It’s Your Reputation at Stake

social media transparency A former client of mine is anxious to get her business off the ground and  has bought into the “hype” surrounding social media.  She doesn’t understand it – but she’s pretty sure that social media is the key to getting her business off the ground.

We worked together for about six months and parted on good terms.  While I’m obsessed about creating a  marketing strategy, where we define where you are now, who your customers are and the marketing messages you send based on those customers’ GDP – she was convinced that there had to be an easier way.

By the way, that “easier” way often takes the form of chasing every shiny new social media tool that comes down the pike.  Instead of evaluating “is this where my customers are?” and more important, “is this somewhere my customers WILL BE?”  it’s easier to say, “Hey – this is new and this is fun.  Let’s do this!”

I wasn’t surprised when I got a friends request recently from her on Facebook.  I accepted and was immediately barraged by an avalanche of marketing messages from her.  It was like the beating of a drum.

BONG!  Buy from me.

BONG!  Sign up for my email newsletter so you can buy from me.

BONG!  Visit my website so you’ll buy from me.

There wasn’t a single update along the lines of “I just finished reading a book I couldn’t put down” from someone who is NOT the author of the book.

There were no personal notes along the lines of  “my kid’s birthday is today.”

There wasn’t a single personal connection point and there wasn’t any indication that a human being was behind the picture or any of the messages.

Just the steady beat of the drum.

BONG! Buy from me. BONG! Buy from me. BONG! Buy from me.

I emailed her and said, “Hey – you’re going to get your Facebook account shut down if you keep that up.”

By the time she returned my email six hours later, it was too late.  Facebook didn’t like her tactics any more than I did.

It was in her return email  that I learned that she had hired an intern to “help” her with her social media marketing.

She actually paid someone to trash her reputation on Facebook.

I have no idea what the going rate is to  pay someone to learn the ins and outs of social media marketing while they get you banned from various social media outlets.   I mean, I get paying someone to GUIDE you – someone who’s “been there, done that” but that obviously was not the case here.

What I don’t is understand is paying someone who obviously has no idea how this whole “social media” scenes works to impersonate you because after all – it’s your reputation on the line.

I quit working outside the home and launched my business 12 years ago because it bothered me that I was paying someone else to raise my children.  Because of that decision, I missed out on such amenities as paid vacations and 401K plans –  but I gained control over how my children were being raised.  I’ll admit – the hardest part was shortly after I began working from home when my oldest son began BEGGING me to send him to the after school care.  When I told him that was for kids whose mommies worked  outside the home- he told me to go get a job.

I assume that my former client thought that hiring someone to do her social media for her was along the lines of hiring a nanny.  However, your child knows the difference between Mommy and the nanny.  When you hire someone  to  perform your social media marketing – this person is doing more than acting in your name – they are IMPERSONATING you.

When my client’s marketing barrage appeared in my Facebook stream – it wasn’t the intern’s face that appeared next to those updates – it was my client’s face!

My client said in the email that she has signed up again with a new name and a new email and asked her intern to “slow down”.

As for me, I’ll be ignoring the next friends request I get from her.  Why bother?

First, it’s not HER I’m connecting with – it’s her intern.  Her intern already sent me a friends request and I already accepted that.

Second, now that I know WHY she’s on Facebook – well, I’m not in the market for the services she’s selling.  Why sign up for another barrage?

Social media is a GREAT way to connect with people.  It’s a LOUSY form of direct marketing.   If you want to barrage your potential customers with your marketing message – use direct mail.  Those kind of “in your face” sales hype tactics WORK in direct mail and other forms of direct marketing.  Billy Mays’ sales tactics worked well in direct marketing –   they are AWFUL  when practiced in social media!


  1. Ouch on the after school care, and kudos to you for raising your own kids. My daughter begged me for years to home school her and my response was along the lines of – not in my lifetime!

    But I have to painfully empathize with the urge for a faster, pain-free way to build a business, and/or the wish for someone to “do it for me.” Unfortunately, most of the “shortcuts” don’t work, and as you so aptly point out, often do more harm that good.
    .-= Carol Solomon´s last blog ..Are You Hungry For Something More Than Food? =-.

  2. Hi Cath,
    I believe some people just don’t know how to connect with people on or off line. Sad but true. Then throw fear and lack in the mix and you have social media disaster! Great post. Did you see that video of Seth Godin going around yesterday?
    He goes on to say it’s all about connecting not thousands of followers.
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Out-of-The-Box Blogging Bold =-.

  3. That Seth Godin Youtube clip Tess mentions, he certainly stresses the interactions and friendship component of Social Media as opposed to that Bong! you speak of. Not sure if you’ve seen it, so I’ll include the link here.

    I think Twitter is gorgeous for driving blog traffic. I told you I bought “Twitter For Dummies, ” right? I’m on page 31 now. I think between that and Stumble Upon that should about do me. I use Facebook more for keeping up with long-lost cousins and such.

    Cheerio! And wonderful parenting, Kathy! Ain’t kids THE BEST!?
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Lazy River Sunday (Formerly Titled “Frisky Jim at the Water Park”) =-.

