5 Social Media Rules of Engagement

April 23rd, 2009 |


Ploked.com is all about being plugged into social media. We strive to provide informative, relevant, and unique perspectives in the world of social media.

This particular post is geared towards the small business and sole proprietors that are utilizing social media to promote their business or products.  Most small businesses are jumping into the social media world with little or no knowledge of how they should operate their social media campaign.  Below are what I consider a few important social media rules of engagement for small businesses.

Know Who You Are

Knowing your online identity as well as letting others know up front who you are is important in establishing trust among the online community.  If you are posting in the social media account on behalf of a company, be sure that your profile and posting style reflects this.  Do not act like an individual who has no relation to the company in which you are promoting in your online profile.  Letting others know you are in fact part of this company, not only removes anyone calling you out later, but can actually create an even stronger bond with the community knowing that you are an actual source at the said company.

Don’t mix business with pleasure…in that if you have a personal account on social media sites, don’t load it up with a bunch of stuff your real life friends have no interest in.  Your personal account is more about “you” and your life…not about the company you work for.  I am sure your friends don’t want to hear about your problems with TPS reports!

Do You Listen Jimi Hendrix or Hear Him?

Social media is not about “me”, it is about “us”.  I see alot of people focusing more on themselves instead of the community.  This is a great way to end your social media campaign just as it began.

In a great movie from long ago (White Men Can’t Jump), there was an interesting conversation between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson.  Here is what Snipes said to Harrelson:

“…the trouble with you is that you listen to Jimi BUT you don’t HEAR Jimi…”

So what does that have to do with social media?  Well quite a bit actually.  Read it again…did it click yet?

When you are new to the site, you need to look around and get a feel for what the current users interests, attitudes, and personalities are.  Don’t just glaze over a few posts (listening) and think that you have it figured out.  Instead really dive into the community and see what they are about (hearing).  Take note of recurring issues among the community and how you can help them solve or overcome these issues.

Help Others Before You Help Yourself

Most newbies to social media skip “hearing” and observing a community and jump right in and promote their own products or services to no end.  This can have a detrimental effect on your social media profile in that the community will know that you are not there to help anyone out except yourself.

If you slowly ease in your products and services in posts, tweets, blogs, etc.; chances are that others will not be so quick to raise any flags about your purpose.  This works well after you have proven you are there to help others with questions or problems that they might have in your industry or niche.  However, if someone has a problem that can be solved by your product or service, this is a great opportunity to generate a lead to your business.

Remember, social media is not about what you know, but rather what you can share with the community.

Avoid the Drama

I would recommend avoiding any sort of site drama or squabbles.  Chances are if you end up taking a side, you might alienate or befriend some of your following.  By avoiding these type of situations, you will eliminate losing credibility among the community.

If someone on the site attacks you or your business, take a step back before you reply to the issue.  By allowing yourself time to really assess the negative comment someone posted about you, you can formulate a reasonable response to reply to the issue.  If you are able to successfully handle the issue professionally, it will only strengthen your credibility on the site.

However, I advise staying out of any conversation or comment that may lead to others questioning you or your business in a negative way.

Take it Slow

Don’t get overwhelmed in joining every social media site you come across.  I suggest signing up for the ones that will contain users most likely to be interested in your business or service.

Set aside some time each time to participate in these communities to build your identity and credibility among the community.  Over time, your presence will grow and provide you with ample opportunities to engage with others about your business.

After deciding what services to sign up for, let them know who you are, hear what they are saying, help them out, avoid the drama and take it slow.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SynapticLight Phillip Gibb

    I hear you :-)

  • http://www.gettingspotted.com Matt Schapiro

    great stuff. very true about taking it slow – you need to really understand how the community functions before trying to add any marketing of your own business.

  • http://www.booksblogsandbeyond.com Tom Collins

    It's a little weird that you write about "social" media, but avoid revealing your name, photo, or anything about yourself … who you are.

    We can read Ploked's words, but we have no way to hear YOU.

    Please don't take this as an attack. I'm just puzzled. How does annonymity fit in with your understanding of social media, social networking?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Pebbler Pebbler

    thank you – great to have my instincts echoed with advice and support offered. i'm using both ears – have a lovely day

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dwestjr dwestjr

    Great article covering the "best practices" of getting your priorities right – it's about helping others and not being self-promoting.

  • http://masterful-marketing.com Debra Murphy

    I agree with everything in the article except the "don't mix business with pleasure" comment. That maybe very true if you work for corporate America, but since you directed this article to small business owners and sole proprietors, your business and personal life is very much intertwined. Most of my clients get a better understanding about who I am through my comments both personal (sports, golf) as well as my knowledge in my discipline. This helps us develop a relationship that makes working together very easy.

  • http://www.TokiesNetEnterprises.com Eddie Gillespie

    I tend to agree with Debra on this one. It's a well known opinion of many successful Internet marketers that in order to gain business from many folks you first need to build a "relationship" of sorts and gain their trust. There is a lot of dis-trust for Internet marketers today because of all the "scammers" online today. I believe that in order to gain the trust of some people you need to use a little " personalization ".

  • Scott Rogers


  • http://keepupwiththeweb.com Sherryl Perry

    This is one of the best posts I've read on social networking. Your comment “Social media is not about 'me', it is about 'us'.” says it all.

    I have no idea how you found me on Twitter but somehow you did. Because you “followed” me, I checked out one of your tweets and found your post. I'll definitely be following you and I may link out to this article in a future post. It's really that good. :)

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  • http://www.digital-agency.com Los Angeles Website Designers

    I'm so glad you talked about avoiding the drama!!