Alright, we’re talking about the key to better social engagement here, but first: I’m a likeable and somewhat agreeable person, an average mensch if you will. So, it may come as a shock to know that the number of things that annoy me during a typical day is surprisingly high. Most are mundane annoyances and, let’s be honest, entirely useless. But some get at my core and frighten me. Now, I don’t want to use this platform for my personal self-help, but I feel doing so may help others, too.

Help me, help you!

Let’s talk about the website of The New York Times for a minute.

Reading an article comes with the agreement to be interrupted with a pop-up asking me to refer their services to a friend or family member. Even after dismissing this nuisance more than once, I’m subjected to them on every other page. I’ve been a subscriber to the New York Times digital edition for many years. I feel I’ve been a good and loyal customer. I share links to their articles with my friends and family all the time.

In a way, I’m promoting their value to people who trust me. And yet, I can’t for the life of me understand why the paper of record insists on making the experience on their site annoying and, for the sake of being melodramatic—insufferable.

I can’t help but see the parallels between what The New York Times is doing and what companies and their brands are attempting to do online, specifically with their social media feeds.


On Twitter, we’ve all experienced the practice companies employ of tweeting endlessly about themselves and linking to pieces of content they’ve produced or, even more diabolical, retweeting others who shower them with praise. This is most objectionable. It’s as if these brands believe Twitter exists for them and no one else.

And because these accounts usually have many followers, smaller companies believe this level of social media narcissism is successful and adjust their content to copy their style in an attempt for more followers. They mimic the practice but don’t understand why they’re not increasing their followers or the level of engagement with their current followers. What’s most likely happening is that their numbers are dropping.

If you want better social engagement, think about the message you’re putting out there to your followers if this becomes standard practise for your company’s Twitter account. What you’re saying is that anything that has nothing to do with your brand, your company, and your content doesn’t exist. “Let’s get back to talking about me, because I’m great” is only acceptable when you’re in college or on a first date, and quite dicey, even then.

These accounts don’t engage with their followers because they aren’t providing anything of value for them. They are so consumed with tweeting links back to their blog that they might as well have a computer program tweeting for them (they probably do).


A good rule of thumb for any successful Twitter account—private or corporate—is to follow the 80/20 rule. Post 80% interesting, readable, and entertaining content and save 20% for self-promotion. People will love you for it because if you’re finding things online and sharing them with your followers, you’re engaging them in the conversation. That’s what social media is for. It’s not merely a way of throwing everything at your users and telling them they have to like it or leave. That’s what marriage is for.

Asking for help

So, think through what your customers and users will be experiencing when interacting with your brand. If you want true followers – a real, tangible relationship with people you want using your service, buying your products, or listening to what you have to say – treat them like real people. Real people like to laugh every once in a while; they enjoy stories that are outside of their bubble that present a different perspective, or that illuminates their world in a way they couldn’t have foreseen.

Yes, occasionally, they want to be reminded of that 25% discount you got going until the end of the week, or that registrations are now open for your webinar. But sometimes, they just want something more human. Because let’s be honest, they are not all-consuming automatons moving from one piece of marketing content to the next to keep the existential crisis at bay. It’s what makes them great.

Your audience is interesting and interested in the world around them. They have unique thoughts, goals, and yes, even annoyances. It would be nice if the brands to which they are most generous with their “likes,” “follows,” and “subscribes,” keep that in mind every once in a while.

There might be a lot of things that annoy Richard, but he’s still one of the nicest people around. To chat with some nice people about how to do social media right, or the many other ways marketing can help your business grow, reach out to us at any time.

“Take your protein pills and put your helmet on…” David Bowie // Space Oddity

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