A few weeks ago, I wrote a column titled "5 things you must avoid doing on social media," and it turned out to be one of my most popular. It was always my intention to also focus on the things you should be doing, but you know how it goes: editors, brevity and that sort of thing.
Now that I have the space to devote an entire column to the topic, the hardest part is narrowing down the list. There are so many things you should be doing on social media, but let's start with five of the most important.
Read before you share
FALSE: Every time I log onto Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, I must post something.
TRUE: Not so. In fact, social media is a valuable tool for research just as much as it is for conversation. While participation is encouraged, how you choose to participate is really up to you. Perhaps something you learn on social media will be beneficial as a comment on a story somewhere. Or perhaps you learn something from a trending topic that you can take to a meeting in the office. While there's a right way and a wrong way to use the tools, don't be afraid to use social media in the way it makes the most sense to you and your audience. Only through trial and error can you truly learn to be successful.
Be familiar with your company's social media policy
FALSE: All I need to do is post a few things and I'll be OK.
TRUE: Even in a world where compliance isn't an issue, that's bad advice. In our industry, you need to know where your company draws the line and you need to act accordingly because remember: You are always representing your company when you're online, no matter what time it is. That said, ask if you aren't sure and know what's allowed and what isn't. That way, you can spend time making the most of what you can post. It seems simple, and it is. It's also important.
A professional photo is an absolute must
FALSE: The icon is so small that no one is going to notice.
TRUE: Everyone notices, from your audience to search engines. In fact, studies over the years involving visuals show that people naturally migrate from the art on a page to the written word. Even if there's nothing technically wrong with it – you know, you aren't playing beer pong at a college party – you still want to make sure you look your best. Bonus tip: There's nothing wrong, and so many things right, about themed photos around seasons or holidays. I've seen people change their LinkedIn photos to one of them in an ugly sweater in December and it always makes me smile. It also shows that you're outgoing and approachable, which is important social media.
Respond, respond, respond
FALSE: I don't have to talk to people online, do I?
TRUE: Yes, you do. And yes, you should. Don't blow an opportunity to make a valuable connection just because you didn't know that someone was trying to reach out. Turn on notifications and set up the proper columns on your app/website of choice. And if you need help doing this, reach out to me and I'll see what I can do. But for goodness sakes, please don't ignore anyone – intentionally or unintentionally.
Pitch and you'll strike out every time
FALSE: Social media is the perfect place to pitch my product or business because everyone else does it.
TRUE: I have baseball on the brain. Also true: People who are unsuccessful at social media focus on the pitch, never mind that it might go against compliance rules. Either way, always resist the urge. Email people or, better yet, pick up the phone.
Despite what people want you to believe, there's no secret sauce that makes you a social media superstar. It's a matter of trial and error and building on best practices. I've been doing it for more than 10 years now and I still learn something new every day.
If you have a social media question or an idea for a column topic, or if you have thoughts about this column or any previous ones, please let me know. Tweet them to me with the hashtag #socialmediaadviser or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading Social Media Adviser.