Social media best practices you need to know

by Carl Natale on December 20, 2010

Flickr photo by @boetter

Social Media Breakfast offers easily digested insights into social media best practices (Flickr photo by @boetter)

Can you guess where I was Friday? Let me describe the scene.

I sat at a table with about six other people. We had a few conversations. Some were about business. Some were about holiday shopping. And some conversations were more like debates.

There were probably about seven tables in the room hosting similar conversations.

Then everyone stopped to hear an authority speak. And they asked questions. After that authority answered, more authorities (or gurus or experts) spoke. This prompted more questions and more answers.

Lots of interaction occurred. When the event ended, side conversations took place as people headed back to work or shopping.

If you guessed that I was at Portland’s Social Media Breakfast, you were right. You also would have been correct to guess that I used a metaphor to describe Twitter.

Think about it. That gathering sums up the social media experience nicely. It allows people to talk about subjects important and banal. The conversations are focused mostly but anyone can listen to them and jump in.

If you’re going to question the value of social media, it helps to compare it to how much value you gain from attending an event like that.

Luckily this event was designed to help everyone understand social media by letting Rich Brooks, Chrystie Corns and Jaica Kinsman, organizers of the Social Media FTW conferences, gave a quick look at where social media is going. Probably more importantly was a look at some social media best practices. (UPDATE: Rich Brooks talks a bit more about his social media advice in his blog.)

Because that is what anything called search engine optimization or social media optimization really is – best practices. That seems easy enough. The bad news is that there isn’t strong agreement on what those best practices are.

But let’s take a look at some of the practices discussed Friday:

Learn News Feed Optimization (NFO)

Because we can’t have enough acronyms ending in “O,” we get to worry about how to make our Facebook friends notice our businesses. Jaica boiled it down to three factors:

  1. Recency: The longer you wait to post new content, the less likely you will reach someone.
  2. Engagement: People have to like your stuff. And that means more than clicking on a thumbs-up icon. Facebook users like doing things. does a nice job of getting people to interact with polls and questions.
  3. FaceBook ads: How in the hey are you going to compete with all that recent, engaging content everyone else is posting? Facebook ads are cheap ways to target specific people who are interested in your content.

You need to read The Daily Beast’s explanation of what Facebook puts into news feeds.

Add Value

Chrystie emphasized this point about Facebook. Users want something like giveaways (Don’t call them contests) or deals. Maybe it’s a factor of the economy. But you need to give something.

This one worries me because all I have are words. I’m already giving them away on this blog. So a good Facebook strategy eludes me.

I just read Chris Brogan’s post on influence. As usual, the key to gaining a reputation of influence is by being helpful. So if you don’t have product to give away or discounts to offer, you can add value by being helpful.

How do you do that? Depends on your audience. I have a little more on that down this page.

Engage Your Networks

I know this is a factor of NFO. But it can’t be forgotten for any social media effort. Don’t just publish mini press releases. Social media is about conversation and interaction with individuals. You are going to have to be human. That means careful automation and less broadcasting, more listening.

Know Your Audience

Not all audiences are created equal. Different types of people will react to content different ways. In a way it’s not new. It’s niche marketing.

Complain at Your Own Risk

I applauded when Chrystie asked people to stop complaining on social media.

Partly because positivity is the new sexy. It attracts clicks and interaction. And as Chrystie says, it’s about protecting your brand image.

Also because I’m tired of the clever critics who think the best way to show their expertise and intelligence is to put someone else down. All you’re doing is laying the foundation for your therapist’s summer home.

But I’m not a fan of happy horseshit sunshine (that’s HHS for those of you going through acronym withdrawal). So I respect Rich’s advice to be yourself. And if you’re a curmudgeon, then be true to yourself.

Maybe he has a point, and you should spice up your interaction with some gripes to prove you’re human. After all we all have bad days.

But here’s the thing.

If you use Twitter to complain about your bad day and I’m having a bad day, maybe I will feel that you’re too self involved to help me make my day better. And if I’m a customer, that’s a fail.

I don’t know. There’s a balance between curmudgeon and HHS. If you figure it out, let me know.

Is this really necessary?

That’s the really big question being asked in the open and side conversations. There are big implications to this. As Rich said, it really isn’t free. Social media costs time.

That’s because it is about interaction. And that’s tougher than printing direct mail or brochures. But it’s not as expensive as cold calling.

So the stakes are kind of high for small business owners. They have to decide how to allocate resources. And I have to commend Chrystie for trying to talk clients out of it.

You have to go where your people are. And if they are not on Twitter, then don’t spend your time on tweets. Or Facebook if you don’t have any customers or potential customers there.

But sometimes you have to experiment. You might be surprised to find out you have people someplace you would never go. Rich says to create profiles for your business or brand in every network you can find. It’s an easy way to experiment.

The Takeaway

Can you help your business by walking into a room and telling people what your business can do for them? Then you need a social media strategy.

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