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The Dangers of using Social Media to Promote my Business

The Dangers of using Social Media to Promote my Business

When I arrived at work yesterday I received a serious shock. All the Twitter accounts run by our company, including our primary @affilorama account, had been suspended. Months of hard work building up a sustainable following disappeared. Not only could I no longer communicate with our followers, who have come to expect our daily updates of affiliate and online marketing news as well as the latest updates on Affilorama, but communication with potential business partners was lost. While this fortunately turned out to be a human error on Twitter's part, and our accounts were restored last night, the incident was a massive wake up call. A reminder that no matter how much work I put into maintaining our social media presence, at the end of the day, someone else controls it.

Whether it's our Twitter accounts, our YouTube channel or our Facebook groups, the fact remains that all of these accounts exist in someone else's virtual property. Like a landlord, these social media sites set the rules. What they say, goes. Now this isn't usually a problem, and most social media platform's standards aimed at protecting the community against spam and offensive material are generally very reasonable and effective.  But what happens when they get it wrong? If you're inadvertently marked as spam or have your account suspended for the myriad of the reasons listed in their TOS - what do you do? You submit an email to their support system and hope against hope that they might actually reply.

Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of social media marketing. However our Twitter issue yesterday got me thinking - what if our accounts hadn't been restored? How would it have affected our brand? What could we have done to recover the lost contacts and relationships that we have built through Twitter? That line of thought led me to jot down a few practices that I will aim to implement from now on to protect us from any future social media 'glitches'. These are just ideas - I'd be really interested to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Always lead people back to your property:

This is the same principle that I learned from Mark on why he never posts affiliate links on articles he posts on third party sites, rather, he links back to his own site. Why? Because when you write an article on a third party site with an affiliate link, you might generate some sales from it, sure, but you're not creating an asset - you're building someone else's. The same principle applies in social media. Having a Facebook fan page with 1000 fans is great - but you don't own the page, Facebook does. Now of course I don't mean to imply that you shouldn't try to have 1000 fans on Facebook; what I mean is that you better make sure those 1000 people are also coming to your website regularly. Don't allow the action of going to your social media page to replace the action of going to your site. Your social media page should act as a funnel - bringing people in to your site; your property. And while you can certainly use social media to communicate with your customers - make sure they know other ways to reach you. Social media hasn't replaced email; it's only supplemented it. Make sure that there is still an email address that is publicly available that you can be reached on. It doesn't have to be your main address, but given how easy it is to set up another email address, there's really no excuse for not having one public address or support form that people can reach you on.

Don't rely exclusively on one social media platform:

Are you putting all your effort into building your Twitter following, but neglecting your Facebook page, blog or YouTube channel? While not all social media platforms are appropriate for every business, you shouldn't be completely dependant on one. Here at Affilorama, if we had actually lost our Twitter feed, we would still have our Affilorama Facebook Page, our Affilorama YouTube Channel and of course our Affilorama Blog which has thousands of subscribers. This is in addition to our email lists and membership databases.

My point is that while losing our Twitter feed would have been really disappointing, we would  not have lost contact altogether with the majority of our network. And if there are any contacts that are of particular importance to you, for example business prospects, great information resources, etc, make sure you either have an alternative means of contact, or have their information backed up somewhere. Don't, whatever you do, rely on your memory to recall every single contact or prospect that you were following on Twitter! By it's very nature, social media - especially real-time services like Twitter - exist only in the now. How many of the people you are following on Twitter would you be able to remember if they didn't post daily updates? I'm not suggesting your write down 1000 names if you're following 1000 people - but at least record the important ones somewhere!

Separate your business from your personal social media accounts:

There are numerous reasons to keep separate personal and professional social media accounts - not the least of which providing some semblance of separation of business and personal life which I think is important at a minimum for one's own sanity! But there are two other important reasons. First, your personal accounts provide you with a back up if you have any trouble with your business accounts. You can contact people from your personal Twitter if you lose your business account  (like I had to do yesterday!). Secondly, just in the same way that registering a company separates liability from the person to the business (to an extent!), separating your personal and professional accounts will mean that you shouldn't lose your personal ones if your business accounts are banned. While some platforms like Facebook insist on tying business pages to an individual's account (and you're far more likely to lose both if you register multiple Facebook profiles), others like Twitter have no problem with multiple accounts.