  4. Hi Kathy – Love it – Get a job, Mom so I can go to daycare with all my friends! Hahahaha. “After all I’ve done for you…” Seriously, though, Jonathan Fields just posted a similar meme – that of you actually have to do something to be authentic. It has to be you in social media to be…well…you. Like you, I fired my nanny and quit the job when I realized nobody could do it better than me (although I’m sure at least one kid would beg to differ, the ingrate).
    .-= Betsy Wuebker´s last blog ..TRIIIBES IS ONE =-.

  5. Mouli Cohen says:

    This is an all-too-common story with startups. You have certainly the right angle in helping your friend find her customer base and the appropriate way to pursue new customers. It’s a fine line with social networking, you are correct. What makes it even more difficult is to stay ahead of the curve with what website is the next big thing.
    .-= Mouli Cohen´s last blog ..Hotel Cristal – Carvoeiro, Portugal =-.

  6. Carol – I too TOTALLY empathize with the “someone PLEASE do this for me” sentiment. However, when it comes to Facebook and Twitter – not to mention blog comments – those words appear next to my smiling photo. If someone is going to screw up MY reputation – well, it’s going to be ME!:)

    Tess – Oh, I’m thrilled to hear I’m beating the same drum as Seth Godin. What’s sad about my former client is that she really DOES connect quite well one on one – which is why it was a little surprising to see the big screw up on Facebook. However, it’s true that when you put her behind a keyboard – she freezes up with “techno-phobia”. What a shame.

    Jannie – Thanks for the link! I’ve had my nose buried in projects here and missed it! I’d love to see a review of the Twitter book on your blog some day – if you can tear yourself away from the beer and the donuts!

    Betsy – Yeah- 12 years later I can ALMOST laugh about the whole “get a job” jab! (Do teenagers come in flavors other than ingrate? Don’t tell me if they do!)

    You’re so right – it HAS to be YOU in social media! I can’t imagine being so “plain brown paper” as to be able to hire a college student to do a good job of impersonating me. I mean, even though my 21 year old daughter sounds just like me on the phone – she still can’t “be” me in social media!

    Mouli – welcome to the conversation! It is terribly difficult to stay “ahead of the curve” . They don’t call it the “bleeding edge” for no reason!

  7. Jim Gaudet says:

    Face forward, chin up. When I am looking for someone I want that person. If you want your business on Facebook, then get a business page and have yoru intern mange that.

    Take you personal Facebook account and keep it to you. You can link to your business, but try to keep the sales away from your personal account. Share your blog posts, share your ideas, but don’t sell it to your friends.
    .-= Jim Gaudet´s last blog ..American Express and Chase reporting lower delinquencies and charge-offs =-.

  8. Jim – Exactly! This why Facebook created the whole “Fan Page” concept! It’s essential to understand that “hard closing” and “straight up selling” have no place on Facebook.

  9. Hi Kathy. “This is new and this is fun. Let’s do this!” That not about thinking and planning, that’s about following the crowd. Something I WORK at NOT doing. But I understand. It is a mistake that anyone IN A HURRY is bound to make. Email and social media can be SO impersonal. I have some friends who, as much as I love them, continue to send me chain letters and petitions, after I’ve told them I’d rather hear from THEM instead. It’s like the fast-food form of communication.
    .-= DavinaH´s last blog ..Come Alive with Favourite Music =-.

  10. “The Fast food of communication”… now THAT is priceless!!!

  11. This is why I’m being so cautious about social media marketing. It only works if you do it yourself, in an honest and natural way. Otherwise its a waste of time.
    .-= Amelia Vargo´s last blog ..Microsoft and Yahoo Merge – Bing vs Google Video – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) =-.

  12. You definitely hit a sore subject with me. I was overwhelmed with this junk on Facebook a few months ago and posted an article where I vented about FB too. hasn’t really changed much, but I’ve learned to hide certain people’s updates and formed groups so I can quickly check out the friends I love hearing from.

    Besides blogging, I work for a large Internet based network marketing company (a biz opp) and had a lot of those people add me on Facebook when I first joined. Ugh! It was a constant sales pitch! I believe in network marketing, don’t get me wrong…but, have just a little etiquette, a little class, and a teeny bit of a brain…be social before trying to recruit everyone under the sun. And how can you be social if you’re using an Intern? Ridonkulous!

    Great post, Kathy. I’m right there with ya!
    .-= Coree Silvera´s last blog ..Michele Miller Interview – Author and Marketing Wonder Woman of Wonder Branding =-.

  13. Coree- welcome! I absolutely ADORE the “little etiquette, a little class, and a teeny bit of a brain”… unfortunately, too many people’s brains go into “sleep”mode when they sit down in front of a computer. They forget that there are OTHER PEOPLE behind that computer screen! It’s easy to forget when you’re not looking them in the eye – watching them squirm as you launch into your unwelcomed sales pitch. Suddenly – you’re “that guy” or “that girl” who’s pitching Amway all the time and as a result, doesn’t get invited to parties anymore.

  14. Amelia, There’s no such thing as being “too cautious” when it comes to social media. One of the best strategies is sit back, watch and learn – THEN participate!

  15. That is a great example of what most marketeers do wrong when using either social medias and email marketing tools. Online marketing has become so “main stream” that the market is flooded with adverts. Can help thinking how much amazing knowledge, number of ideas, and difference it would make if all online marketeers remembered to provide value as the #1 priority of their marketing strategy.


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