If you’re new to using Facebook, Twitter and blogging it can all seem pretty daunting.
If you then include LinkedIn, YouTube and Delicious you’d be forgiven for putting your hands over your ears and singing “lalala” until it all goes away.
But there are a few simple rules that can help you choose which platform is best for you, and how to keep up with it all while running your business.
The Ten Commandments of social media:
1. You shall have no other Gods but me
Not me, but your customer. Focus on them – no-one but your customer.
What are they interested in? What can you share with them that will be of interest? What links can you post on your Facebook wall that they’ll love? What advice can you offer on your blog that addresses the problems that keep them awake at night?
This should be the focus of your social media activity. Answer their questions and provide solutions to their problems.
2. You shall not take my name in vain
Your message can easily get lost when communicating online – this is even more true when dealing with instant messaging services such as Twitter. You type, hit Enter, and it’s out there – in the world – for everyone to see, typos and all.
Be clear in your communications, even your online ones, so there is no doubt what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.
3. Keep holy the sabbath day
Do you post or tweet on a Sunday? (I do).
If you’d like to take a day off from your social media accounts, whether that’s to go to church (not sure that’s many), the beach, or the cinema, you don’t have to disappear off the face of the virtual earth.
You can easily plan ahead, write your posts in advance, and publish them whenever you want, so you are a consistent presence for your fans and followers.
Blogging: All of the main blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Joomla and Tumblr) let you schedule your posts so they are published whenever you like, whether you’re sitting at your laptop or snoozing next to the pool in Barbados.
4. Honour your father and your mother
The identities of ‘your father and mother’ (not your real ones) will vary depending on your indsutry.
Who are the gurus in your industry? Who do you aspire to be like? Who do you learn from?
Identify who they are, and share their brilliance with your fans and followers. If they inspire you, chances are they’ll also inspire your target audience.
5. You shall not kill
You probably know this is a no-no in the real world (if not, then please be on your way) – but in social media terms it’s about not killing your customer relationships.
Successful social media campaigns aren’t about how many followers or friends you have – they aren’t about how many hits you have on your site.
You know social media is working for you when you’re having a conversation with someone about your subject on Twitter.
Or when you’re responding to a comment on your blog with real enthusiasm and interest. Or when someone asks a question on your Facebook page, you answer, then another person joins in.
Social media isn’t about numbers – it’s about quality engagement.
6. You shall not commit adultery
You can cheat on your best customer by finding another fantastic customer.
You can cheat on your Facebook page by setting up a Twitter account and spending more time there than on Facebook.
But you can’t cheat on your core message. Ask yourself why you’re using social media at all? This gives you your key message.
Maybe you’re looking for more leads, or you’re building your online reputation, driving traffic to your website, or building relationships with potential customers.
Whatever your purpose, stay faithful to it, and you will avoid falling into the trap of losing hours and hours on social media without achieving anything.
7. You shall not steal
This is the dodgy side of social media. You write an amazing article, your readers love it and your traffic goes through the roof. But then some anonymous blogger comes along, copies your fantastic content and publishes it on their own site, passing it off as their own.
You’re outraged! How very dare they?!
And what can you do?
There are no blog police to bash down the door to a thief’s website and confiscate the stolen content, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to do it to someone else.
Be original, be creative and write your own content.
(And if you are a victim of content-theft, add a quick comment on the offender’s blog post, saying “Thanks for copying my blog post here – I’m flattered.”)
8. You shall not bear false witness
One of the benefits of social media is that you open the doors to your business, show a little of yourself and give your readers an insight into your day to day business.
If you have dog kennels, tell your readers where you took the pooches for a walk today and which dog had the most fun off the lead.
If you run a hotel, share updates on how the restaurant re-fit is coming on, or the development of the Summer menu.
But whatever you share, make sure it’s true. It’s easy to get a little carried away when you’re not looking your reader in the eye and before you know it you’re sharing stories of checking in Prince William and Cathering Middleton to the honeymoon suite in your hotel.
Be truthful and when you meet some of those readers in the flesh, there will be plenty to talk about without tripping yourself up.
9. You shall not covet thy neighbour’s wife
How do your competitors use social media? Do they have 40,000 followers on Facebook?
Even if they do, you haven’t missed the boat. The boat is waiting for you, engines running. You just need to be patient. You can’t possibly achieve the same level of engagement overnight as others who have been doing it for longer.
Take your time, and deliver quality engagements over quantity.
10. You shall not covet thy neighbour’s goods
You can’t be everything to everyone. It’s better to be great in your niche than it is to be a jack-of-all-trades who’s okay at most things.
By becoming a specialist, and focusing on one particular market or trade, you are establishing yourself as the expert in that market.
Imagine a customer is looking for what you offer.
Do they go for the jack-of-all-trades who would ‘have a go’ at solving their problem, or do they go for the specialist who does this every day?
Some of your competitors may offer general products or services that you don’t – but that’s okay. Stick to your niche and see the benefits.
So take your hands off your ears, stop ignoring social, and review how you could use it in your marketing mix – and if you do add yourself to Twitter, please come and say hello (www.twitter.com/thorntonlucy).
What other laws do you follow when using social media for business? Share them in the comments below.