When we were little kids, my little brother and I heard this all the time. When Mrs Kennedy (not that one, the one on 138th street in the Bronx) gave us an ice pop, when grandma gave us a quarter, when someone told us we looked great in our leisure suits (if i ever find the photos, I will scan and add to flickr). Mom used that phrase because we were little, didn’t know any better, were too busy trying to scarf down the ice pop and because we were learning the social customs that (some) grownups already knew: when someone gives you a compliment or a gift, you say thank you.

How does this all relate to Social Interactions on the Web? Any decent Social Media effort will have some kind of Outreach program:

1. Identifying bloggers, podcasters, videobloggers, forums, communities, social spaces that have something in common with the Social Media Effort
2. Joining the spaces and conversations in a forward, transparent manner
3. Add value to the discussions and attention without expectation or demand of reciprocity (pay it forward slick ad guy)
4. Make good stuff, not marketing taglines or “socialized” press releases
5. Keep the effort going – this is more about bringing big corporations down to eye level with the user than “eyeballs” or “share” or “Audience”

So now a Social Media Effort is doing outreach the right way, is adding something to the conversation, is getting people talking. Users start talking. 2-way dialog meets the 2-way web:

Users start leaving comments on the Social Media Effort’s YouTube videos
Users start threads in a forum dedicated to some topic or subject that the Social Media Effort is engaged in
Users start twittering about it (thanks Pistachio!)
Users start blogging about it
Users start mentioning it in their podcasts, videoblogs, screencasts
Users start participating, giving you their clicks, their eyeballs, their intention, and their voices

Did you remember to say thank you?

In the “little kid” example, it starts in direct personal interactions and continues in the dreaded process of writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas presents. In this Social Media world of ours, when a user leaves a comment on your blog do you look to see where they are coming from? Do you respond to their comment? Do you check out their blog? Do you look and see what they are writing, what they are into? Do you leave a comment on their blog? Do you add them to your blogroll? When they mention you in a forum like Videoblogging do you respond on-list or leave them a note or tweet? Do you have the processes and procedures in place to listen AND respond?

Not all users will have something to say that is profound or game changing or even nice. Sometimes it will be mean, or bitchy, or completely negative. Sometimes it will be missing the point entirely. Sometimes it will be a simple, anonymous “thanks guys” – and thats it. Its on their terms.

The point is, you are becoming a neighbor, joining a community, being part of something that is smaller and bigger than yourself. Scoble and Godin can’t answer every comment and no one expects a Social Media Effort to mean “direct, personal, immediate, one-to-one communication”. But they do expect that you are listening and they expect you to show it. Demonstrative examples of “hey, we aren’t asleep at the switch or using this Social Media stuff to scam you”.

Are YOU actively participating in the architectures of participation you are spending so much time and money and effort on? Are you showing the community you are trying to engage that you are both interesting AND interested? Social Media Efforts ache over how many ways they can engage the user and get them to hit the SUBMIT button, register, leave a comment or write a wiki entry. If you are spending all this time creating “feedback loops”: platforms, code and process to get users to interact and participate and join in, are you closing the loop?

Some Social Media Efforts spend a fortune (things like Radian6, BuzzMetrics, employees, PR/Ad/Social Media agency personnel) on listening to the places and spaces where users are talking about them. Some more grassroots or startup Social Media Efforts utilize Technorati/Google Alerts/Summize/TweetScan/Etc. and brute-force (human capital) to see where they are being mentioned.


  • Have a blogroll – it is an outward, persistent sign of the sites, people and voices you believe in.
  • Linklove – be “linky” – link to the users, call it out when they add something to the conversation, send the attention of the conversation at your door to their door
  • Celebrate the things happening OUTSIDE your four walls – if your entire conversation is “me, me, me” the conversation will become a monologue. Call out the wins and ideas of the community, show you are participating by checking out their flickr feed, their blog, their tweets, their Second Life island. Spend a % (make it a hard rule if you have to – “one story every day or week or hour will be dedicated to THEM”) of your time and blog space and twitter feed and flickr experience on the community
  • Participate – in the comments, forum, NING ring on your platforms AND the platforms where your users live. Don’t be radio-silent. Show them someone is there and her/his name is Susan or Fred not ADMIN or MODERATOR. Humans don’t have conversations with MODERATORS. In the same way that you call out what users are doing outside your four walls also participate on the user’s sites/platforms. Leave a comment on their blog or Flickr feed. Reply to their tweets. Show you are listening AND visiting
  • Don’t trust one person to be the “community manager” and be responsible for all the commenting and listening and responding – it is everyone’s job. Find ways to get individuals inside the company or org interested in participating. Give them small things to do, get their opinion on what they can do/interested in/would be willing to try. Not everyone wants to be on camera or a blogger – and they all have day-jobs. Make it as frictionless and as fun as possible. I would rather interact with someone inside than some hired blogger or agency wonk

When a user paid you a compliment with their attention, did you remember to write a thank you note?

