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Social Media by the Rules and other Contradictions

When you were young and your heart was an open book

You used to say ‘Live and let live’ (You know did, you know you did…)

But in this ever changing world in which we live in

Makes you give in and cry

Say ‘Live and let die’

-Paul McCartney

Conventional wisdom.  Best Practices.  For every tweet about you, 12 tweets should be about others.  Follow Friday – don’t just list people, pick one and give a reason to follow.  Be selective about who to follow.  You can’t follow everyone who follows you.  Don’t automate your tweets.  Pick a niche for your blog and stick to it. Don’t retweet a retweet of your tweet.  Don’t clutter up my feed with your ‘Thank you’ tweets. Don’t broadcast – engage.  You’re a phony if you automate your tweets.  Don’t just RT for the sake of RTing – add a comment of your own.

If you’ve been doing this for any length of time, you’ve probably skinned your knees a few times against the rough sidewalk of Social Media rules.  You may have even received the ultimate in Twitter bitch slaps “Blocked and Unfollowed!”  I have – and in a variety of different flavors.  It hurt my feelings.  Caused me to pause and reflect and review.

I have come to the conclusion that Social Media is still way too new and far too dynamic for any rules to be scientific – repeatable and yielding the same results.  I am more inclined to believe that there are no rules beyond examining what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.

What my audience looks for/wants from me, is likely to be completely different from what someone else’s audience wants from them – so their style, their strategy, their tactics may not be an appropriate template for me to follow.

Consider this – as often as the term “authenticity” is thrown around equally as frequent is the drum beat to follow the rules of engagement.  My question is how authentic can we be if we are enslaved by the rules of others?

I don’t know, but I suspect that many people follow the rules of A-Listers in order to get the approval and eventually the attention and mention of A-Listers.  But do they get that attention and mention?

I can’t give you formulas or rules for success in Social Media.  I can only share my experience – which in very large part is shaped by my goals and strategy as well as my audience and network.  Your goals, strategy, audience and network probably are very different.

Let me give you one anecdote about breaking the rules of Social Media and then I will turn it over to you (please share your comments) – let’s take the rule of choosing a niche or topic for your blog and sticking to it.

My business is a marketing consultancy that focuses on B2B.  Conventional wisdom says that all my blog posts should be about B2B.  On various chats, I’ve seen people comment that when bloggers move away from their primary focus and write about other topics, it creates confusion.  Had I followed the rules on this, and only written about B2B marketing topics, the comments on my blog would be diminished by 80%.  For me, I tend to get to know my readers better through the periodic, off the path posts.  People will send emails, DM tweets, mention these posts to me in person.  I know they are being read and they are spurring conversation.  The B2B marketing posts are by far the most RTed – but the friendships and engagement are happening around other posts.  It became clear to me that I wanted to have both.

So I leave you with a caution – the best practice for someone else may not be the best practice for you.  And I’d also like to encourage you to trust your own instincts with regard to your audience – that blindly following the rules may not be the way to go.

Live and let live.  Now let me have it in the comments section!  😉


2 Responses to Social Media by the Rules and other Contradictions

  1. Linda Shillingburg says:

    RIGHT ON, Dawn! Funny how every “Expert” has their own rules–which are clearly really opinions–but, I had never thought about why. You pegged it when you said the SM is still far too young and far too dynamic.

    Personally, I love it when you (and other bloggers) go off topic. I get to know each person better when they write about something personal to them. I LOVE your jukebox posts–and your stories about your beloved son and laugh out loud at your posts about neighbors.

    Thanks for another great message!

    • Dawn says:

      Thank you Linda. A few months ago I was confronted with an instance of my “authenticity” and a very strong reaction to it. It occurred to me the next day that it was just fine – not everybody is going to agree with me. But more important, the huge realization that by remaining authentic – people would select me for the right reasons and reject me for the right reasons. I was a little slow embracing the “rejecting for the right reasons” but I am very comfortable with it now.

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