Weeks and weeks ago, I was ‘tagged’ by the very lovely and talented Ben Ellis of RedCatCo, in a blog-meme about best practices in social media. It’s a great subject, because with social media stuff being as young as it is, we’re not as clued up on how to ‘use’ it as we are with say, a phone. No-one talks about ‘using the phone‘ as a business strategy, and people who misuse the phone (prerecorded spam calls) are generally vilified for being a total pain in the arse. The same could largely be said of email.
But social media has a different engagement curve than phone or email – the one-to-many nature of the conversations lends itself rather too well to getting the balance wrong.
So my suggestion for best practice surrounds the idea of parity. Parity in terms of messages out to messages in, followers to followees and the nature of the information you throw out there. So much of the strategising people do with social media (be it facebook, twitter, myspace, linkedin, or whatever else) still treats these platforms as a broadcast medium. I can’t stress strongly enough, social media is crap for broadcast. If you want to carpet-bomb web-users with info about your product, just buy some dodgy email spam software, and stop misusing twitter as an ad medium. It’s not designed for it, it doesn’t facilitate it, and the rubbish lengths you have to go to to try and shoe-horn your strategy into the platform make you look like a berk.
So, if you’re lost in the midde of it all, try to keep a degree of parity in terms of the numbers of people who follow you and you are following. Moreover, with Twitter, don’t follow more people than the number of tweets you’ve sent – it’s not a hard and fast rule, more a best practice for easing your way in. The excitement of joining in with the fun on twitter often leads to people ‘following’ tonnes of people before actually posting anything, but it just makes you look like a spammer. So slow down, use the ‘reply’ button liberally, don’t feel the desperate need to tweet the link to your site every third tweet. Just have fun, and talk to people.
If you see it as a conversation, and talk the way you’d want to be talked to. If you get annoyed with people who do nothing but talk about their business, don’t become that person.
So beginners best practice?
- Back off,
- seek a degree of parity,
- listen as much as you speak,
- follow as much as you’re followed,
- give as much information as you take,
- offer more free advice than the amount of service-related tweets you do for your own product.
Bottom line – friends are more likely to be into what you do than strangers. So make friends first, and let the other stuffs take care of itself for now.