The 7 Types Of People to Avoid In Social Media

I love social media. As a marketer, a business owner, and a consumer, I love that social media introduces me to the people I need to network with and introduce myself to. To me, that’s its biggest asset – to connect me with the right people, at the right time, to make magic happen. But you can only do that if you’re not wasting your time and cluttering up your view with the wrong people. That’s why one of the most important things you can do in social media is to put steps in place to connect with the right people and avoid wasting your time talking to or seeing the updates of the wrong ones.

Who are the wrong people in social media? The people who you’d be much better off to avoid? In case you haven’t met them, let me introduce you to seven of my non-favorites.

The guy who wants to pick your brain: There’s nothing wrong with using social media as a way to learn more about other people, their business and to share knowledge. As I mentioned before, I actually think that’s the best part of social media. But there becomes a point when some will take advantage. When conversations go from being beneficial to everyone, to a public brain dumping session where you’re suddenly being asked, on repeat, to explain to someone how it is you do what you do…in detail. As a small business owner, you want to be really careful with these pick your brain requests and make sure you nip them in the bud as quickly as possible. Because they’re not beneficial and they won’t help you meet your connectors. Instead, you’ll spend your valuable time offering up free advice and getting nothing done.

The girl who takes herself too seriously: While I’ve found that most people in social media are genuinely nice and interested in having great conversations, some people take themselves just a bit too seriously. You’ll see them tweeting about nasty things about industry newbies and promoting themselves over everyone else. They think they ARE the industry they work in and they want everyone to know it. When you come across these people in the wild, don’t stop and interact with them. In fact, run the other way. These people typically only want to shout about how important and respected they are. They’re not here for everyone else.

The know-it-all: The trouble with the know-it-all isn’t that they annoy everyone by always thinking they’re right, but that they kill the conversation by cutting off debate when they come in shouting. They have a knack for locating great discussions and sharing opinions only to ruin it by jumping in and forcing their way of thinking of everyone else. They hop in and suddenly you notice the conversation stalls and people back away slowly not wanting to get involved or be part of what’s going on. These people represent the exact opposite of what social media is supposed to be about.

The guy always hawking something: This guy has a blog post he wants you to read. And an e-book. And he’s doing a training seminar next week. And he’s going to be on a marketing podcast very soon. How do you know this? You know because it’s all he talks about. He sent you an auto-DM when you followed him, he finds a way to insert it into everything conversation, he left a comment on your blog to tell you, etc. Stay away from the guy in social media who does nothing but hawk his own stuff. Yeah, we’re using these channels for marketing, but there’s a difference between being a marketer and being a shameless self-promoter. People tend not to enjoy speaking with the latter.

The girl who tweets about work…but doesn’t work: If someone is spending their entire day tweeting, chances are they’re not getting much work done, even if they’re tweeting that they’re hard at work. Be cautious of affiliating yourself with these people. It’s not that they’re bad people, but there’s nothing more dangerous than a person with too much time on their hands. It’s like that relative who keeps you out to dinner for four hours just because they have nowhere to be. If you value your time and your day, tread lightly.

The complainer: Somewhere along the line it became acceptable and even encouraged to use social media as your personal complaining zone. You’ve probably met these people. They’re the folks who always appear to be having a bad day and who spend all their social media interactions yelling and screaming and kicking their feet. Do yourself a favor and avoid these folks. They’re looking for the wrong kind of attention and I’ve found that too much exposure to negative people can ruin your mood and your day. Negatively attracts more negativity. Surround yourself with people who are excited about what they’re doing and the people they’re talking to. Because excitement is also contagious. And which would you rather catch?

The social media guru: Hey, don’t get me wrong. A lot of my friends are social media gurus. It’s not that they’re bad people, it’s just that they often don’t bring much value to your business. As a small business owner, you don’t need to be connecting with social media gurus on Twitter. Focus on connecting with your audience – your customers, potential partners, people in your area who would benefit from knowing about you. That is your audience. The social media experts who following 10,000 people are not. You only have so much attention to give out during the day, pick wisely where you’re spending it.

Those are the social media personalities I’d recommend you avoid. Which ones irk you?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

28 Reactions
  1. Following optimistic, inspirational people is one of the best things you can do. They give you a little extra lift in your step when you’re tired and let you know that there is always a silver lining to that rain cloud. I don’t need any Debbie Downers in my feeds.

