Social media at times seems to have more rules than life in a free society will ever have. I say break the rules, and break them often. Stand up, stand out, and be heard. Otherwise, sit down, look down, follow the rules, and be part of the herd. Where is the fun in that? Where is the progress in that?
Social media is currently run like a massive, oppressive corporation, the very thing most people engaging in it want to get away from. It’s still young though, so there is hope that it can develop into a more open medium. Stay in line, and you will be treated well seems to be the rule. You wouldn’t hide your true self in “real” life, so be yourself in your social media interactions as well. Don’t be afraid to express your honest opinions, even if it means getting some flack. Individuality is what makes any communications medium great. Question social media, break some rules, leave the herd behind. Oh my. What ever could happen?? The reality is that people will appreciate your authenticity, and the places where you take part will be richer, better experiences for everyone.
Social media will be at its most valuable when the dialog is open and honest, when communication is sincere and challenging. Sure, tact has its place, but so does speaking up.
#1 social media rule to break: Always be positive on social media sites.
Why? Tearing things down is how we learn how to build them back up better than before. ‘Always be positive.’ It sounds like a mantra from ‘1984,’ destined to numb the unsuspecting minds of the masses. I’m not saying be an ornery curmudgeon, but boldly, tactfully stating your dissenting opinion is absolutely fine, and really, should be encouraged.
If the goal of a social media site was to build a community of me too’s and followers, then always staying positive would be a great way to go. Thing is, strong communities are not built by followers. They are built by leaders and passionate people. Leaders are not afraid to speak up, and you shouldn’t be afraid either.
When phrased right, non-attacking negativity can be incredibly productive for everyone. It’s a great way to keep the dialog honest and open. Great communication is one of the keys to success.
When you hear a false claim, or worse, an outright lie, do you let it go or challenge it? I bought a WordPress theme last year that was marketed with false advertising. When a well-known social media consultant tweeted about his blog post promoting that theme, I mentioned in reply that the theme’s developer was non-responsive to my requests to fix his theme to align with his advertising. The consultant did a gentle social media “time-out” by asking me to reply directly to his email instead of on Twitter. Another prominent social media guy had already tweeted an empathetic reply.
My tweet had apparently diminished the value of the consultant’s tweet by speaking negatively about the product. It’s fascinating that it was perfectly alright in the social media world to wax poetic about the greatness of this falsely-advertised theme, but it was not ok to point out it’s shortcomings. If social media rules continue in that vein, social media will quickly receive the same type of suspicion and contempt reached by traditional advertising mediums due to lack of honesty and authenticity.
It’s healthy to challenge the status quo. It’s how we learn and progress.
#2 social media rule to break: Get involved.
Again, why? Before you get involved in social media, always, always, always do two things. 1) Ask yourself why you are getting involved, and 2) Set up a strategic plan with time constraints which integrates with your business plan. If you discover that social media doesn’t fit comfortably and purposefully into your plan, leave it out, and spend your time doing the things that make an actual impact on your business.
Not too long ago, it was believed that every business needed to blog, but that has been well-proven to be erroneous thinking. Some people and businesses are simply not made for blogging, and that’s ok because there are plenty of other ways to make your voice heard.
#3 social media rule to break: Make social media a priority.
One more time, why? Make your significant other a priority. Make your kids a priority. Make your marketing, time-management or self-discipline a priority. Haven’t Twittered yet today? So what? When you have something important to say, Twitter away. The rest of the time, do the things that keep your business well-oiled, healthy, and moving forward.
Rules are made to be broken, especially when they promise to force a good communication medium to repeat the failures of its predecessors. Social media rocks, but some of it’s rules just plain suck. It’s high time to rise up and liberally break the rules that make no sense. Breaking rules is good for individuals, business, and community alike.
Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.
Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.