. He clearly wants something, he’s relentless, and he won’t take no for an answer.  You pay your tab and you’re out.

Pro tip: Don’t be that guy. Definitely not at the bar. And not on Facebook, either.

Here’s a harsh reality: Every single business on Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram, or other network of choice) is that guy, at least to begin with. The uninvited guest who eats all the hors d’oeuvres; the jerk who plays “Free Bird” over and over on the jukebox. The moment you show up in someone’s newsfeed, that’s you.

You’ve crashed the party. You’ve just marched uninvited into somebody’s social circle. You’ve just interrupted the procession of pop songs and vacation pics and cute cats. Not cool. If you were expecting a warm, eager welcome, you’re going to be very disappointed.

As an interloper, you are guilty of being “that guy” until you prove yourself innocent. If you want to make friends here, you’ve got to know some rules – and put something on the table first.

In a nutshell, it comes down to this: the welcome members of any group – a party, a club, a board of directors – are those who contribute positively to it; those who don’t are quickly shunted aside. Your job is to understand what’s wanted and needed, and then to provide it.

Go Where You’re Wanted. This comes down to being in the right place at the right time with the right message, a message that people actively want to see and hear. That means targeting closely to reach a receptive, interested audience: Direct paid ads to carefully-defined user groups, as demarcated by activities, interests and geography.

Speak The Language.This is a tough one: Chances are your “brand voice” bears no resemblance whatsoever to the voices of your target audience – and letting your company just “be itself” won’t cut it. This doesn’t mean trying to be cool, or adopting jargon – nothing looks dumber. It means being aware of context, speaking to and about what’s of interest or concern to your audience right now, in a tone and style appropriate to the moment – and interjecting your product or brand only if relevant.

Bring Something With You. Provide value, in other words. The standard, failed practice of companies that can’t cut it in the social space is to speak endlessly about themselves, and with only their own interests in mind, focusing on what they want rather than what the audience wants. It doesn’t work; it never works. What can you give? Good advice? Free downloads? Massive discounts? Or, at minimum, a fun, funny (and shareable) reading or viewing experience? If the answer is “none of the above,” you’re out of your element.

Show Respect.The great ad man David Ogilvy said it best: “The customer isn’t an idiot. She is your wife.” In a media environment abounding in lowest-common-denominator messaging, people get plenty of opportunities to be condescended to, ignored, and taken for granted. So don’t do that. Distinguish yourself by being respectful, responsive, and attentive. Answer questions, engage in open dialogue, and do it in a way that respects the intelligence of your audience.

Shut Up And Listen. When was the last time you saw a company “like” one of its followers’ posts that didn’t directly refer to them? Never? Thought not. Imagine what would happen if you did, actually demonstrating that you paid attention to – and valued – voices other than your own.  Besides the fact that your audience will appreciate and reward actual engagement, active involvement is a learning opportunity – a chance to find out firsthand what customers want, need, and value so as to better provide it to them.

To successfully venture into the choppy waters of social media, you need smarts, endurance, and a whole lot of charm. And you’ll need to prove with every post that unlike all those other clueless, boorish, creepy brands that are getting in peoples’ faces, you actually belong there and have something of value to offer. Simple? No. But if you do it right, incredibly rewarding.

PGN Agency helps companies of all sizes to develop effective social media identities, messaging and programs. To learn more, visit

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