  2. Michelle McCardell

    Well said Robert!

  3. I get annoyed by the ones who Tweet infrequently and when they do, it’s something inane like “OMG I just had eggs for lunch!!!”

    A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t hang out with the person in real life, do you need to be following them on Twitter?

  4. Lisa-

    Wow, you sure have a lot of preferences here! 🙂

    “The social media guru:…focus on connecting with your audience” Great advice. Who really is a social media guru anyway? Media guru maybe, but when you combine with ‘social’… I have difficulty with that one. I’m not an über social person, and have concluded some marketers happen to have more experience with social media platforms than others.

    What do you think?


  5. First, I love Robert’s comment. Following positive is always better than following negative! Life is short. I occasionally need to recalibrate my own attitude to keep it positive and try to refrain from commenting when I’m in a grumpy mood!

    Travis, I agree with you. There are way too many snake oil salesmen selling their “social media guru” status. Lisa is already pointing those out, I know, and I guess we all need to be careful not to get sucked into some guru vortex. Tap into that Guru within first!!

    It would take me too long to find, but I read a study (within the last three months) that highlighted that a person who has 1,000 followers potentially has greater influence and reach than one with 10,000. I’m adding the hedge of potentially because it depends on who that person is. Many of the people who are active here have huge followings and huge influence (using Klout as one measure). I define influence by asking — do people retweet your stuff? If I go to your follower list on Twitter, as one example, do I see a bunch of eggs? If yes, I’m not so sure about the quality of your list. But if retweets of your stuff is one of the measures, and it happens a lot, I’d consider you more of a guru than the guy/gal who promises to build your Fans or Tweeps to 10,000 in 100 days…

  6. Hi Lisa,

    I enjoyed this post! I agree with Robert’s comment about following positive, inspirational people. I love to see what people in my industry are talking about, and to stimulate conversations on issues that we all face. It really helps to see how others approach issues or to read a great quote to help get me through the day.

    I also agree that people who complain constantly do not bring any value to my daily dose of SM, but usually I respond with a different perspective a few times to see if that spurs a new way of thinking. If not, goodbye to them. I think some people really just don’t understand sites like Twitter, and how to really benefit from them. For those who do “get it” these sites can be a boost to the way we work and live.
    Have a great day!

  7. Great post Lisa. I completely agree with what you recommend. There are many ideas floating around out there for how one should build the best network using Twitter. It’s becomes more complicated with the introduction of social media influences within Google search results. That being said I tend to follow back most people unless they really hit me the wrong way. I don’t keep and eye on my complete timeline all the time but when I do and I see someone blasting crap I kick’em to the curb. Using Twitter lists is a great way to really focus on the people who earned a special place in my heart. If you are a good boy or girl you get on one of my special lists. ha ha 🙂 Focusing on them instead of your main timeline helps to keep things tidy when you want your fix and you start building a large network.

    All the best!

  8. On the last item – social media gurus – I think many startups are connecting with these people to help spread the word about their brands faster, especially when these gurus have already built a strong following or social proof and one tweet can spread like wildfire all over the Twitter sphere. You can’t blame them, especially when you’re talking about free publicity at its best.

  9. I liked your “The guy always hawking something”. When I first started my online business it seemed like marketing equated in your face hawking. Thank goodness I found out otherwise! Great article Lisa.

  10. “The girl who tweets about work…but doesn’t work” ha! This sort of goes along with the person who tells you every single thing they are doing.

  11. I started reading the article and the first type of people hit home – the guy who wants to pick your brain. It is quite common on LinkedIn. I answer questions, I get thanks from people. But some just would not go away asking “how exactly” did you do things. At first, I thought it was an experiment on tolerance. Now I just ignore them.
    Thank you, Lisa, for a good overview. I enjoyed the post.

  12. Amen on #4 (hawking guy). Nothing kills a good blog or linkedin discussion like the onslaught of “”hey, my company does/sells this. check us out at” posts.

    If I wanted to buy your stuff, I’d be on YOUR website!

  13. Great post! I find that the majority of people I come across on social media are one or more of these… I usually avoid the self-promoters like the plague, but some of the others are harder to avoid.

