Julia Rosien

Today’s guest post is by Julia Rosien.

Being on Twitter is a little like knocking on the gates to the Emerald City. Oh, the wondrous opportunities waiting on the other side.

But it comes with a price.

Opening an account and tweeting is an invitation to the world that you’re available. You’re here to talk, get to know people, do business – whatever it is you want to do.

To get, you must give.

To play, you must pay.

Reciprocity Changes How We do Business

If your business is on social media and you’re seeing results (leads, sales, customer loyalty, etc.) you likely understand the whole system is built on reciprocity, a finely tuned pay-it-forward network.

While it’s still shocking to some, you understand building relationships, person-to-person, is the glue that makes the whole system work.

The Unwritten “Social Media Code of Ethics”

With each person who follows you, an invisible contract is written. For their valuable time and attention, you agree to be authentic and honest.

Although they’ll tolerate some marketing messages, you don’t have permission to fill up their stream with links to your products or services.

And it’s mutual.

You both sign the same contract, which gives you the right to unfollow when they misbehave.

Key point – it’s your choice. Following a brand or person on any social media channel doesn’t guarantee a follow. The choice is always yours. Stay and play or take your fun elsewhere.

Why the Trust Network Works

Let’s be real for a minute. Even though we all use social media differently, we’re all here for a reason. We have a story to tell and we want people to hear it. That story might be about a product or service but it might be about your joys and frustrations and financial struggles as a single mom. It might be your way of staying in touch with your grandchildren.

Like real life, social media is filled with a smorgasbord of personalities. From weird Uncle Harry who’s always three sheets to the wind (even at 7 a.m.) to that frenemy who says she likes you to your face but as soon as you’re not around, the air is blue with tales of your treachery.

Here’s where the magic lies, though.

When the importance of telling your story shifts to actually hearing other stories, you invite more sharing and naturally eliminate conflict. It’s called reciprocity and relationships become stronger because people believe you’re there for them, not using them. When you remain competitive about telling your story, emotions run high and no one wins.

But what happens when someone slips up and breaks that hard-earned trust? Is there a saving grace?

If These Walls Could Talk

My dad used to tell me the bigger person is the one walks away from a fight, and it’s no easier to do it on social media than it was when I was kid on the schoolyard.

But I can also tell you, turning away, keeping your back straight, and walking with purpose has the same effect now as it did back then.

Dad was right.

When emotions get out of hand, shift your perspective and shine the light on the other person and what s/he needs from you.

  • Offer up the olive branch and save the other person’s dignity. It costs far less than you think.
  • Pick up the phone and talk. That connection alone has saved many relationships for me.
  • State your position and move on if they’re not receptive to working with you to find a solution.

Some people feed off of conflict and are happiest when they’re stirring the pot. When you’ve exhausted all other channels – or if the conflict is just not worth the drama – move on. Unfollow the person and carry on with your other relationships.

When to Block a Follower

And if that person doesn’t take the hint that you don’t want to engage, block them. It won’t prevent them from doing their paranoid checks on your stream but it will slow down their access to you. It also won’t prevent them from reaching out to you – but your response is your choice.

There is no “one” right way to engage on Twitter – but there is a wrong way. I asked a few of my friends on Twitter if they’ve ever blocked someone. The answers were thoughtful, smart and, in my opinion, emotionally mature. Unlike some people I’ve blocked.

SpikeMobile – I’ve unfollowed people who are negative or complain a lot on Twitter. I don’t want their bad energy bringing me down. It felt so good!

KWTFR – I’ll tweet you, you’ll tweet me, together we’ll encourage reciprocity. I believe trust can be earned back, but it would be a journey and take effort from all parties.

Dhatfield – If someone gets blocked – there’s a reason. Each of us create our own online experience and blocking is one way to do it. We should never have to explain or apologize for blocking someone online that is not contributing in a positive way.

MitchPopilchak – I tried to unfollow, but that wasn’t enough, though it should have been. Personal circle. And I was grilled on it. I just did what some others wanted to do. Still standing firm. No regrets.

Karen_C_Wilson – I probably wouldn’t block someone I know unless we had a falling out. I have blocked non-bots though.

FlourishFlorals – Someone who tweeted racist remarks.

BrianJacklin – Absolutely! It’s my feed after all, right?

AMotherhoodBlog – I haven’t blocked anyone I know personally, but I’ve blocked mean people who’ve upset me on Twitter before.

What does your Twitter stream say about you or your company? What are your rules of engagement?

Julia Rosien is the founder and chief idea officer of SocialNorth, a social media strategy firm, as well as founder and owner of GoGirlfriend, a travel-based website for women. Julia serves on various boards of directors, co-founded Canada’s first 140 Conference and  is a much-requested speaker in a variety of industries. She’s been named one of the most influential women in social media and was a nominee for the Roger’s 2011 Women of the Year celebration in Waterloo Region. Friend her on Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn.