If you were invited to a lunch of business leaders in your community (some of them you know some of them you don’t), would you try to sell them all something? Would you try to get them all to follow you on Facebook? Would you interrupt every 10 minutes, regardless of the topic of conversation, and interject facts about your service or products? If you said “yes” to this, then you are probably an asshole. At least, the people at that meeting are going to think so. If you said “no” to this, then WHY ARE YOU DOING IT IN SOCIAL MEDIA?? Please stop.

You’ll notice that most of the social media “gurus” who are of the generation before social media (baby boomers) are teaching you how to “sell” in social media. Yet, the millennial generation just uses social media as an extension of SOCIAL behavior. They are not trying to sell. They are just showing up and participating. That’s what social media is about. It’s SOCIAL. When baby boomers would take people golfing to get their business, they didn’t talk business all day. They drank beer and talked about sports and life and kids and told dirty jokes and stuff. It was social. Why? Because you work with people you like and people you trust. That’s who you will listen to. If they are knowledgeable about a service or product, and if it matches your need, then you will buy. But you have to like them and trust them first.

I know a guy who owns an insurance company. His company does a lot of commercial insurance for a lot of great companies. I was in an executive business group with him for about a year. It was not a networking group. It was a group where we got together and learned and shared with one another as owners or executives of businesses. By the end of the year, this man had written insurance for most people in the group. So, how did he do it?

Well… he did it by NEVER trying to sell anyone anything. It would have been inappropriate and unwelcome. Instead, he authentically and honestly tried to share as much knowledge with the group as he could. He was ALWAYS willing to listen to people’s insurance related questions and answer them freely and without any (overt) motivation to get their business. He was kind, open, and authentic. He suggested they look into this or that. He suggested they ask their current provider about this or that. He offered to connect them to people that could help them. And so on. He was just being himself and being a good person. He wanted to help other people. By doing this, he was positioning himself in their minds. We all came to see him as trustworthy (because he is), knowledgeable (because he is), transparent (because he is), and a successful and worthy business partner (because he is). Then, when each of us was ready, in our own time, we each reached out to him and asked if he would meet with us and help us with a few things. This inevitably led to him writing our business.

Obviously, this man is aware of what is going on. Of course, he wants to grow his business. But that’s not why he was there. He was there to learn and share. The business comes to those who deserve it. Those who have the knowledge, the experience, the tools, and the desire to serve others for THEIR interests, not simply for self-serving short term wins.

This man knows exactly how to be a successful professional. Yet, this same man is being coached by gurus on how to manipulate people through social selling. He is being told how to craft posts and how to get connections and how to talk and how to behave. He is taking it in because he “doesn’t understand social media.” But the point is that you don’t learn social media like it’s a piece of software that is a selling tool. You simply enter social media as a human being, the same way you enter a room, enter the meetings and lunches that you attend. If you are shoving some self-serving message, then no one will like you. Yes, baby boomers will tolerate you because “hey, that’s business right?” but millennials will find you silly and annoying. And by the way, millennials are the largest generation in the workforce now (and definitely the largest using social media).

So, please stop social selling and just start socially being yourself. Be kind, gracious, helpful, and interesting. Listen and share. Help people. Connect people to one another. And stop being something that you would be embarrassed to be in person. This is your person. Social media is an extension of you (not some sales tactic). Use it with grace.

(Please know the sarcasm herein is meant for humor and is written with love and lightness.)

[Originally published on LinkedIn]