    I also find it ironic that probably half the people following me are others doing most of the same social media stuff that I also do (as a business, I mean.) Not that there is anything wrong with connecting with others in my sphere, its just funny that there are soooooo many of us and we are all so social because we have to be. It’s hard to get good followers that are NOT social media marketers themselves. But hey I am still pretty new, eventually I am sure I can connect with many more good people!

  14. This is a great article for navigating social media!

  15. Great article Lisa. I’m going to post a link to it on my social media so perhaps some of these types will recognise themselves and realise how annoying they can be. I can put up with 6 of your 7 types. the one that really gets me is the broadcaster or “The guy always hawking something” as you call them. They are usually automated and rarely if ever get into conversation with anyone. Even their links are links to something they are promoting. I particularly hate it when, not only do they invade your twitter or Facebook feeds they also DM you daily! How many “friends” do you know that you want to get information (and irrelevant information at that)from daily!?. Apart from my nuclear family who live in the same house as me (and even then I have days when I would rather avoid them) daily has to be reserved for young loves and teenagers otherwise it is just annoying!

  16. Martin Lindeskog


    Thanks for your thought provoking piece.

    I don’t think about negative social media people, so I avoid them in a natural way… 🙂 I search out for individuals who are “traders in matter & spirit.” It is a two-way street out there.

  17. Great article! Oftentimes I find it helps to turn them around by responding to them with positive thoughts, advisements etc. People are sometimes very stimulated by playing “victim” or “information gatherer”. Sometimes just rising to a higher plane and attempting to give them a hand up will help. It’s good to see stuff such as this written, the undesirables are such a necessary part of social media – we can’t do without them.

  18. What irks me are social media folk who write articles with awkward, incoherent, incorrect English usage; i.e., strange prepositional configurations, phonetic duplication of phrases they have apparently heard, but never read. The presentation is ultimately a mishmash of contorted syntax that approximates something — maybe — heard by the writer, but not understood; e.g., “But there becomes a point…”? It’s not just time-consuming and frustrating, it’s downright surreal!

    I understand that sometimes it’s a simple English-as-a-second-language barrier, but that only serves as an excuse for one infraction. Half a dozen or more and whatever is being said is pointless because it’s clear the writer doesn’t care enough to read enough to be accurate. It begs the question: why should I believe her?

    Good English usage is not a multiple-choice option. It’s either true or false.

  19. This is extremely useful information. Your site is certainly on my favorites list. I totally don’t believe in being negative in any way and I absolutely refuse to poison my life with that nonsense! Very Great post Lisa.

  20. :gasp

    I actually agree with you Jennifer. What an angry, distasteful post I left. I’m not usually that way and was horrified to come back to this page and read it!

    My only defense is that major personal “stuff” was unfolding in my life around that time and my furious alter must have taken over.

    I apologize, Lisa, for all of that unnecessary contempt.

  21. This is awesome. Haha. I always enjoy being able to analyze the human-aspect of social media. On a related note – I wrote a blog today about ways NOT to use social media marketing for your small business. I feel like a lot of people could really benefit from it.

    Let me know what you think:

  22. I found this article to be very interesting. Think about the time we’ll be saving if we avoid such people from every category mentioned above! Thank you for sharing.

  23. Yea, I have to agree with the bit of the know-it-all.I know way too many of these types. First problem is that they shut down discussions because you can’t exchange different ideas, everything has to be their way. They never ask question so you can clarify, but when you try to clarify, they will go twelve rounds with you, nitpicking all along the way. Then when you play their game, they change the rules and keep moving the goalposts on you. And even then, if you are able to keep up after 2 1.2 hours, they will backhand any evidence or proof by claim something isn’t creditable or if they can’t say that, they will resort to their experience. Which I normally have no problem with, it’s just that they only go there when they run out of reasons they are right. But when you try to do the same, and quote life experiences, they will then resort to personal attacks.

    Funny thing is, these people usually don’t build, run or develop anything. Most of them don’t have experience of their own to quote from. Who would you rather get advice from, a college professor, or Warren Buffet. The professor may be more book smart, and that’s not to say there isn’t value in that, but Warren Buffet has done it. After a while, not only don’t they sound ignorant and arrogant, but will be less likely to be asked about their opinion, because everyone knows you will get theirs, no matter if you want it on not.

    They are useful for the beginning of the thought process and deciding what to do and not do though. But when it comes to the tough stuff, like converting information into action and the actual action based on that info,.. ummm… where did everyone go? Yea, that’s why people hate know it all’s.