Social Media: Sometimes, Silence is Best

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I read an article titled “Stop Saying What You’re Not Going To Do” a while back and it really struck a chord with me. While the article was getting at our propensity to state an intention to take actions that we will, in fact, never undertake, it sparked an idea for a post of my own. It took a while for it to take shape in my mind. It was when I was reminded of the oft-repeated phrase, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”, that it all fell into place, with a little spin, of course.

social media silence

photo credit: Daniela Vladimirova via photopin cc

My premise is that if you don’t have anything valuable to say, if you don’t have anything pertinent and on target to add to the conversation – via a social media post, you shouldn’t say anything at all.

Maybe it’s part of many a social media manager’s resolutions for 2013, resolutions to connect more and take part in more conversations, but I’ve seen a rise in what I call the “comment for comment’s sake”.

In my opinion, and I’m sure there will be some dissenting opinion, these kinds of comments are self-indulgent at best, edging toward self-involved. In fact, when these kinds of posts, from these kinds of commenters continue to pile up, I equate it with a benign sort of spam.

We aren’t experts on everything. Even within the social business sphere we each have specialties, niche concentrations and platform-specific knowledge. We can’t keep up with every change that is reported in social business news. Sometimes this causes some social solutions providers to take on the persona of Jack of all trades, master of none. Giving us the idea that we should act or comment at will. This is something we should fight against.

When we come across an article that we find useful, we have several choices to make. We can choose to like it, to comment upon it or to to share it. Too often we fail to choose the first.

Liking, giving it a +1 or marking it as a favorite shows you appreciate the post, link or article, though you have nothing else to add to the discussion. Doing so helps to spread the reach of the article, post or link with the purest of intentions. No self-serving stigma whatsoever. When I read an article that resonates on a topic in which I am interested, but do not have the expertise to add to the value of the discussion, I can choose to like it, letting the author know of my appreciation for the hard work.

Too often I see the comment for comment’s sake. These either detract from the value of the original message or, in the worst cases, hijack the conversation for personal gain and “glory”. Sadly, I see a lot of the following:

  • a comment preceded by, “I don’t know much about this, but…” or “I’ve never done that, but…”
  • a comment complete with a link to an irrelevant article or blog post by the commenter
  • the “yeah”, “yay me”. “WOOT” reply *

Maybe these comments are made in a misguided attempt to help friends and colleagues. We’ve all liked a page created by our brother or one created for our office mate’s side business. It’s the right thing to do. But this can be taken one step too far. We all know what it looks like when family members comment to often on our own pages. The “Mom” comments can especially be distracting.

While that aside might have been funny, and even poignant, it adds to my point. Too many “comments for comment’s sake” detract from the professionalism of an idea, article or brand. Worse, they detract from the identity and professionalism of the person who regularly makes such comments.

In a nutshell, what I’m saying is that sometimes it’s better not to say anything at all, and show our appreciation without words.

* I’m not saying that occasional cheering comment isn’t acceptable. I’ve been known to share a WOOT, a “go girl” or “go guy” and even the occasional “couldn’t have said it better myself”. The key being, occasional, not making up the bulk of my comments. *

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Mallie Hart
After a long career as a graphic artist, web designer and ghost writer, Mallie found her true calling when personal social media embarked on the path leading to social business. While she still gets busy with graphics, most of her creative energy is now directed to unique social media content creation, curation and cultivation. Her dual love of graphic design and social media requires her to research, write about and promote a wide variety of topics while staying true to brand integrity. A research junkie - she majored in medieval history, Mallie enjoys the opportunity to find an interesting angle on just about any type of business or industry niche. When she’s not busy with The Media Barista, Mallie has been known to devour books (several per week), careen over rocks and roots on her bicycle and seek out the newest, edgiest music; all while drinking a lot of coffee.
Mallie Hart

@themediabarista

Caffeinated creativity and connections...building the best social media campaigns! When not here, I'm herding cats at @collectiveSS! #socialbiz
Have you noticed I don't post here anymore? Please come connect over at @moremallie. No automation - all off the cuff! - 5 months ago
Mallie Hart

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  1. While I understand your point, and my pet peeve comment is the "great post" one, I can't get behind this in that who am I to tell someone else how to manage their personal social media experience. Maybe the person leaving the comment is very new to SoMe and doesn't understand the "big" picture yet. While I agree with you, I do not feel it is my place to tell someone else how to manage, (or mismanage) if you will their social media platforms.
    This debate continues and I believe it will continue to be talked about with opinions on both sides. Personally, my only steadfast rule is this, "be nice or be gone", I can put up with pretty much anything in the social space, but I do not allow bullies, or haters in my social world.
    Now all that being said….."Great Post" ….

  2. Woot!

    Seriously. I'm not bothered by "drive by" comments as much as I am by comments that have little relevance to the article, or as you say, highjack the post . (Spam & trolls have their own place in Hell)

    Giving a +1, leaving a comment, or sharing is acknowledgement that someone's seen and read the post.

    When their avatar shows up, it helps me remember who my engagers are. (on G+)
    More than detracting from the article, it reflects badly on the person commenting.

    Thanks for the brain breakfast :-)

  3. You go girl!

    Kidding :) Interesting thoughts. I think it's nice to drop a line no matter how short to show the person is thinking of you! But I think it's important to not limit yourself when you're capable of writing great comments that enrich the discussion.

  4. Mallie Hart says:

    I figured this post might bring up some dissenting views. If we all felt and acted in the exact same way, or engaged in exactly the same way- the world, social and real life, would be a very boring place.

    LOL, Anne Reuss!

    This article would have been miles long if I laid out all of my examples. Here's one. Someone is asking about dog breeds. Some yokel decides to chime in with, "I've never had a dog but…", and that's a hijack, plain and simple. No value, simple seeking of face time.

  5. I don’t know much about this so shouldn’t say anything!

    Good points Mallie, I do like the general "we all get comments" but really would rather have a bit more of a discussion, pro or con…helps me to continue on my life learning course. GoodJob!

    • Mallie Hart says:

      It doesn't take that much effort to add value to the conversation. And it certainly shouldn't take that much effort to realize you don't have anything to add to the conversation.

  6. Correct but sadly, I think some really to not realize they do not have anything to add. Many are quick to run when a challenging question may be presented :(

  7. I have such a 'friend' in a Facebook Group set up for a group of local networking women. No matter what we talk about, her business can provide the service, knows someone who can, has undergone the treatment or has used the service. I have now hidden her from my newsfeed. It's people like her that drive me bonkers. For me, comments and their length and content take on a different purpose on each platform. As a blog owner, I welcome any comment, even short ones. It's a bit different on Facebook where any comment given in a timely manner helps the overall Edgerank but take away from the real conversations and ideas if it's not relelvant. I hear you girl.

  8. Mallie Hart says:

    It's definitely an issue that we all see differently, but sometimes the same!

  9. sandyappleyard says:

    I'm the complete opposite. I would love people to leave comments, even hijacks, on my posts. I would never complain. Alternatively in real life, when you're in the middle of a conversation and someone hijacks it, now that's annoying.

  10. Hello Mallie,

    Great article, thank you!

    I think the problem comes from the fact that many people do not understand what being "social" in social media means. The other day, someone was asking me how many comments I leave on other people's blogs every week. And I answered: "When I feel that my comment could add value to the conversation." Apparently, I am a genius. lol

    More seriously, though, people really need to stop doing things because it's fashionable or because they can. Social media has given a lot of people a sense of self-importance and entitlement, as though everything they say should have a huge value in the grand scheme of things. But what they don't see is the big picture, the digital legacy they leave behind.

  11. Is it not more then just that. It is social media and yes your social friends may not have a good point but should you just ignore everything. If so then why are they on your social list of friends. I do hit the like button sometimes just to let them know I am reading what they wrote. That hey I am still interested in you. Just my thoughts.

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