Friday, March 9, 2012

Three Most Important (And Simple) Rules For Social Media

Yes, three simple rules, but first a bit of context.

I am asked regularly to speak on social media communications and management. They are seeking for me to help frame the role that the evolving social media world is having on brands, consumers, purchasing... Really, everything and everyone. In this ongoing work with clients, I have formed various guides and offered lots of advice. In this quest to offer solutions, I kept deleting slides and boiling the information down further and further. I finally arrived at one simple piece of advice with three rules. Thus far, I have yet to find someone who can break them.

It's true if it's on a t-shirt!
But first, a bit of an aside. I am NOT a Social Media expert. Do I work a lot within social media channels? Yes. Do I actively test and use the latest social media channels and tools? Absolutely. However, I still believe that anyone billing themselves as a "Social Media Expert" should be viewed with skepticism. I advise anyone looking to engage an expert in social media to ask them about their experience not in social media, but about their experience in public relations, communication, journalism, brand strategy and storytelling. The lack of the ability to convey a coherent idea and to contextualize situations is the biggest challenge, not finding the latest app.

Now, on to it...

The Three Most Important Rules in Social Media

1.   Be Responsive
Ensure that you not only have a process for monitoring social media, but be prepared to quickly engage when conversations do start. Many people still assume that their social media messages will go unanswered by companies. Prompt engagement, even bad news, will diffuse many problems before they grow. 
2.   Be Honest
This should go without saying, but it is the rule most broken. Follow the same rules you should follow in public relations. Clearly and simply explain what you are trying to convey. Brevity and simplicity is key, but distorting the truth is an absolute no no. Communication, even Tweets, live forever now. Lack of honesty will come back to get you.
3.   Be Authentic
Use your own life experiences as an example. Let's pick on the airlines for a minute. How many times have you heard the same pat corporate statement to address something bad? "Our policy clearly states..." This is usually followed by some very bad news and a hollow apology. Corporate policies have a place and are necessary at times. However, if you can deliver the news in human terms, use your name, apologize in a real way. This also goes for the terrible auto responses by companies. People are smart enough to know an auto-response. It is worth having a smart, educated (and if possible witty) person on the other end responding with real typed words.   

BONUS:  Anyone who attempts to validate their social media expertise by saying what their Klout Score is, or casually mentioning how many Twitter Followers they have deserves a quick, but powerful, kick in the ass.
Instead, look at what the person is communicating, how they are communicating it and what the response is.

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