Social Media has Rules… Especially for Business

I have read from some “social media experts” that social media is whatever you want it to be.  There are, in many opinions, no rules.  It is a free, open forum, where people can do with it what they want.  While on the outside the free speech argument may be partially true, there is within all social media an invisible  set of rules that says your “free speech” may cost you friends, followers, and connections.

It is true that there are very few actual written rules when it comes to any social media platform.  It is a “free speech” platform for the most part.  However, what people are not saying is why a person may “unfriend” you or “hide” your updates on Facebook, “unfollow” you on Twitter, “uncircle” you on Google+, or “disconnect” with you on LinkedIn.  It happens more frequently than you know, and in most cases you do not realize it.   Occasionally you may notice you lost a friend or follower, but would not know if your status updates are hidden.  Try as you will you will rarely if ever get an answer as to why this happened to you.  I have listened to many people after being dropped from a social media platform express frustration, sadness, anger, and even try to find a way to plot revenge for being dropped. Clearly they did not know the rules.

If there are no rules, if social media (I prefer “conversational platforms”) is whatever we want it to be, then it should follow that you never have to worry about losing friends, followers or circles.  Yet, every day several people are unfriended, and or updates hidden.  It speaks to the fact that there are rules, they are unwritten, there is an expected way to behave, but it’s not in a manual, you must pay attention.  If you do not, you and your business will disappear from the face of these conversational platforms.

The Rules

When I was in graduate school at Washington State University I was in a Social Psychology class we discussed “collectives”,  those smaller groups of people that create communities that have their own set of unwritten, rules, and expectations.  I think a good comparison is Seth Godin who has written a book called “tribes”.  They are very similar in concept.  As I have said in videos and in previous BLOGs, each social media platform is their own “collective” or “tribe”.  And within each of these “collectives” or “tribes” there are a set of unwritten rules, norms, and expectations that must be followed or a person will be exiled from the “collective”.  This is done in our face to face society, it is especially exhibited in our local neighborhood.  For example, the guy who does not take care of his yard, leaves his car on the street, or his trash can out too long becomes ostracized by the other community members.   We never tell him, we just no longer talk to him, ignore him,  he is no longer invited to community gatherings, and better yet we talk about him behind his back without him knowing it.

Conversational platforms are similar.  You may say you do not care.  However, as a business owner you better be concerned.   Your reputation on these platforms can spread like wild fire.  And like a wild fire it is not positive.  You will have alienated current and potential consumers.  What is worse that negative reputation will spread to those that do not even know you, and they will talk negatively behind your social media back and you have lost credibility.  The only thing you have in social media is a social media reputation and social media credibility, that is the currency, if you lose either one of these or both you and your business are “socially bankrupt” and you and your business is now wondering around somewhere in “Cyber Hell” endlessly burning away into nonexistence.   Let’s avoid it.  Let’s help you gain more social currency; increase your social wealth, as well as profits in your business.  Here are just a few tips that can help you and your business.

The Prescriptions:

  • Make it personal not promotional
  • The biggest mistake in conversational platform usage.  Promoting your product or service.  These are conversational platforms not billboards to advertise from.  I cannot be any more serious about this.  YOU will absolutely KILL YOUR BUSINESS when you become promotional.  Next to religion and politics it is the #1 reason why people “hide” a person’s updates or unfriend them.  Like the other people I “hide”.  Once, I never see them, I forget about them.  Your promotions on these conversational platforms that were intended to expand business, now only has caused your business to cause a bad taste in the mouth of consumers, and your business being forgotten.  This is a conversational platform.  It’s personal.  Be personal.  It’s like going to your neighborhood bar-b-que.  You talk about other things.  If your business comes up, great, but that is not where it starts.
  • Comment first before being clever and creative
  • I am regularly asked in conversational platforms, “what should I say?”  My simple response…”nothing”.  Worry less about saying something clever and creative, and spend more time commenting on what other people say.  People want to know they are heard. Knowing they have been listened to is far more important to them, than hearing what you have to say.  Making a comment on a regular basis says you are paying attention, they are important, and what they have to say means something to you.  Think about it, as a business person it is the same thing you do face to face with any client.  You listen, you engage, you respond, you build trust, they do business with you.
  • Avoid the polar ice caps
  • Religion and politics are the surest way to separate clients.  I know they may be what you believe in, and may believe strongly about them, we all have them.  However, if you want to lose clients in a hurry, keep posting your views.  In a small piece of research I conducted, respondents indicated that one of the most irritating status updates in any platform is when someone gets political or becomes overzealous in their religion, even if they agree with you!  Remember opinions are like nostrils we generally have a couple of them, but nobody wants to hear you breath.  Politics separates your business from people.  When you start talking about your politics you have just alienated at least 50% of the people.  Your business especially in this economy can not afford to lose half of their potential customers.   Your business is an apolitical establishment, it should serve everyone regardless of their political view.  Religion is unique because unless you are in the religion business, you business is not religious.  Religion is touchy, deeply personal, and even within a religion people disagree how a religion should be carried out.  Religion also carries with it stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.   Rightly or wrongly people can hear the name of a particular religion and they have already stereotyped the person.  Not healthy for your business.  Like the ice caps on both ends of the earth the last thing you want to do is have your potential or current clients on one end looking for another place to do business, and you on the other end looking for people to do business with, all because of an opinion.

Pay attention to the unwritten rules.  There are many more than we know.  Pay attention to your own emotions, if you are irritated by something someone says, ask yourself why?  Chances are if you are irritated by something someone says, others are irritated as well.  You and your business cannot afford to be dismissed or maybe worse yet, hidden.

 

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