It needn’t be puzzling, frustrating or terrifying. There are some simple rules that make much more straightforward the whole process of using networking sites like Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn, microblogging site Twitter, link-sharing sites like StumbleUpon, Digg or Delicious, photo-sharing site Flickr and video-sharing site YouTube.
Of course there are pitfalls – as companies like Habitat and United Airlines have discovered. But they really are outweighed by the benefits. And forewarned is forearmed so, on this page we set out some secrets for making social media work for you.
Five tips for using social media
- 1. Offer something of value
- Cast your bread upon the waters and it will make its way back to you. People won’t find you interesting, or want to stick with you, if all you do is appeal for their attention or direct them to the same old generic website link. You need to season things with useful tips, insightful observations and items that give your Facebook page or Twitter feed a human face. Your aim is to become indispensable – keep that in mind with everything you post.
- 2. Keep it regular
- Humans are creatures of habit – and they dislike irregularity. Social media works best when used little and often, so don’t post ten tweets and/or Facebook messages all at once on a single day each month and then be surprised when you get little feedback. Posting at a regular time makes also helps you overcome the temptation to waste time online when you need to concentrate your energies elsewhere.
- 3. Be authentic
- This is the single most important piece of advice we can give. Most proficient users of social media have extremely well-developed bullshit detectors. But, more importantly, if you are trying to establish yourself as a member (and eventual leader) of a particular ‘tribe’ – such as a group of sports fans – then you must strike exactly the right tone of voice. You’ll do that best by sticking to what you really know – or delegating effectively. It always works best when there’s an identifiable human being rather than a blank corporate persona.
- 4. Be friendly
- If people want to friend you or follow you, don’t block them off – otherwise you might as well not bother using social media in the first place. Don’t regard other businesses or organisations as competitors to be avoided – they might have something to teach you, and there is always the intriguing possibility of strategic alliances. But this doesn’t mean you have to put up with people who are obvious spammers, using multiple accounts or who clearly have nothing to offer you in return. Be ruthless in blocking/refusing such people.
- 5. But remember this is work
- If you are using social media as the public face of a company, you need to keep that constantly in mind. By all means be human and give your thoughts and observations on appropriate topics. But don’t stray into off-colour humour, inappropriate links or anecdotes that are best reserved for your personal feeds and accounts. If necessary, create a pseudonymous account for your personal stuff. It’s definitely a balancing act – but luckily one that is not too hard to achieve as long as you remember what your purpose is for using social media in the first place.