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The ten commandments of social media

Whether you’re a creative type, a business owner or an experienced regional marketer, the proliferation of social media recently can confuse, bemuse and excite in equal measure.

It’s no longer enough to send out monthly newsletters or email campaigns to talk to potential customers – now we’re supposed to actually engage with them, talk to them, and respond to them in real-time across social media platforms.

The worst thing? You can’t escape it.

Facebook has more than 350 million users, Twitter accounts have increased by nearly 1,382% in the last 12-month period alone, whilst Technorati currently monitors 133 million blogs across the internet. To survive online, social media involvement appears to be a must-have activity. Go where customers hang out.

There are, however, some basic considerations for effective social media engagement. Here’s Stratton Craig’s top ten commandments for social media:

1. Thou shall not spam

Whatever you do, don’t spam your customers or target markets. They won’t appreciate a barrage of poorly-researched, irrelevant and inbox-clogging spam emails. Spamming inboxes – whether it’s company email addresses, Twitter accounts or Facebook will win zero brownie points and alienate you from any further contact. Once credibility is lost, it’s not coming back anytime soon, if ever.

2. Thou shall not steal

Stealing links to stories, news items, funky new websites and wonderful products from another source and passing them off as your own is a huge social media no-no. For example, on Twitter the re-tweet or RT function is an essential part of Twitter etiquette, whilst hyperlinking and acknowledging external sources on your blog makes common sense. It engages and links you with the world.

3. Thou shall not covet your competitor’s blog

One of the most unattractive and unprofessional social media rules to break is that of taking your competitor’s content, services, products and online offerings – and copying it. And there’s a lot of it about. After all, ideas and innovation do have a commercial value.

4. Thou shall not sell – anything, ever

The whole point of social media is to attract and engage an audience – hopefully a significant one – who will then promote your business on your behalf. Your audience are NOT there to sell to. They are there because they value your content, insights and advice. If you sell directly to them via your social media channels, you’ll lose them. Instantly. Play it smart – give, give, give. Never sell.

5. Thou shall not kill

Nothing is quite as bad in social media-land as an account that is established and then sits there. Dead. No content. Nothing contributed. Setting up a social media space, such as a Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, or company blog, and then not adding content to it regularly is a sure-fire way of killing your social media credibility in front of a global audience. Add content. Add value.

6. Thou shall not take the name of social media in vain

Remember that despite the fact social media can seem quite light-hearted, harmless and fun, your inputs on social media networks are on the web for Time Immorium. So be careful what you post. Add value, contribute to the flow of conversation. Think carefully before you post anything, anywhere, anytime, that can be viewed as an attack or negative comment in your industry.

7. Thou shall not commit adultery

Social media adultery can be committed without thinking, but the effect and long-term damage is hard to recover from. Because many social media networks operate on an informality level that standard marketing does not recognise, the rules of engagement are still the same. Remain professional, polite and polished at all times. Remember your social media content is your legacy.

8. Thou shall honour thy audience

Simple really – without an audience, your social media inputs are little more than an exercise in commercial vanity. Without followers, readers, commentators and fans of your social media content, being there is effectively a waste of your marketing budget and time. Make sure you cater for your audience’s requirements, needs and wants. It is, unfortunately, all about them. Always.

9. Thou shall not forget the Sabbath Day

So, you think social media is a Monday to Friday exercise? Afraid not. In our 24/7, always-on, on-demand culture, social media plays an essential part of the online marketing mix, and your inputs need to cover the full seven days of the week. The good news is that you can pre-schedule posts, tweets and social media content using established tools to maintain an ever-present presence.

10. Thou shall not worship any false Gods

What this means, essentially, is that just because an individual or company has oodles of followers or friends on a social media network, it doesn’t make them God. Challenge them, make them think, debate their content, get involved!

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