Social Media has moved out of it’s embryonic stage to be regular part of cyber-life. Now that’s it been around for a while, the “rules of the road’ are becoming clear and we can begin to formulate a set guidelines for getting the most out of these experiences.
Pick Your Site -You don’t have to be everywhere. Take the time to learn what type of audience uses a given social media site. Facebook is all purpose, LinkedIn is for business professionals looking to network, there are also specialized social media sites for individual professions
Study the Content – Pay close attention to what type of content appears in which environment. This will tell you that you have targeted the right site for the audience you’re trying to reach, and also tell what kind of content to contribute within a particular environment.
Learn the Sites’ Language and Value System – Each social media site has their own unique dialect. If you don’t understand the basic dialect, you will stick out like a sore thumb to the regular users of the site.
Make Friends – In particular, try to make friends with the influencers on the site. On a site like Digg, these are the top 100 users. Comment on their posts, reference their posts from your site, or in comments elsewhere. Suggest related material that you have found on other sites.
Add Your Unique Value to the Community - Become a member. Social media is, oddly enough, social. People who take, and don’t give, are not popular in any community. Note that adding value does not always mean contributing your own stuff. Find other people’s great stuff and contribute that.
Don’t Self Promote - There are no social media environments that are keen on aggressive self promotion. Even if the site terms of service say that self promotion is OK, the community itself tends to frown on it (this is true on Digg and Reddit, for example).
Provide Accurate Information – Don’t be lazy about fact checking. Make sure your contributions will stand the examination of the hundreds or thousands of people who will be looking at it. You don’t want to be outed for providing bad or inaccurate info.
Be Transparent - This is another biggie. If you are saying something about a company that you have some association with, be open about it. You definitely do not want to be outed for that either, it will destroy your credibility
Be Patient - The big wins may well take some time to achieve. You are going to need to make up front investments to become a part of the community and figure out how to fit in. The right way to get the content you are trying to promote on the community site varies by social media site, but following these guidelines will cause the people who come to know you to start following you.
Let it Go – Once some of your content is taken into the community, the community will begin to redefine it. This is one of the trickiest parts of social media. However, if you have created something of value, this metamorphosis is extremely powerful. Those who participate in these actions will begin to take ownership for what they have created – and they will drive the success of your content/brand for you.
Don’t spam - If you haven’t realized it by now, social media communities tend to be very fast in acting on spam. Just don’t go there.
All of these sites are self policing to a certain extent, there is little tolerance for bad behavior. For example, bulk friending the friends of friends on Facebook has gotten people into trouble. Everything you do or contribute is open for review, any inaccuracy, or problem with what you are doing will be discovered immediately. You may also have people challenge you who themselves are completely off base.
Keep in mind that the people you encounter online are the same as the people you encounter everyday in real life, common courtesy and common sense go a long way in both worlds.