I recently challenged myself to come up with the top-ten best practices for social media for a presentation. As it turned out, it was hard to keep list to only ten items.
So I did some research and much scrapping of excessive rules and realized that it all does boil down to ten very basic principles to be successful in social media:
#10 – Have good tools
Sure you can do social media with nothing but web access to Twitter and Facebook, but if you want to measure success and if you want to have a well-orchestrated presence for your brand (personal or business) then you need to think about tools that can save you time and give you useful stats. Some of my favorite include Hootsuite (web and mobile), SocialOomph, Buffer, Twitter lists, SproutSocial, Bit.ly and Topsy.
#9 – Be nice
This may sound simplistic, but I can’t stress enough how important this is. Social media is about being human, participating in the big virtual cocktail party, as some like to call it. So that means being nice and helping others where you can. Offer answers when people are looking for it. Especially when you have nothing to benefit from it. People notice and remember.
Want a journalist on Twitter to remember you fondly? Give them a tip that helps them and does nothing for you.
#8 – Be responsive
You have to ‘man’ the social accounts. Clients will expect you to provide customer service there. You have to be present to respond to questions and handle concerns. It’s better to have one or two well manned social channels than a multitude of accounts you have trouble keeping track of.
#7 – Engage!
No need to buy a diamond ring for this, but you do need to engage your audience. A stream of tweets that have no or few @replies or mentions is really no different from paid media. If you want earned media you have to participate in the greater conversation.
#6 – Have clear editorial guidelines
Your editorial guidelines may be very simple and fit on a sticky-note (guilty) but you do need to write them down. Even if you are the only social media manager. You need it clear in your own mind what topics you will or won’t discuss on your brand’s social accounts.
This, of course becomes significantly more important when you have multiple people managing social media.
#5 – Have a crisis plan
Again, even if fits on a sticky-note and you have it stuck on the wall above your desk, this is a must. List who needs to be contacted or consulted in case of a potential situation. If you have multiple managers you better also clearly state what constitutes a crisis.
And keep it simple. No need to be over-specific and risk confusion.
#4 – Have a clear mission
You should have a reason for your social media endeavors and you should be able to put that clearly into one or two sentences. Again, as above this is especially important if you have multiple people working together, but even if it’s just you, put that sticky-note up as a daily reminder.
#3 – Listen!
Listen to your clients, listen to industry experts, listen to your competitors and then listen just a little bit more to a few more people. Listening is like learning, you can never learn too much.
#2 – Set social media policies and guidelines
Your policies and guidelines don’t need to be complicated, preferably they’re not, but they do need to exist and they need to be housed where all employees have easy access to them. Everyone should be familiar with them and more importantly have a clear understanding of them.
And, last but not least:
#1 – Like your mom said, “Be real!”
Maybe your mom didn’t say that, but I’m sure someone’s did. Seriously, be human, be yourself, be ‘real.’ The greatest gift of social media is the opportunity to humanize a brand and being real is the only way to do it.
What did I leave out? Do let me know if you think there should have been a #11. I would love to hear your thoughts on best practices.
Previously published January 3, 2013 on BeyondPR by author Victoria Harres, Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business.