Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Do's and Don’ts of Social Media

From an individual perspective, social media doesn't come with any rules, per se. For businesses, however, it's very easy to make a faux pas, as has been shown by the likes of Dell Hell, Domino's wonderful staff, #Habitat and Boeing for Kids. So here are some basic guidelines to what you shouldn't do, followed by what you can do instead.

Don't 'fake it till you make it'.
Just because everyone’s talking about social media doesn't mean you should just jump into it head first, eyes closed. Social media is live, direct and permanently monitored. Whatever you post on Twitter will forever remain accessible somewhere online, even if you delete the Tweet. In other words, if you start using social media without a plan, you're taking the first step towards making yourself a target for a public bashing.

Do listen before you act.
The most important thing you must do before taking an active part in social media, is to familiarise yourself with it. Find out what people are saying about your industry and whether any of your competitors are already using social networks. This can help you learn from their mistakes and create original campaigns. Also, make sure to research the right platforms for your business.

Don't fib your way through marketing.
Sounds pretty obvious, but let's spell it out as clearly as possible: Gone are the days where Doctors sell your cigarettes. You can't control what others are saying about you in social media - unless they become one of your 'Brand Ambassadors', or external parties you hire to advocate your brand. You can however make sure that you say the right thing. Research your approach, carefully plan it out, and then present yourself. If you tell everyone you're the best and you're not, social media will quickly shine a light on your deception.

Do share as much as possible about your business.
Again, this may sound obvious but it's not as easy as you think. Be consistent in your message, engage your community with original and interesting material, and keep revisiting your social media 'environment' to make sure you are still sharing the right information.

Don't push, bother, and spam.
Social media could well prove a very important point over the next few years: Impressing sales pressure tactics on people is not the way to go! If you can get your target audience together under your virtual 'roof', then why spam them? They're right there for you to talk with, not at.

Do deliver great content and create a strong, qualitative network.
If you create interesting material for your community, it will grow. If you engage them directly and personably, you'll get positive reactions. If you develop a community based on the right type of people, and not the right number (as is often the case, quality outweighs quantity!), you'll have more impact with your message and subsequently will create more business.

Don't use social media platforms because they are trending.
If you ask someone in 2010 to describe social media in one word, there's a good chance they'll say 'Facebook', or 'Twitter', or 'WordPress'. If you asked someone the same question four years ago, they probably would have responded 'MySpace', 'Bebo' or 'Blogger/Blogspot'. My point here is that social media is ever changing, and full of variety for everyone, and you need to be in tune with that to succeed.

Do Create your own trends on platforms specific to you.
Don't use Facebook just because everyone else does; use it because the people you want to do business with, are there. Find social networks more suitable to your needs and capitalise on concentrated areas, not saturated ones. Once you master the ability to generate highly engaging information, you'll capture the attention of those you want at every turn, and not those that are of no interest to your success.

Next up: Networking

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