Four Unbreakable Social Media Rules

by | Jan 5, 2010

The TED commandments of public speaking

1. Thou shalt be active.

In social media, you have to establish yourself as part of the community. Don’t just set up an account, make a couple of status updates or send a couple of tweets, and then decide that it’s not working. Social media marketing is not a magic bullet (nothing is). It takes time, and the most popular people online have been doing it for years.

Look at it as an investment. You’re investing in a community that will give you more informal access to your customers, to their hopes and dreams and disappointments. You can find out what they love and what they hate about you. It is easier than EVER to get feedback from people on how you’re doing, so that you can make your company into everything that your ideal customer would want.

Once you’re doing that, you can transform casual customers into hardcore fans. And hardcore fans are the ones who pimp you out to everybody they know.

2. Thou shalt be transparent—but not too transparent.

If you’re balancing work and personal stuff on sites like Twitter and Facebook, go for the 80/20 rule: 80 percent professional, 20 percent personal. That’s just enough to make people feel like they “know” you without giving up a ton of your privacy. And remember: people are more likely to buy from people they know than from people they don’t know.

Also, unless you’re plugging the awesome deli on the corner where you just had lunch, nobody cares about what kind of sandwich you’re eating. Even your personal posts need to have some guidelines.

3. Thou shalt not worry about making somebody angry.

Participating in any kind of back-and-forth with dozens—or hundreds—of anonymous people will eventually result in somebody getting ticked off. People don’t agree on everything. Heck, I can’t even get three people to agree on a radio station in my car. Just accept that sometimes, especially when you’re expressing an opinion, somebody’s going to take offense.

The only way to stop it is to make everything you write so utterly bland and flavorless that nobody would read it long enough to agree with you. And in social media, that’s more often worse than making people angry.

I’m not saying that you need to be deliberately antagonistic when you’re writing a post, or a Twitter update, or a bulletin. Just don’t completely neuter your point of view.

4. Thou shalt not post when angry.

And when somebody does get angry, as we discussed above, remember this rule. Never post when you’re angry. Don’t comment, don’t send an email, don’t interact with anybody. It’s so easy to spout off online when you’re angry, and engaging in a flame war will have very real, detrimental effects to both you and your business if you’re not careful.

Take some time to cool off before you post. Step away from the computer. Take a walk. Get some other work done. Eat some chocolate. Just make sure that you have to have control of yourself before you sit back down at the keyboard.

The thing to remember about the online world is that nobody has the benefit of hearing the tone or seeing the body language behind the words, and everything you do reflects on your company. Everything.

A poor reaction could cost you business. However, if you handle negative posts properly, you’ll earn a lot of esteem and respect in your community for doing so.

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Picture by dullhunk