What You Should Know About the Social Media Laws

Social media is far too new for a comprehensive how-to guide. And beyond the terms of service of each site, all we have are some loose rules and guidelines for social media to establish general etiquette. As things are always changing, there is no set right way to approach social media, but there are definitely some wrong ways.

Here’s our Top 5 list on mistakes people and companies make in social media:

1) Not listening

Ever try having a conversation with someone who isn’t listening to you? Chances are, those conversations don’t last long, right? The same goes for social media. Not taking the time to listen to what your friends, followers or target audience is saying is not only selfish, it’s rude. Social media is about talking with, not at people. There is no monologue anymore, only dialog.

2) Too much self-promotion

Don’t be the cheesy sales person who can’t stop talking about your great product. Would you do that at a party while mingling with friends? People are especially critical of overly commercial messages in social communities. In order to build trust in this forum, you must offer something of value to the community (and I’m not talking about a special discount on your amazing product – that only works for mega retailers like Dell). The general rule of thumb is that only 5-10% of your tweets or status updates should be related to self-promoting sales activities (including calls to action, promotions, discounts or links to your sales funnel pages). The majority of your posts should offer insight, information, tips and resources that can help make your friends’ and followers’ lives easier. Humor is always welcome.

3) Automation with no sign of engagement

With the rising popularity of social networking sites, an influx of automated software applications has flooded the market. And while yes, it does free up a lot of time to automate your posts and have bots out there finding new followers or friends, automation defies the purpose of social media. Be sure to check in every once in a while, participate in conversations, post original thoughts and ideas, and humanize your profiles. If you are not engaging, you don’t get it. See #1 on this list.

4) Speaking from the perspective of a brand rather than an individual

Social media is about individuals. You can’t build a relationship with a brand – it isn’t possible. Customers want to engage with the individuals behind the brand and make real connections. Be human and show that you care. The reason why the ComcastCares Twitter initiative was so successful was directly related to the fact that Frank Eliason put his name and face on the profile.

5) Ignoring negative comments

Perhaps the biggest concern of company involvement in social media is the inevitable negative comments and complaints. The bottom line is that the conversation is already happening, whether you are there to respond or not. Consumers are now armed with powerful platforms to express their discontent and influence vast communities of like-minded peers. Mainstream consumer influence is here to stay and ignoring your critics will only hurt your public image. Be transparent, accept criticism, and RESPOND. You will be surprised to know how far a little TLC can go on the social Web. And to top it off – you’ll gain respect. Again, Comcast comes to mind.