5 Things To Do, and 5 Not To, on Social Media

If you’re a business venturing into the world of social media, it can be confusing. Should you be formal or friendly? Update frequently or cautiously? Talk about yourself or your business? Advertise or not? Can you joke?

Here are a few quick pointers for those starting to use social media for their business.

5 Things To Do

  1. Listen
  2. The first thing to know about social media is that it’s 2-way. You can’t treat it like an advert or a press release if you want to see results. Your customers and potential customers are on social media – chatting. Treat social media sites like a conversation at a party – join in, but listen before you speak. Get to know what the topic is, and what people’s opinions are. There’s much less chance of making a gaffe.

  3. Respond
  4. Don’t be the wallflower at the party. At some point you have to join the conversation. If someone reaches out to you (other than the inevitable few spammers), then reply. It’s only polite. If there’s an interesting topic going on, join in. Feel free to make a joke (but see #5 in the Things Not To Do). No-one will hear what you have to say unless you say it.

  5. Update frequently
  6. The right frequency depends on a complex mix – the site (Twitter is frequent, Facebook less so), what you have to say, your audience, your feedback, and what you want to achieve. But while it’s hard to give an exact formula for how often to update, it’s generally fairly easy to get right if you’ve followed steps #1 and #2. Who is popular on the site (businesses not celebrities, different rules apply for celebs). How often do they update? And watch for feedback – are you gaining or losing followers when you change your update frequency?

  7. Be human
  8. Social media is – again – a conversation. Don’t issue press releases and expect anyone to be interested. Be a person, someone that people want to talk to. Speak engagingly, offer opinions, join in conversations and memes (popular topics). Have fun and help others to.

  9. Make new connections
  10. You never know who might be useful. You never know who might be interesting. Avoid being too targetted in your connections – this isn’t like direct mail where you’re trying to narrow down your list as tightly as possible. Be prepared to talk to people who are interested whoever they may be (except a few strange spammers), and follow people who interest you as well as people who might be useful. Think of it as a party not a networking event, and relax a bit.

5 Things Not To Do

  1. DON’T Sell
  2. If you’re a business using social media, of course you want sales. But the people on social media aren’t shopping, they’re chatting, and if you start out trying to sell straight away you’ll be as popular as a double glazing salesman breaking into a cheerful gossip session. Sure, you’re looking for sales – but social media gives you a chance at a much bigger prize – to get your customers to like you and want to give you business. So concentrate on being likeable and/or interesting first.

  3. DON’T Broadcast without receiving
  4. There are many, many people on Twitter who are sending out frequent, interesting tidbits on Twitter, and getting no followers. Why? Because they’re on broadcast only. Without a two-way interaction, you won’t get anyone really engaged with you and wanting to know more about you. You know what they say – the most interesting person at the party is the one who wants to talk about you. Also, you can pick up some great info about what people actually want, without paying a fortune for market research and customer satisfaction surveys.

  5. DON’T Speak in corporate-speak
  6. I’ve said this a lot already, but let’s say it again. People are on social media to relax, talk to friends, find out about things they’re interested in, chat, catch up on news/gossip. They’re not reading a business journal, doing academic research (or if they are, they’re not potential customers anyway). They will be interested in you if you’re someone they can relate to. You might be cool, interesting, exciting, likeable – but don’t be corporate, cliched or stilted. You won’t win any friends.

  7. DON’T Spam
  8. There are spammers on social media sites. Don’t be one of them. Don’t send unsolicited sales messages to people who aren’t following you.
    There are also legitimate businesses who don’t realise they’re annoying their customers, but who update far too frequently. Get the frequency right, and watch for feedback. If you’re losing followers or getting complaints, cut your updates. Better to have occasional updates which are being read than frequent updates which are turned off.

  9. DON’T Say something really stupid or rude
  10. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who’ve made stupid gaffes. Don’t forget that you’re using Twitter to promote your business, and anything you say reflects on your business. Be human, but don’t be an ass. Act like the host at a party, and avoid saying anything that might alienate your guests. And be wary of jokes – social media lacks context, and I guarantee that if you make an ironic comment, at least 10% of the readers will think you meant it. Flag jokes clearly, and avoid joking about controversial topics – save those jokes for your friends.

If you follow these rules, you should be well on the way to a great experience using social media for your business. And having some fun along the way.

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