If you are old enough, you probably remember the Sleestacks from the old sci-fi series “Land of the Lost”. Bug-eyed, reptilian creatures, they hated bright light and rarely ventured out during the day, preferring to stalk their human quarry under cover of darkness.
Now that social media in general and Twitter specifically is going more mainstream, it seems like the Sleestacks are scurrying out of their dark corners in increasing numbers. So what does being a social media Sleestack in mean? It means operating in ways that are nefarious at best, dishonest as worst.
As any good Twitterer will tell you, the folks who have been using Twitter for a while can spot a Sleestack a superhighway away. You know the type: they’ve got numbers in their Twitter handles and cleavage in their avatar. Most of the Tweets are either self-promotional and/or irrelevant and there is little, if any, dialogue with anyone else (which is sort of the whole point of Twitter).
A couple of recent examples of Sleestackian activity have come up in my social media world. I’m both a small business owner and a blogger, so I use Twitter in a number of different ways. One of things I use it for is to communicate with PR folks and other bloggers. A recent Twitter pitch was from a self-identified “fan” of our blog, who encouraged us to check out a hot new social media site that, he assured me, was generating lots of buzz. He encouraged me to Google it and see what folks were saying about this slick new site.
Well…I thought something smelled a bit like a lizard so instead of Googling the site, I Googled the guy’s name. This is how I found out that not only did he have the same last name as the site’s founder, but he was listed as an intern of the company on his LinkedIn page. Sleestack alert! The nice thing is, thanks to largely (and perhaps ironically) to social media, the truth about someone is usually just a click or two away.
Another instance is a little less clear-cut and a little more nefarious, which to me makes it even more Sleestackian. One of our competitors posted a fairly nasty post on his blog accusing our company of doing things we weren’t doing. We did a little sleuthing and found out that not only is he following our company on Twitter, he is following every single one of our followers. We had to laugh – didn’t this guy have his own customers to service? Still, he’s a prime example of what I call a Sleestack; rather than having an open dialogue with his own community, he’s using social media to bully, intimidate and steal.
So how can you avoid being a Sleestack? I’ve written a longer piece about The BeeGees of Social Media on our company blog, but here’s the high-level:
- Be real. If you work for a company or have an association with them, be upfront about it.
- Build your own network. Sure all is fair in love and business, but the old rules of list-buying and customer-stealing don’t really apply in social media. You’re far better off with a network of people who have opted to follow you because of the value you are providing them rather than trying to skim from other’s networks.
- Be nice. This one is pretty obvious, but social media is about relationships. If you can’t be nice, no one is going to want you in their network or to do business with you. Besides, a little competition is good for you!
Admittedly, the rules of how to use Twitter are still being written (and re-written and written again!) But if you follow the tips outlined above, at least no one will be able to accuse you of being a social media Sleestack.
Michelle Riggen-Ransom is a writer who focuses on social media, technology, small business, communication and increasingly, the intersection of those topics. She is the Blogger-in-Chief for Pop!Tech, and also co-founder and Communications Director for BatchBlue Software, which makes online tools for small businesses. Having lived at various times in Boston, London, Rome, Florida, Los Angeles and Seattle, Michelle currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and their two budding naturalist/techies.