The First Rule of Social Media Marketing


What if I required you to share this post before you read it?

It’s ludicrous to ask you to spread my work before I’ve proven that I deserve your attention. It’s a tactic that bets your selfish desire for a shiny object will trump the value you place on your social network.

It’s time to reverse this trend.

What a Bad Bet looks like

I received this email today from Yobongo.

Subject Line: Get Priority Acces to our Private Beta


We have super exciting news to share — we’re starting our private beta today! We’ve been tight lipped about Yobongo, but we are ready to start sharing what we’ve been working on. Be one of the few to experience Yobongo ahead of our public launch.

Space in the beta is limited, but you can get priority access when you share your personal link (below) with friends. The more friends you invite the quicker you’ll get access!

Get Priority Access:
Post to Twitter, share on Facebook, or share your link via email or IM.

Post to Twitter

Share on Facebook

The Yobongo Team

*Note the typo in the subject line is theirs not mine.

The Attention Economy

Yobongo made the wager I valued access more than your attention.

They assumed I’d willingly share a service with my friends that I haven’t even tried. If asking my community to click some link in the hopes of being one of the chosen few with “priority access” is the price of admission then I’m not buying.

This is an attention economy – When you choose to follow me on Twitter or Facebook you have given me permission to enter your busy world and the moment I take your attention for granted or leverage it to get “priority access” then I’ve broken that trust.

If I share a link inviting you to a service by-gosh it better offer you an invite or I’ve wasted attention capital. Worse, I’ve wasted your time.

I’ve shared hundreds of apps through tweets, posts, and podcasts so there is little doubt if I found Yobongo useful or interesting I’d tell you about it. To further prove that point, and to spite Yobongo’s efforts to capitalize on the pre-SXSW buzz, feel free to ignore them and check out Beluga or Kik.

UPDATE: Yobongo’s founder was kind enough to respond in the comments. I want to be clear that Yobongo does not attempt to mislead you into an “auto-tweet” or share. I greatly respect any startup founder that takes time to respond. Thanks Caleb. That being said my point still stands

The problem is much bigger than Yobongo, here are just a few common examples:

  • Download my free CD, just like/share it first
  • Download my guide to blogging success just “like” me
  • RT this for your chance for a free iPad

All of these make one crucial error…

The Lesson

Be Amazing. First.

Spend the time delivering what you promised and people will naturally share with their friends. There is no harm in giving people the opportunity to share your content, in fact, you should – but requiring it prior to delivery is a sleazy gimmick.

Social Media Marketing is first about creating real fans and then enabling them to share your work.

  • Want people to share your new free CD? Record amazing tracks.
  • Want people to share your free ebook? Make it unique and useful (Better yet spend time blogging and giving away your knowledge first)
  • Want people to talk about your app? Use groundbreaking tech & a slick design

But whatever you do – don’t ask me to share before YOU deliver.

Value the attention of your community. Value the voice of authentic fans.

-photo by Kelsey Shearer

3 responses to “The First Rule of Social Media Marketing”

  1. calebelston says:

    Caleb from Yobongo here.

    I appreciate your thoughtful post. We agree that companies should be remarkable and give users a way to easily share their excitement on their own terms. We hate companies that ask for your account credentials only to post to your Facebook wall or tweet without your knowledge.

    We do not intend to trick or mislead anyone. We have a very limited number of spots in the private beta (due to the way Apple allows developers to run betas). We wanted to give people who were most excited to try the app a way to get in faster.

    Would be happy to chat offline if you have other concerns. You can email me directly, caleb at


    • Keith says:

      I didn’t mean to take this out on Yobongo, this email just touched a nerve
      that’s been agitated previously too often. I really appreciate you taking
      the time to visit and respond. I look forward to trying your app I just
      don’t appreciate being asked to help create buzz prior to even being able to
      try it.

      You get a great deal of respect from me for being responsive. Thank you

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