I remember in the year 2000 having a debate with a business owner on the validity of needing a website. He wanted to see the ROI. I remember thinking back then that this guy will regret not getting on the bandwagon soon. Many business owners and marketing executives are having the same conversation today, but about social media. Ten years from now, they will look back and know they were fools. Sure enough, there are a lot of social media activities that can have an ROI. But there are more activities that do not. By the time it is painfully obvious that asking about ROI on social media is a rather ignorant question, it will probably be a too late.

What is the ROI of a restaurant having a hostess greet people as they enter? What is the ROI of a liberal returns policy? What about the ROI of letting employees make the best decision when it comes to customer needs? What is the ROI of showing thanks and appreciation? Who really knows the answer to those questions? These are SOCIAL activities that happen every day. They happen every day because these are the fundamentals of being a social human. Being kind, gracious, inviting, considerate, knowing when to listen first and sometimes never talk. Saying please and thank you. Putting others first and ahead of your own needs. These are all common courtesies our parents have taught us since we were young.

In fact, obeying common rules our parents taught about our social lives without the Internet, is the same as the social rules we should follow on the Internet, specifically on social media. So if you are expecting some great hidden social media tactical treasure that marketers are hoarding from the rest of the world, you will be disappointed.

Here are my nine rules for participating on social media regardless of how sophisticated or novice you may be at this.

Rule 1: Participate in the community. Being in a community is about giving more than you receive. The law of reciprocity is in effect in social media.

Rule 2: It’s all about your customer. This is a rule for every aspect in business, but for some reason we see people on social media promoting themselves rather than their customers. That is a big no-no.

Rule 3: Respect the purpose of the platform. The operative word in the term “social media” is social. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter didn’t start out as business model, they started off as an online tool to stay social. If you try to make these platforms something they are not, you will be rejected.

Rule 4: Don’t be everything to everyone. It’s not wise to jump on every social media all at once. Pick one first, become great at it, then pick another and so on. Each platform has it’s own cultures and you cannot operate in all of them the same. If you are like most businesses, working in the time to participate in Social Media is going to be a process and will take some time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by jumping into every platform all at once.

Rule 5: Be you, don’t let a consultant pretend to be you. Only you can be you. Only your business understands your business and your customers. The day to day involvement with customers and prospects on social media should not be contracted out to a third party. But if you must, take the time to help them become part of your business. Many businesses are short on time or lack the discipline required to manage the social media accounts. If this is you, that is OK. But you need to allow your outsourced social team ample time to understand your:

  • Company culture
  • Industry culture
  • Sales and customer service policies and procedures
  • Legal limitations and constraints
  • Voice

Whatever time you allow for a full-time employee to get up to speed on your business and industry, give an outsourced company 2x-3x that.

Rule #6: When it’s time to do business, step outside the party. We all use social media to promote our business. Ultimately we want contact info. Use landing pages on your website to do that, not social platforms. You own nothing on any social media site. They own it all. If Facebook decided to shut down today, it would all be gone.

Rule #7: Understand that everyone’s voice matters. Some want to know who the ‘influencers’ are and cater to them. That is great and all, but if we treat some people better than others, we really are not that great of a person.

Rule #8: Treat them differently. Each platform has a different culture. If you treat them all the same, you will soon get rejected.

Rule #9: Stop hash tagging everything. Hashtags denote a conversation topic. It is impossible to have have 15 topics happening all at once. If you are the kind of person that adds more than 5 hashtags at a time, #stopit. It’s like ending a sentence in a conversation by saying only phrases, while simultaneously ,holding up the quotes sign with your fingers. It’s not normal. In fact, it’s very weird. Again, #stopit.

There are many more rules. But these are my top 9. What are yours?