4 Golden Rules of social media

Sometimes, I think that people over-complicate the reasons why social media works. It's not some magical parallel universe!

However, the greater power of customers to communicate with other customers at great speed and low cost does now mean that false, inconsistent, or inflated claims by organisations rapidly get discovered. And similarly, positive experiences by customers of your services can and will be rapidly shared with their peers.

In other words, social media will punish bad business practices, but if you're delivering a valuable and valued service (and you all are, right?) then social media is an opportunity, not a threat or a nuisance. It's one of the simplest and best branding techniques available, particularly if you value ongoing, personalised relationships with your customers.

Which leads us to the four golden rules for social media:

  1. Understand why you are using each channel
    You should be able to explain the benefits of each social media channel you use, and you will quite likely define a difference audience for each channel. For example, I use Twitter and LinkedIn for three reasons:
    • as a notification channel for posts (like this one)
    • to engage with other IM/KM professionals, and
    • to build brand credibility

    I don't use Facebook for business because knowquestion is primarily a B2B company, making the more consumer-focused interactions of Facebook less relevant.

  2. Be authentic
    In general, people respond better to other people than to "a company". Even if there's a clear representational responsibility, the more that the personalities of your staff can come through, the more memorable and productive the interactions will be. Technology companies tend to be particularly good at this.

  3. Engage, don't preach
    Don't make every interaction about making a sale. Don't make everything you do about proving how smart and clever you are. Listen, ask questions and reach out. You'll be surprised what you can learn as a result.

  4. Be aware of the stories that you are telling or being told
    As you engage with others in various roles (ie vendor, customer, expert, curator) you become part of other people's stories, both positive and negative. This is the biggest mindshift. When your employee posts a homophobic comment, that becomes a story. The long-term benefits of a contract to your clients becomes a story that may be told and repeated many times. Many subtle and not-so-subtle clues feed into how people view the qualities of your company -- but if you aren't aware of them, you won't have to opportunity to shape how they get told.
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