Play by the rules, and don't associate with people who don't:

I'm something of a social media purist. I see social media as a revolutionary invention - connecting the world; unregulated by authoritarian forces (think Twitter in Iran); I could rant on and on, but I think you get the idea!  While in my work I try to use social media to promote our business, I am always aware of going 'over the line' into over-commercialization. Social media is about creating relationships with your customers - not incessantly promoting to them. This means that I typically stay well inside the guidelines set out in the terms of service (which is why I was so surprised by yesterday's Twitter fiasco!). However, while reading up on Twitter account suspensions yesterday, I read somewhere that you can sometimes be implicated if you are willfully associated with someone who does break the rules. Sometimes in attempts to fight off these 'spam rings', innocent people who add everyone who adds them can be inadvertently targeted. The moral of the story is don't add/friend/follow people who are clearly spammers or breaking the TOS. Even if you don't get banned because of it, you have to ask yourself, how do these connections reflect on you? People do judge you on your associates - so are you keeping good company?


I hope you enjoyed these general musings of the potential dangers when using social media to promote your business. I'd be really interested to hear feedback on this one. Do you agree/disagree? Have you had any of your own social media horror stories? Did you also lose your Twitter account yesterday? Were you as blindsided as I was?!

Looking forward to hearing from you.


19 Comments Add your comment
  • Reply Mike Nagle • 1934 days ago

    Yes I know what you mean. I had my paypal accounts closed for no good reason for life and they will not tell me why or even talk about it. So I know what you mean by these people having the power over us. I also had squidoo lenses locked and not sure why. These sites love to ban you for life it seems for one simple thing or even nothing. And I don't like it.

    Mike
    http://www.free-squeeze-pages.com

  • Reply Troy Todd1934 days ago

    Excellent post Chris. Really.

  • Reply Danielle Bernier1934 days ago

    Hi Chris,
    Very interesting, I was wonderring when this would happen. This always happens when people abuse the systeme. The clean up as started and will take the social media platforms lots of work to make it a better place .
    Squidoo, is cleanning up also with new guide lines http://www.squidoo.com/pages/tos
    by mid-july. If you have a lens on there you should read the new policy before they start cleanning house..
    Thanks Chris, for the great advise and feeback.
    Danielle,

  • Reply jason blayde1934 days ago

    another great one chris. i am always surprised by how many people want to build quick blogs or wordpress websites hosted by wordpress that they don't understand.

    i think that is short term thinking. as you said we should be looking at this as building a business.

    jason

  • Reply Chris Goddard1934 days ago

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    It's important to remember that these sites are running their own business. It's not their job to make YOU successful. While they can be a bit frustrating to deal with sometime if you feel like you've been unfairly treated, at the end of the day, they're offering a free service, and they do have the right to run that service in any manner they deem fit.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't utilize their services - just remember who owns them. I think it's really important that when you're doing anything business related online to read through their terms of services start to finish. I know everyone kind of ignores them when they sign up - and that's typically fine for someone who's just got an account for personal use. But it you're doing business on their site, then the TOS are for you. Read them, understand them and obey them - to the letter. If you push the envelope even slightly, they will get you.

    Thanks for link to the new Squidoo TOS, everyone should check that out.

  • Reply Brian Prows1934 days ago

    Chris Goddard, forgive me, but you're full of bull and don't know what in the Hell you're talking about.

    I just posted a reply in a forum post about hundreds of Twtitter spammers, who are not running legitimate businesses. They're spamming their followers by sending through Tweets with hidden affiliate links to ClickBank and other affiliate products.

    Here's one example of a guy who joined Twitter one week ago, started following over 1,600 members (he added 200 per day), acquired 700 followers (900 blocked him). The remainder are now receiving affiliate tweets EVERY 2-3 minutes.

    This type of spamming on Twitter is no different than email spamming, and the only way to stop the spam by individual members is to block potential followers.

    If you use TweetDeck, there's a spam reporting function in the program, but the Twitter staff is so small, I'm sure they're having a hard time shutting down spam accounts.


    Location: Miami, Florida
    Time Zone: Hawaii
    Joined: Wed 01 Jul 2009 14:51
    Following: 1635
    Followers: 696
    Updates: 529
    Favorites: 0
    Friend: No
    Notifications: No
    Protected: No
    Twitter: twitter.com/craiglutherfl

    You should do your homework before posting.

  • Reply Jon Pastorizo1934 days ago

    Hi Chris,

    My personal twitter account was not affected but when I checked my new account that is for a site I am building I was surprised that it was suspended! I only had 2 followers there and I have posted none when it was suspended. The account was fairly new so I wouldn't lose much in case the suspension was not lifted. However, my sister just uploaded the background image so I was upset to see the account suspended. Good thing twitter realized there was a mistake. =)

    I agree with everything you've written on this post. Thank you for writing it to make us realize the facts presented.

