When dealing with social media, steering a course through the reams of advice can be tricky. That’s why in this post I’m giving my top 5 personal guidelines.
Some folk are intimidated by the gadgetry, jargon and ‘otherness’ of the virtual world. Still more swear it is – and will always remain – irrelevant to their lives. So what follow are my 5 points on Social Media: what not to do.
1. Don’t think of the virtual world and the ‘real’ world as separate
Many people just see the gadget – tablet or smartphone or computer – and they build a wall in their minds. It seems like something ‘extra’ to do, and they’re too busy. They’ll do it once but not regularly. They’ll do it later, perhaps.
Yet the social media world is no more than an extension of the real world. You know the people you’re contacting: you met them before and you’ll probably meet them again. They’re friends, family and acquaintances because you like them, or perhaps they’re useful. Either way, they are flesh and blood not an avatar. What would you say if you were having a cup of tea together? Well, just say that. Many people find once they break down this mental wall, embracing social digital technology stops being an additional chore and starts being an intrinsic part of daily life.
2. Don’t do everything
It’s perfectly fine to use a few well. You don’t have to blog; you don’t have to use every app; you don’t have to use every social media network. You don’t even have to Tweet or update Facebook regularly. Just follow people you’re interested in and read what they have to say, just like your regular magazine you buy from the newsagents.
It’s true some people are everywhere online, but they’re often saying similar things and posting the same photos everywhere too. I sometimes have conversations that wander across more than one social media network and via text, because that seems appropriate. Often people will select a network as a way of screening their communications and they only talk to a few particular people using that network. If that network’s icon appears, they’ll check. I wouldn’t recommend the scattergun approach, particularly if you don’t have the energy or resources to maintain a full presence all over the place.
3. Don’t outsource completely
You might not want to bother with social media so you hire a charming social media agency to do it all for you. Stop! As well as doing your due diligence to discover if they can spell, where they are active and what their own activities look like over a prolonged period, you might want to pause to wonder how they can think for you. Well, the answer is that unless they’re one of the vanishingly few psychic agencies, they cannot think for you. You have to do that; guide them and in turn be guided by them. You have to control your messaging over the long term. Otherwise, why would you trust someone to use your owned and earned advertising on your behalf?
Which brings us to…
4. Don’t stop planning.
If you’re doing anything other than chat to friends and family on social networks, you need to make a plan. Why? Planning helps you get a consistent message across to a target audience. It also means you don’t run out of steam after a couple of weeks. However, my point here is to stress you should continue to plan after your initial plan. You need to measure, assess, rewrite, revise and – yes – re-plan your plan. This way you can improve your skills online until it communicating online becomes second nature.
5. Don’t become something you’re not.
You don’t have to lose your British modesty/ diffidence/ reticence and force yourself to create a brash extrovert presence online. Social media is just a flexible series of tools and channels you can use in whatever way you like. In fact the prevalence of text-based communication (discussed here) over speech-based communication shows a certain diffidence in not wanting to interrupt people.
You can carry on saying please and thankyou. You can say things are ‘not bad’ instead of ‘awesome’. You can be as genteel and positive or crude and poisonous as you are in real life. Just remember that every word you write is recorded somewhere; can often be read by someone in addition to the intended recipient; and just like your demeanour in real life makes the difference between people engaging with you and ignoring you (and hoping you go away). After all, the ‘virtual’ world can be full of anonymous trolls or supportive friends. However in essence it is only an extension of the ‘real’ world. Don’t ignore it: enjoy shaping it as you will.
6. Get in touch
If you want help with your own business marketing, get in touch with me. Drive Your Marketing puts you back in the driving seat to really drive your marketing forward. Mark Goldfinch MA is a Kent-based strategic communications consultant and founder of Drive Your Marketing.