social media fail whaleYou can run but you can't hide from them. We all get them. Sometimes they trick us. They often come with a cool subject line from who appears at first glance to be a reputable source you can trust. You may even get excited to open the email and think “wow, this could be good.”

However, within seconds of opening the message you realize you just fell for another FAIL WHALE #FAIL! You may feel a sense of disappointment and even feel a bit sorry for the person who sent it. You may go so far as to respond to them with a genuine goal of helping them not repeat the same mistake. Unfortunately the person causing such disappointment is often so clueless they think they've just hit the WHALE HONEY POT!


Tonight I received an email from a LinkedIn business contact with 500+ contacts.  The name of the company grabbed my attention and I was a bit excited to open the email despite the spammy subject line.

Immediately upon opening the email I was disappointed.  The paragraphs were too long. There was no call to action.  The content was nothing more than a copy/paste of their LinkedIn Profile company/job description.

The worst part is the sender claims to help other business owners and leaders think strategically by leveraging social media and marketing!?

I questioned why the email was sent as it was obvious it lacked clear objectives.  There was no link, no call to action, no attempt to connect with me or invite me into their community.  What purpose was it serving?

Since the sender had no problem spamming me I decided I had no problem nicely educating him on how negative his email was perceived on the other end.

I sent a short note asking him what it was he wanted me to do.  I told him I may be interested in working with him if he could tell me in what capacity he thought we could work together and what value he could offer me or my customers.

I received a response from him informing me that his goal was to provide a brief overview.  In a second email he informed me that his email was designed to be a press release.

He stated he wanted to build relationships first and sell second.  He informed me it was bad practice to do a hard sell!?  I had to laugh out loud at this one.  Hmm… a brief overview and press release to build a relationship? What am I missing?

How can you possibly build a relationship when you have not connected with me in any regard? How can you build a relationship when you have not taken the time to understand who I am, what I do, what my biz problems are and how you can help me?  How on earth can you think you are building a relationship when your entire message is a disorganized, hard sales pitch?

The truth is he was spamming me and probably 100's of others but did not have a clue or was unwilling to admit he was doing such. He also informed me he had  several colleagues review his strategy and content and they all agreed with his approach?

The funny thing is in less than a few hours I received 3 LinkedIn invitations from folks who also received the same message he sent me.   All want to connect with me.  One even told me she thought I was “swell” .  Based on her comments it was obvious she too found good humor in the email exchange with the so-called relationship building pro!?

Okay, enough of the LinkedIn #Fail Whale experience.  Let's now discuss why it was a #FAIL whale and what you can do to avoid the same!

Why Sender Earned a #FAIL WHALE:

1. Subject read:  “ABC  Company Name  – Who We are, What we Do”
Compelling Subject Line:  #FAIL

2.  Email was sent to 10 people via LinkedIn email send feature.  However, sender later informed me after I replied to all recipients it was sent to 50 people. Chances are this was one of several emails sent to 50 people per email.Same Content to 50 People.
Genuine Attempt to Connect with Audience:#FAIL

3.  The email content is the same as the senders LinkedIn Profile description. Content nothing more than copy/paste from profile.
Content Shows Reader Sender is Genuinely Interested In Recipient:  #FAIL

4. Content did not include call to action.
Clear Objectives: #FAIL

5. Email did not include any url or information for obtaining more information.
Invite Reader to Engage, Join Community: #FAIL

6. Content does nothing to connect with me personally nor my business.
Relationship Building Attempt: #FAIL

7.  Content only tells me about their company. SPAM Factor  Score = 10 out 10.
Relevant Content:  #FAIL

8.  Content fails to offer anything that inspires me to connect, listen to or engage with the sender or associated company.
Inspire Reader to Engage: #FAIL

9. When approached and called out for spamming, he was unable to answer why he contacted me.  Claimed building relationships.
Genuinely Listen and Care when Audience Responds: #FAIL

10. Sender lacks basic respect for the knowledge of his audience.
Respect  Audience and Assume They Are Smarter Than You:  #FAIL

20 Tips to Avoid the Social Media Relationship #FAIL Whale:

1. Set clear objectives. Each marketing activity and communication should have clear objectives.  Are you informing, inviting, inspiring, growing your list, building relationships?

2. Realize your audience owes you nothing! Focus on earning the mind share of your audience.  Just because you  are their LinkedIn contact does not mean you have earned their time to listen to what you have to say.

3. Know your audience. Take the time to learn about them, segment them and understand them. The more you know about them, the better you can serve them.

4. Connect with  your audience. Do not send a cookie cutter message expecting anything different than cookie cutter results.

5. Inspire  your audience with relevant content. Provide content relevant to their business needs, pain points and interests. If your subject line is all about you, chances are your content is too.

6. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Just because you are excited about your new business or are desperate because you are laid off, it doesn't mean your reader is desperate to read your message.  Chances are they have already deleted 10 messages exactly like yours within the last 6 hours!

7.  Inform the reader why you are contacting them. Be clear if you are approaching them as a potential partner, service provider or friend.  What do you want to do for them?

8. Provide a clear call to action. What exactly do you want the reader to do? Do not bury it in the middle of long paragraphs.

9. Provide content relevant to your objectives. If your objective is to generate a lead and invite them  into your sales funnel then provide content to do such.  If your objective is to build a partnership or simply network then provide relevant content.  Point them to appropriate resources such as urls, Facebook pages or websites where they can learn more.

10.  What is the sales path and next steps you want the reader to take? If you are inviting them into the sales funnel, ensure you have a second step defined for what your next step will be if the reader responds in the desired way.  Also define what your next steps are should they not respond in the desired way.

11. Avoid Spam. You are not building relationships if your content is about “you, you, you!”  Focus on your audience and how you can help them.

12. Invite reader into your community. Do not be afraid to invite them to join your community.  Provide urls to your Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter accounts, websites, blogs, LinkedIn and email subscription forms.

13. Be authentic. Don't pretend to be something that you are not.  Be real.  Be genuine.  Be you!

14.  Accept feedback, good or bad. Do not defect or put up walls for feedback.  Listen and learn.

15.  Don't be lazy. Do not copy/paste the email on your website or LinkedIn profile and stick in an email.  Show the reader you took the time to write the copy that provides value.  If you can't take the time to write copy that provides value why should they take the time to read it?

16.  Don't take advantage of people or platforms. Just because LinkedIn lets you send the same email to 500 contacts doesn't mean you should.

17.  Value your network. Based on point #16 above, value your audience.  They probably connected to you on LinkedIn based on trust.  The fastest way to lose that trust is to take advantage of  platform capabilities and start spamming.

18.  Assume your audience is smarter than you. One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is to think they are smarter or above their audience.  Do not talk down to them. Respect and value your audience.  Don't fool yourself into thinking they won't see thru your spamming ways!

19. Test your processes, methods and messages. Run a small test.  Test your messages with different audiences, on different social media platforms.  Use Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages as a quick way to test subject lines.  Write a blog post with similar content to your proposed email or communications content.  You'll get immediate feedback for how the subject line resonates with audiences.

20. If you make a mistake don't give up! Just because you may have done one or all of the above things I mention doesn't mean you need to throw  in the towel.  Audiences are people.  People make mistakes and people usually forgive.  Educate yourself and try again.

What's Your Fail Whale Story?

Have you received a similar communication recently? How do communicators best inspire you? What compells you to open an email?  What inspires you to do the double click on a website url or click “like” on a Facebook Fan Page?

See this post syndicated on Social Media Today