    Keep up the good work!



    Regards,
    Renato

  • Reply stefan Vincent1933 days ago


    Nice saying "no matter how much work I put into maintaining our social media presence, at the end of the day, someone else controls it"
    Sometimes we forget about that until we experienced ourselves. I did have the same trouble with a social bookmarking sites when they suddenly suspend my account without obvious reason and with pay pal when they keep telling me that I reached the transaction limit when I haven't even made a single transaction at all.
    Well, I do agree with you that if we using a free service, we don't have the right to tell them how to run the service

  • Reply Chris Goddard1933 days ago

    Thanks for the (mostly) constructive comments.

    @Rocketdocket I think you completely missed the point of my article. In fact I didn't really understand the point of your comment.

    I was not advocating spam nor was I saying that that it should be tolerated in any form on any social network. In fact in my final paragraph entitled "Play by the rules and don't associate with those who don't" I actually specifically mention keeping well within the guidelines of any social media site's terms of service. So to be perfectly honest, I really don't know what you're getting at. Perhaps you would like to explain your position a little better - and perhaps it's best to keep things on topic rather than attacking the author.

    As for doing research; perhaps you would like to check out the two following posts - the first is by Mashable, probably the most reputable social media blog on the net, the second is by Twitter themselves admitting their mistake and apologizing for the error:

    http://mashable.com/2009/07/05/twitter-account-suspensions/
    http://status.twitter.com/post/136164828/restoring-accidentally-suspended-accounts

    I do agree that there is a lot of Twitter spam out there - however at the end of the day, Twitter is a service where you elect to receive updates from other people. There is a reason why most spammers are following thousands of people and have no one, or few people following them back - no one wants to listen to them! And it is those accounts that are typically flagged and taken down by Twitter's staff as they are clearly in violation of Twitter's TOS.

    The difference between Twitter spam and email spam is that while anyone can send you an email, you have to ELECT to receive updates from a Twitter spammer. And if you are not adequately vetting people before you follow them - a process that takes about 10 seconds in looking over their last few updates - then you can't really complain about getting spammed by Twitter.

  • Reply Brian Prows1932 days ago

    Sorry, Chris, my error. I misunderstood your comments.

    The Twitter spam problem is growing rapidly as third-party automated tools, like TweetLater, Hummingbird and TwitterHawk, are abused by members who seek a fast buck. Twitter doesn't have the staff or systems in place to handle the huge volume of spam tweets.

    True, as a Twitter user, you choose whom you want to follow, but unless you regularly check people who follow you, your number of followers increase. Soon, the ratio of people you follow to those who follow you gets out of proportion, possibly causing some of the account problems mentioned by other members.

    I've blocked at least 200-300 followers whose only use of Twitter is to sell products and services without offering any useful content. Many of the followers I blocked used squeeze pages to build their email lists and market their products.

    Starting around July 1st, I noticed a massive increase in the number of affiliate marketers trying to sell multiple Clickbank products. (Affiliate links are embedded in the attached URL's.) The spammer mentioned in my previous comment above is still tweeting the same one-liner pitches every 5-20 minutes.

    Anyone interested in using Twitter properly to build a business should check out Marko Saric's marketing Twitter e-book and his blog:

    http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/ebook/whats-the-twitter-marketing-e-book/

  • Reply Curt Bizelli • 1932 days ago

    Actually, yes, I did lose access to my twitter account on Sunday! Somebody hacked in and then twitter in return suspended it due to suspicious activity. Thank God, I do have it back, and I'm up an rolling again @CSI_Talent - Thank you for all of your social media advice. I agree with pretty much everything. The only thing I will not do is separate my business & personal accounts (unless it is like LinkedIN or something), because I have enough accounts to keep up with "as it is". I'm working on outsourcing when it comes to promotions, social media, and other areas as they arise. Contact me if you're interested in an opportunity with my team of dedicated associates. THANK YOU AGAIN! Blessings ...

