The following list of social media best practices is culled from various lists around the Web (and linked to accordingly) as well as some of my own thoughts on the topic.
- Social media is not a strategy. How does social media fit within your overall communications strategy? Twitter is not a strategy. Facebook is not a strategy. These are tools and venues. Identify the audiences you want to reach, decide what you want to accomplish, research where your audience(s) are (or are not) participating in social media, how they behave there, what their media diet is, what technology they use and how they use it.
- Commit. Devote enough time and resources to accomplish your goals.
- Transparency. Honesty. Authenticity. Above all, do not deceive! People will find out and you will pay for it. Be up front about who you are and what you want.
- Let go. Understand that you do not control the message. You never have. The only thing that has changed is that you can now hear that you don’t control the message.
- Success. What does it look like? How will you know if you’ve accomplished your goals? Define success, then…
- Measure. Determine how you can measure degrees of success so you can gage your effectiveness and make adjustments as needed and in stride. Determine what your return on investment should be and be prepared to be able to demonstrate it.
- The more you give, the more you get. Add value. If you are just in it for yourself, you’re not going to get anything out of it and you’ll probably end up alienating the very people you with whom you want to communicate. Think of what value that you can add to an online community. Don’t SHOUT, converse.
- Be consistent. Mitch Joel advocates being consistent in everything you do. Choose a consistent username to use across channels to make it easier for people to find your elsewhere once they know you from somewhere. If you start with a weekly publishing schedule don’t change later to a monthly schedule. It’s better to ramp up than scale back: If you’re unsure of your ability to consistently publish weekly, start out monthly–you can always increase your frequency. Don’t try and be everywhere. Pick your channels and stick to them and contribute steadily. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Observe. Before you engage, watch closely how the members of a community in which you want to participate behave within that community.Identify that community’s leaders and study how they interact with the rest of the community. Study how communications flow within the community, what are the norms of the community, the dos and don’ts, the ton of language. Spend time getting to know the lay of the land and the nature of the members before participating. When in Rome, do as the Romans do!
- Embrace your audience. Jason Falls says: Respect your audience. Like them. Assume they are smart. Allow for the fact that they may be smarter than you. You might even learn something from them. Demonstrate your trust in them and they will trust you.
- Take a breath. While it’s natural to be defensive in the face of criticism and to plug our ears, resist the temptation. Don’t respond immediately to criticism; you’ll likely respond emotionally and may exacerbate the problem and feed the flames of criticism. Step back, take a breath, and think about how to respond. If the criticism is valid, think about how to resolve the issue. If the criticism is not valid, the critic himself will often demonstrate how unreasonable he is being. If you’re customers are generally enthusiastic about your company or brand, they will often come to your defense without you having to say boo.
- Capitalize on critics. Listen to the critic. Is the criticism valid? If it is, then this is a chance to learn and improve. If the criticism is legitimate, this is a chance to demonstrate your commitment to solving a problem. No one’s perfect and no one expects companies to be perfect. People understand mistakes will happen; what’s important is how you deal with it. By acknowledging and addressing legitimate criticism, you have an opportunity to shine publicly. By successfully resolving an issue through social media, you will often turn that original critic into a champion and win the respect and praises of the onlookers to boot. Chris Brogan says listen, too.
- Be social. There’s a reason it’s called social media: You can connect through it. The more connections you make, the more opportunities you create for people to find you. Or refer you. Make it easy for others to make connections to yourself. The more you connect, the more opportunities you are giving yourself to connect with others.
- Attribute. Give credit where credit is due. While social media tools make it very easy to share content, as a result of that effortlessness they also make it very easy to forget to give credit. Make a point of giving credit. People are thankful when you highlight their contributions and, conversely, people will often call you out when you fail to give credit.
- Engage. Where and when appropriate, participate in online conversations. Morriss Partee suggests several ways to engage with bloggers: 1) Write a guest blog post for someone else, 2) ask a well-known blogger to write a guest post for you, 3) develop a blogger outreach program, 4) comment on others’ blogs, 5) highlight others’ work (everyone likes to be appreciated and appreciates those who appreciate them!), and 6) ask other influentials to write about an important subject of mutual interest (start a meme).
- Enable & Orchestrate. Help the group you want to communicate, communicate. Help them communicate with you–make it easy for them to engage you in a dialog. This is a great mechanism for discovering new ideas from your customers or supporters and can serve as your organization’s own focus group. Help them communicate with one another–make it easy for them to tell their stories to one another and to the rest of the world.
- Harmonize. Think of how the various elements of your social media program work in tandem and harmony. Are you featuring your YouTube videos on your Facebook and MySpace pages? Are you embedding your Fickrphotos on your Web site or blog? Is your social media content optimized to contribute to your overall search engine marketing campaign?
Social Media Best Practices Links
Read my own LinkedIn Best Practices for Business. Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation started a Social Media Best Practices meme last September, some of which is included above. The following are some of the better links: