Unsolicited Advice: REALLY? Did I Ask For Your Help?

A.K.A. Is Your Way Of Helping Actually Helpful?

Before I dive into the snark, let me first say that I ABSOLUTELY ask for help when I’m stumped. I have a large group of go-to men and women with whom I can converse on a wide variety of marketing and design topics.

If I’m stumped about something new going in in the pin-o-sphere, also known as Pinterest, I know I can reach out to Alisa Meredith or Jeff Sieh. If I feel the spirit in my online community could use a boost, I reach out to exemplary community managers like Christin Kardos or Brooke Ballard. When I’m designing a web site and need some developer chops or want a little advice on working with a less-than-stellar client, I reach out to my pal Erin Flynn.

While you should abso-posi-lutely check out each link I shared above, the most important part of the paragraph above might get lost in the midst of a list of fabulous resources. So let me fine it down and make it stand out:

I reach out to these individuals, in the instance of an issue or when I’m stumped on a how-to or why. They don’t randomly assume I’m an idiot who can’t manage to run my business on my own.

Unsolicited Advice? It’s Rather Unhelpful!

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that few people like to get unsolicited advice.

Picture this, a six year old girl cries as she tells her mother that no one wants to sit with her at lunch. The kicker, this nice little girl was bringing her lunch loneliness on herself. How? She was a speedy reader and generally finished her reading comprehension work before the rest of her classmates. When she finished, she felt compelled to “help” her slower classmates. Needless to say, they didn’t like her unsolicited advice and assistance.

I’m pretty sure you know that little girl grew up to be a coffee swilling social media  and design addict. Me. But I learned a lesson. I try hard not to offer up advice if it hasn’t been requested. Sure, it can be hard to bite one’s tongue when we see someone making what we consider a “mistake”, but there are several reasons to tamp down the urge to assist:

  1. There’s no one RIGHT way to connect and engage. If there was, there’d be no need for social business consultants. There would be a simple formula that everyone could easily follow.
  2. There’s no EASY button. Connection and engagement don’t come without hard work. They don’t come fast or cheap.
  3. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Because of the day to day changes, updates and tweaks of each of the social platforms, our industry is in a constant state of flux. We have to stay on our toes and occasionally an update or ToS change might slip past.
  4. You haven’t earned it yet. If you’ve just landed your first client, your own accounts appear sparse and less than well received or you simply don’t have much time in the trenches – it’s probably not a good idea to tell the veteran that they’re flubbing.

Private Is More Personal!

If you absolutely MUST chime in? Take it private. Don’t blast anyone via their feed, where it’s visible for all and sundry to see. No matter how gently you think you’ve broached a subject, it’s not right to call anyone out publicly (unless they’re a plagiarist or a bully- and even then I always go private first). Attacks like this make you look like a d-bag. And I use the word “attack” advisedly. It’s like a physical blow to the recipient.

Don’t tell anyone they’re doing it wrong? Instead, privately, ask if they’ve had a chance to check out the changes to ToS, or the latest news on the specific topic. Let them gain the knowledge on their own. If they ignore your private “proof” of something not right, maybe you need to consider they’re doing what works for them and you need to just let it go.

But, Mallie … look at your own blog posts. You regularly call people out!

No, actually, I don’t! I call out actions. You’ll NEVER see a handle attached to a read about the dumb that is the automated DM. You never see a name when I’m feeling dismay at Facebook group faux pas. Actions don’t have feelings. Actions don’t feel persecuted. Actions don’t feel like they’ve been slapped in the face.

But people do. And as snarky as I am, I’m a people person. And I know and like many a person who engages in actions I find questionable. Amazingly enough, when I call out actions I still manage to remain friendly with these peers. Because I don’t attack any of them personally. And I never will.

Help Yourself First!

If your unsolicited advice causes the recipient to snarl at you, you might want to rethink your approach. If that helpful hint gets you unfollowed, you might want to take a deeper look at your own actions and stop trying to sort out everyone around you.

Unsolicited Advice: REALLY? Did I Ask For Your Help?

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7 replies
  1. Robin Strohmaier
    Robin Strohmaier says:

    Excellent article, Mallie! Thank you for the shout out! I couldn’t agree with you more that if someone must chime in with advice, it should be done privately. It would be great if there was an official Facebook Netiquette Policy that each had to agree to follow before they were allowed to join FB. You nailed this, Mallie! And, I love the story of the little girl. Although sad for that little girl, it served as the perfect analogy.

  2. Chichi
    Chichi says:

    Hi Mallie,

    I enjoyed reading your post and your title really resonated with me. I agree that unsolicited advice is often unwelcome and is better given privately. Besides, our perception of the correct way to do things may be subjective and therefore open to debate.

    • Mallie Hart
      Mallie Hart says:

      Thanks, Chichi. You’re so right about the “right way” being subjective and open to interpretation, especially when it comes to digital and social media marketing.

  3. Pauline
    Pauline says:

    Oh my goodness, I knew it all too!! 🙂 Can you imagine the girl fights we coulda had?!

    Excellent way of illustrating your point in this well written (as usual) article!

    • Mallie Hart
      Mallie Hart says:

      Thanks, Pauline. I was a sensitive know-it-all. I really thought I was helping. My fighting nature didn’t come out until a bit later in life!

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