Tell me if you’ve had an experience like this before.

Once upon a time, I saw a link to a blog that seemed pretty interesting. It was a somewhat controversial blog post, the general jist of which being that the blogger in question was always getting blamed for not following through on what was promised. “I always comment back to my commenters” was one of the statements in the post. Well, being the sympathetic, heartily interested type, I left a comment. It seemed like the blogger was making good on their promise. Lots and lots of comments back. But then, after about a day, the comments stopped. This was about 3 or 4 months ago, and do you know what? I still haven’t gotten a response back.

I’m not the kind of person who really stresses if I don’t get a response back on a comment. However, if you make a big stink about how good you are at replying and then you don’t, it makes me stroke my invisible beard.

It can happen a million times a day

Now here’s the reason why this post is not going to turn into a “boy did that person smell like old baked beans” post. We’ve been talking about the quid pro quo nature of Social Media, right? The “give to get” modus operandi for success. This means that you are constantly faced with a situation where you could be saying yes to people because you honestly want to help them in whatever way you can. You say yes to reading a blog post. You say yes to proofreading something. You say yes to offering advice.

In addition to all of that, there are blog posts you write talking about how you’ll never do this or you’ll always do that.

Are you keeping track of that?

Keep it simple

It’s not a bad thing to have high objectives for yourself. In fact, it’s a very good thing. But in the world of Social Media, your words leave prints, and people seem to have a knack for remembering your words exactly when you don’t live up to them (it’s an odd quirk, that). One way around this problem is to verbalize your goals, but to be a little…imprecise about them. For example:

Instead of saying, “I will respond to every single comment,” set the expectation that you will do your best to respond to comments.

Instead of saying, “Yes, I can definitely do that for you,” set an expectation for the person. “I’ll try to get to that tomorrow. Is that okay?”

Honesty is really important in Social Media. A lot of people talk about transparency, but this is a little bit different. It’s honesty in the old-fashioned, “I mean what I say, Horton Hears a Who” kind of way. So, if someone asks you to read a 75 page novelette and you know you just don’t have the time for it, say so. Right then. My experience has been that if you say no (apologetically is nice), the person will rush to find someone else. If you dangle a person, they will start to get frustrated, and rightfully so.

Before you hit send or publish, do a gut check

If you are not sure if you are over-promising, take a period of time and really look carefully at what you are saying in your blogs and/or in your tweets. Are you using words like “never” or “always?” Are you using words like “yes” instead of “maybe”? If you were a stranger coming to your blog, would you have certain expectations (there’s that word again) based on the language you see?

The bull in the china shop

Walking your talk is a very delicate dance in the online world. You’re communicating a lot with a lot of different people. The more you make good on your promises, the better your reputation will become, which is great. But if you make a real big disconnect between a promise and an action, it can be like a bull in a china shop, and all of that hard work building trust will go down the toilet.

As we have discussed, we can’t control others’ expectations of us, but we can strive to set our own expectations, and we can strive to live up to those expectations. Make sure the expectations you are placing on yourself are achievable and realistic. Better to create small goals and always meet them then to publicly set a large goal and miss it.

Does this make sense? Any questions?