11 thoughts on “<mom> What do you say? </mom>

  1. Keith Burtis

    Sean, Great post. Yes. I think this is THEE most important thing in social media and the new economy at large. People are sick of the impersonal big box stores. Something my mother always told me was that “What comes around goes around, and old always becomes new again” Say thank you to those that have helped you… online or off! Give with good intentions, not to get something back.

    We have gone from street vendors and corner markets to big box stores and impersonal salespeople. The net and the new technologies it brings are bringing back around that old shopkeeper that has the ability to thrive off of his/her community by providing service, knowledge and a smile.

    Keith B. (New media Woodturner)

  2. Tony Eyles

    Thank you Sean. Making comments is a big deal for some people, (given 90% are lurkers). And there are so many of us now competing to be heard, it’s a privilege to get a response. Thanks also to people like Chris Brogan who pass on the word and broker conversations.


  3. Dean Landsman

    This is the Admin at deanland auto-noting and auto-complimenting your worthy post. You can haz kudos.

  4. ed

    Great post

  5. Sean Post author

    Thanks guys!

  6. David Alston

    Hey there Sean,

    Great post. I was just mentioning this to someone yesterday. I know a lot of folks think of monitoring is mostly for finding possible problems and deciding to reach out (which is certainly a use for it) but there is nothing like positive reinforcement – something we learned from our parents too 🙂 If someone says something nice it’s always great to say thanks.

    I love your kids at Christmas reference with the thank you letters. We had to do this each year as well. And it was done “old school” with the letters and the stamps. By comparison, commenting on someone’s blog or tweet takes just seconds or a minute – with no stamps. Couldn’t be easier.

    Cheers David

    PS. And thank you for the Radian6 mention. 🙂

  7. Thank You Notes Girl

    Brilliant! I’m old school and know when to say thank you in off-line stuff, but I particularly dig this netiquette lesson. Thank you!

    PS Lol, Dean Landsmen

  8. GirlPie

    Well said “Mr. Manners” — should be required reading before any blogger’s first post.

    As a blog Reader I get a great deal of value from the commenters I read (which is almost always before I comment myself); as an aim-to-be-useful occasional Commenter, I suspect that I give back for the effort/info/edutainment of the post/blog.

    But it’s all about recognition. I read comment-free Godin as daily as comment-heaven IttyBiz; both Seth and Naomi make the effort to recognize the attention, however minor my little chirps may seem beside pro-bloggers… Sean, keep up the good work.

  9. Sean Post author

    Easy with the “mr manners” stuff… 🙂

    Love the statement “But it’s all about recognition”. So true. This was intended to be a call to action for those working in social media to remember that recognition of the users and their attention/gestures is important – a soapbox isn’t a conversation. Had one client who wanted to blog and “use” social media but didnt want to hear from the users. “not wanting to hear from the users” is not uncommon, and if your org isn’t ready to listen directly then cool, there are other ways to spend money. But if you want to connect, if you want to get them talking to you (’cause they are talking about you) then you need to listen AND SHOW YOU ARE LISTENING

    btw – thanks for the comment!


  10. GirlPie

    You know what you might like? The check box that allows your commenters to get notice of follow-up comments… I didn’t realize how much that tool on a blog helps me stay loyal, engaged, find other bloggers in the comments, and not miss the ‘conversation.’ — [at which point I see the ‘comments rss’ to the right and feel like a dope… I’m used to seeing it near ‘submit’ for each post… hmm, wonder what Steve Krug would make of us?!]

    Another new site you might like Sean: Nick Cernis’ charming http://www.44Forks.com — a site for etiquette and netiquette. He’s a fun writer, it’s light reading but carries insight and incites self-exam on the Social Media front.

    Thanks for making me think.

  11. Sean Post author

    Thanks for the comment GirliePie – the comments RSS is OK, but I have seen on some blogs the ability to be notified by Email if there are new comments… I gotta look into the plugin codex for wordpress to see if something like that exists

    thanks for the pointer to 44Forks – will check it out

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