  • Reply mark breakspear1931 days ago

    YouTube has to be one of the largest media sites that love to close accounts, it’s got to the point I’m terrified to post a new video, because accounts only seem to close just after you have updated content.
    Now I think with YouTube its best to video yourself talking in your own office with no cola cans in the background or faint radio music that could get caught in your video, no designer labels on your clothes, don’t mention your business, if you’re doing a tutorial be careful of mentioning a particular software and never ever say “search for it in Bing or yahoo” as you can gather I’m being sarcastic, but it will get to that point very soon and rapidly twitter will sell out and the same rules will apply.
    Anyhow great content on this site keep up the good work. Mbreak2000

  • Reply Doctor Web • 1930 days ago

    Awesome post. This is so true. These type of things can happen at any moment because as stated, we don't have ownership to any of these social platforms. I think it is so important to have a network of your own personal blogs and anything else you can get your hands on and personally own. Even with hosting your own website, you still don't own the hosting. I have even had my entire website shut down without any warning or backup. It was hit with a virus and the hosting company refused on restoring it because they claimed to have no way to find out what files were infected. My entire website was erased off the map. Time and money was lost.

    Although Social Media is growing, as long as you diversify you'll always have a backup plan. If you grow your brand the right way, you'll never have to worry about anyone shutting down your social media accounts. Maintaining an email list of subscribers will be your best bet. Thanks again for this post.

  • Reply Jason Dodd1929 days ago

    I think this sorts of stuff (like the fail whale or your account getting suspended etc.) highlight the inherent danger of working online.

    You can't be too paranoid about having a good backup plan and going through a 'what if' scenario for situations such as losing your twitter, facebook or even your host account (should the unthinkable happen).

    Just like you have a fire escape plan at home have one for your online efforts.

  • Reply Troy Todd1929 days ago

    @doctor web... True, your hosting can shut you down, but.. did you not back up all your website files on your own PC? that way.. you can just upload the site again.
    T

  • Reply Andreina rojas1926 days ago

    Great post. This is very true. Everyday we are getting more an more dependent of those sites, forgetting that those sites are the business of someone else and are managed by someone else.
    In one occasion I was working at the retail store chain of a former Miss Universe, and somebody created a Facebook account on her behalf, and this person was sending messages to all her friends, people who added this imposter thinking that profile was really her. She was very upset of course and she asked me to advise this people of that situation, and because I was sending messages as crazy to alert the people, my account was suspended because i was considered as a potential spam sender. i sent an email to the support team explaining the situation and they reestablish my account the next day, but at that point is where you ask yourself, is the social networking an opportunity or a risk? Where are the users privacy and other rights going with those sites? It is a serious issue we have to think about.

    Good look for all of you!

  • Reply Philip • 1923 days ago

    Thanks for that reminder. I agree with youy and have found that two principals I try to apply consistently have helped me avoid unneccesary tears and gnashing of teeth. Diversify - both in social media properties used as well as in the kinds of online marketing strategies you use. Web 2.0 is particularly marked by being "virtual" and all info is owned by someone else and has its home on someone else's servers and using someone else's software.

  • Reply Gail Bottomley1917 days ago

    Hi, thanks for the article, brilliant, I too have had accounts closed down like ou Tube, they closed me down 7 times, 2 times I know why the rest i have no idea, it has made life difficult to say the least. o have learnt from the experiance thats for sure.
    Yes I still use YouTube, but I also use other sites an also upload important videos into my own hosting account.
    I have had other things taken down, for instance my My Space page, who knows why I have had it for 3 years then I went in about a month ago and it was gone.... for no good reason, I emailed them and no reply...

    Lessons learned take control of your own business in every part you can. Use the other tools out there, obeying the rules and you should be pretty safe.

    Thank you for the reminder, its so easy to use the Free tools and hand over control to someone else.... not that wise is it.

    Its a business buy what you need :-)

    Gail
    http://www.GailBottomleyOnline.com

  • Reply Daljeet Kaur312 days ago

    Hey Chris,
    Points that you have mentioned in your post are really very interesting. Such type of things can not easily realized. Sites like facebook, twitter, linkedin, all are having this thing in common. They are providing us a platform to us to promote our business but if we are doing well then we are acting like their assets. So, it should always be keep in mind that the members that you had added to your social media profiles should come and visit to your website.

    post. This is very true. Everyday we are getting more an more dependent of those sites, forgetting that those sites are the business of someone else and are managed by someone else.
    In one occasion I was working at the retail store chain of a former Miss Universe, and somebody created a Facebook account on her behalf, and this person was sending messages to all her friends, people who added this imposter thinking that profile was really her. She was very upset of course and she asked me to advise this people of that situation, and because I was sending messages as crazy to alert the people, my account was suspended because i was considered as a potential spam sender. i sent an email to the support team explaining the situation and they reestablish my account the next day, but at that point is where you ask yourself, is the social networking an opportunity or a risk? Where are the users privacy and other rights going with those sites? It is a serious issue we have to think about.

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