I tried an interesting social experiment recently for my bday…

It seems every time you have a birthday, the social media world has evolved at the speed of lightning in the course of just 12 months and the EXPLOSION of bday responses you get can come differently towards you each year. This year, something with Facebook’s algorithm / settings changed and instead of writing on my timeline, everyone sent an individual message (which flooded my inbox) or commented on some random photo on my wall. I’ve done it to people too, of course, but when you’ve got thousands of “friends” (or “connections” is probably a better word for it) it makes a big difference. LinkedIn’s settings this year made for another inbox explosion – but that must’ve been the same thing as last year, perhaps I just didn’t pay much attention to it.

One LinkedIn connection’s bday response made me try this experiment. He hit me up with the normal “Happy birthday!” automatic message you can send to anyone with the click of a button. However, the humanity in him paused enough to say afterwards: “Hey – I just noticed that I said the same thing to you last year and so I figured I should probably say something to you differently than just the same thing year after year. So what’s new in your world, what’s changed since last year for you?” The human touch gave me pause as well. It prompted an immediate peek down a rabbit hole of potentially snowballing communications. Sure, I can respond to this one person, but what if every person who said happy birthday to me ended up in a meaningful (or otherwise) dialogue?

Well this year I’m in entrepreneur world and I can (somewhat) afford the time to try this experiment out. The results? Well, they amazed even me.

I took this young man’s lead and began sending meaningful messages back to every single person I could get to that sent me a regular happy birthday message. Every. Single. One. I’m still digging down the messages now. My message said something like this:

“Thanks so much Linda! I had a great birthday and as a matter of fact was just featured for my thoughts on logo design by Logojoy. Kind of cool! How’s business in your world? PS – here’s the article if you care to see it: https://theadsagency.co/2017/04/04/entrepreneurs-heres-our-tip-for-designing-a-logo/).

True enough, it was copying and pasting and you had to be careful to change out the name before you hit send, but it felt like a more personalized message. Here’s what that message did:

(1) It provided some color for a birthday response (something beyond the robotic “Thank you!” message we usually give, if any).

(2) I gave them some insight into what I’m doing in my world (because I’m certain most of my contacts don’t even know what I do, just like I don’t know what they do).

(3) It drove traffic to my own blog site (and I could see that the source was mostly from LinkedIn – I didn’t do this with my Facebook audience until I saw what it was doing with my LinkedIn audience).

(4) I asked them about what’s happening in their world – leaving an opening for conversation if desired.

True enough, most people don’t want to be bothered, they were just being nice trying to say happy birthday because they saw your name popped up. However, I was shocked by the number of people who actually responded with a lengthy and individualized answer back! As well as the people who took the time to read my blog post I provided and leave a comment or come back to me with their feedback. Amazing!

I was also astounded to hear that one of my LinkedIn contacts is actually homeless. He was asking for marketing/branding advice for his own business which he was desperately working on. My heart immediately sank and I asked him if he’s ever heard of United Way 2-1-1. “It’s just like 911 for housing/food/clothing, etc. emergencies. Call it and ask for whatever you need help with – transitional housing, etc.” I hope he takes me up on that advice, in addition to the marketing/branding advice he’s still astonishingly asking for even in his state.

I say all this to say that there’s one ultimate point not on the list above that I learned from my quick bday experiment:

Getting to know your own audience is the touch of humanity we so often look for.

If you care at all about personal branding, you also likely have a rather large audience consisting of people you know nothing about other than potentially their job title and company when you cross paths digitally. It was amazing to me to hear the stories of what people are grappling with, winning at, wanting help for right now, etc. Yes, some of those actually turned into leads for ADS which is fine. But I mostly care about the fact that it made my online world feel a little bit smaller that day.

A word of caution: the follow-up for this is drastically time-consuming. I literally killed an entire day and a half responding to everyone I possibly could (with few exceptions). But the returns I’m getting out of it are pretty priceless.

With humanity,

Andrea Bday
Andrea D. Smith, Senior Brand Director, The ADS Agency



4 Comments Add yours

  1. daiverson says:

    I appreciate your social experiment, and that you shared your results with us. I usually assume people have so many “expressions” that its more kind to just acknowledge their special milestone and “keep it moving.”
    Your results are pleasantly confirming, as I’d expect that attention from someone as dynamic as you are would be especially appreciated and welcomed by your followers.
    I remember receiving your response, reading your blog, and sending a “short” reply (respectfully).
    It was a pleasant touch and a welcome departure from the normal, perhaps equally obligatory, “thank you.”
    “Good on you!”

    1. MissADS08 says:

      Thank you as always for chiming in – I appreciate that feedback! I wondered what people thought about it on the other end of the messaging! It took FOREVER to do. A lot harder than just clicking “like” a million times on everyone’s Facebook message on a photo. But the results were definitely worth it. I’m STILL responding to those now!

  2. We, your followers, miss you and your posts. I hope you are well and enjoying life!

    1. MissADS08 says:

      Thank you! Yes doing well. I mostly post on my business account – The ADS Agency at theadsagency.co/blog. But you’re right, I should do more posts here sometime that aren’t necessarily business related. Thank you for the encouragement Richard!

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