I belong to a couple of business oriented Facebook Groups. They are a great place to share and ask for advice. The only problem is that everyone goes to them with their own set of assumptions and it sometimes feels like a bit of a mine field.
Problem 1: Too damn supportive
The groups are very supportive. It’s awesome. They will encourage and support you. They understand you when others think you are nuts. It’s warm and comforting.
But when you put up a post like “which of these 4 new logos do you prefer?” the group is likely to be very supportive, especially if they look semi professional. The problem is, they may all be terrible, but everyone is being encouraging. It also applies to issues you may be having, where no-one is prepared to say “did you ever consider that you are wrong?”
The risk here is that the group can just reinforce your own bias.
Problem 2: Too insenstive
The other problem is at the other extreme, where something that is very personal to you gets shot down in flames.Personally I like a robust conversation when it comes to my business. If I’m doing something stupid, or less than perfect, then let me know. I am happy to chat. I may not act upon it (because I’m stupid) but I don’t take things personally.
Others are far more passionate about things. It also doesn’t help when we are swamped by so many other problems, and this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The solution: Rules!
I think there need to be some basic ground rules.
It’s a bit like an English exam where you need to know the difference between “compare” and “contrast”. When you know what the key terms mean, you know how to correctly answer the question. When you know how many points the question is worth, you know how long the answer should be.
Here we go, my proposed ground rules for asking for social media feedback:
Rule 1: Use the correct term
I mean “share” the word, not “share” on Facebook. That is “share” like in “I would like to share this news with you”. It’s often implied and is what we assume you are doing if you haven’t actually asked for something else………………..
“Share” is a euphemism for
- “I don’t want you to disagree”.
- “I want you to build me up”
- “Congratulate me”
- “Share my suffering”
- “Learn from my success”
- “Learn from my failure, but don’t over analyse it”
Guys should know that when the missus wants to share a problem, she isn’t after a solution. So “share” is the magical block word.
But be warned, it now means you won’t get honest feedback, it will reinforce your bias. But sometimes that’s what we need. And if you do win the Telstra Business Award, then that’s worth sharing.
"Help" , "suggestions"
This is a bit more open than “share”. The door for honest thoughts is open a bit wider. This is the place for building up advice.
This is asking for a guiding hand.
And “feedback” is opening the honesty door wide.
Which means if someone loves your idea they can say so. And if someone thinks it stinks, they may voice such an opinion.
This is a bad term unless you obey rule 2.
This is where you are asking for our preference between a range of options.
Ideally give us the chance to reply with more than one answer. I hate the single vote options. It gives a false impression. I think it is valid to say “Option 1 is great, 2 and 3 are acceptable, but I have 4”, or “Anything but 4”, or “1 and 3”.
And allow the answer to be “I don’t have a preference”. That’s good feedback as well because it may be just you who is hung up on the choice.
This is a free for all request for ideas. There should be no assumption that:
- the ideas will be helpful (face it, you couldn’t solve the problem, so you are asking for ideas)
- you will use the idea
- you will like the idea
But I think it is fair to assume:
- you thank people for their ideas
- you acknowledge a good idea
And then the tough one is – what do you do when the idea makes you a motza? What is an appropriate way to show appreciation? No answer, just floating the concept. Face it, in the business world one good idea could set you up for life!
Rule 2: List all options
If you are asking for our preference, let us know if an option is “none of them”.
Actually, if you are asking for our preference, let one of the options be “none of them”. Otherwise you will only hear from those people who agree with you.
Rule 3: Indicate the level of commitment
Financial and time
How much have you invested in what’s going on? Are you in deep or just dipping a toe in?
The big one is emotional commitment. Are you hooked on the idea, or are you happy to leave it behind?
This does tend to reflect the financial and time investment, but some people are happy to spend a small fortune and walk away from it. There are also ideas that we have spent no time or money on, but because it clicked we are ultrasensitive.
Rule 4: Start early
Given that emotional commitment goes up with time, ask before the emotional commitment kicks in.
Thinking of getting a new logo? Why not ask the group for ideas.
Got some answers from Fiverr? Drop them in.
Using 99 designs and the suggestions are starting to arrive? Drop them in.
Down to the last 2? Strewth, I hope the conversation has started by now.
Employed a professional design and branding company, and you are about to hit “send” to the printers? Don’t ask for feedback!
Rule 5: Engage
“Explain, don’t justify” – if someone challenges the idea, then feel free to explain some of the background. Don’t feel like you need to justify it because we aren’t judging you. It’s your business! But we may not have the full story and that could change things.
“It’s a two way street…” – you are free to agree or disagree with what people say and can question their reasoning.
“…but not equal” – if the advice is bad, don’t take it. You are the one who is open to change, not the other person. Sometimes the best option is to say nothing. Unless they are asking for a discussion. Then life becomes interesting.
Rule 6: It's social media, don't get hung up on rules
So far I haven’t seen any ripsnorter arguments, or feuds that have started as a result of a discussion.
But at the same time I have no idea how many people left the group because of an insensitive comment.
So like all social things, have a bit of patience, grace, understanding, and forgetfulness.
Edit 1: Don't be lazy
First bit of feedback on the rules – “don’t expect the group to do all the work for you”.
The example given was about people posting questions like “what are you top marketing issues”, and then have the group do the work of coming up with the content.
That’s an interesting one. Rule 4 (“start early”) means that this is allowed, and encouraged, but then where is the line between getting early input and total delegation of your own responsibility?
I suspect rule 5 (“engage”) demonstrates that you appreciate what is coming back, and keep people in the loop as to what is being put together. And allow them to see what happens again later in the process.
I actually love the conversations around “any suggestions on how to …” but I don’t walk away with the feeling that it was an abuse of the group. It is also possibly because the others give as much as they ask.
So maybe the rule should be “Give more than you take“.
Edit 2: Don't do trojan horse marketing
Turns out I may have misunderstood the first conversation. I will take a second stab at it.
If a marketing company posts a question like “what are your top marketing issues” then the assumption is that they are after tips for how they market or are working on content etc. But if they are doing it as a free ad “hey, we are a marketing company”, or if they then contact responders with “we can help you with that” then that’s abusing the group.
I came up with a new term for it – “trojan horse marketing”.
They went in appearing to be one thing while hiding their true purpose. Of course this term may already exist, or there may be another term for it (“being sneaky”, “bait and switch”, “jerk”) but “trojan horse marketing” has a nice ring to it and could make for a great bait-click title “Top 7 tips on how to avoid trojan horse marketing”
Edit 3: "Sharing" and "Liking"
I initially didn’t define “share” as the word, and someone thought I meant “share” like in Facebook sharing.
I heard on the radio one of the problems with social media is that people may misunderstand your message because it is not a conversation. If it then gets passed on, you lose even more control over how people take it.
But one interesting comment was that sharing (or it was actually about retweeting) does not mean you necessarily agree. It could mean “what a total loser”. But it then assumes the people seeing your share understand your bias.
So in the context of business groups, sharing and liking are interesting beasts.
A like could mean “I agree”, “well done”, “I support you”, “wow”, “that’s funny/interesting”. Fortunately there are now emojis for Facebook because it was always odd pressing “Like” on bad news.
Sharing requires comments. Try to add to the message, or even just indicate if you are fully for it or against it.