Four Social Media “Rules” Brands Should Break

July 2, 2013

There are many rules in the world of social media. And Fandom Marketing is pleased to have expert Peggy Gartin, social media marketer at Rovi Corporation share four rules that are just meant to be broken.

Every brand wants to have an enviable social media presence. Those brands that are best at it have found social media managers who are comfortable with having relaxed conversations with the public while faithfully representing the company’s best interests. These are folks who know their audience, can think on their feet, say just the right thing when faced with customer displeasure, and come up with innovative campaigns that are the perfect balance of smart, funny, and relevant.

But what if you haven’t found such a paragon to run your brand’s social media? Then you’ve probably written some social media rules for your team to live by. I would argue that rules don’t replace good judgement, and if your social media representative can’t freestyle to a certain degree, the conversation will always be stilted.

This is not to say that social media should be a freaky-deaky hippie commune where chaos reigns, and of course, some rules make perfect sense. In fact, your legal department will likely insist on some code of social media conduct. But if you’re employing the following rules, please consider dumping them.

1. You should respond to every tweet, post, and comment

Some companies really think this is true, and you can tell just by looking at their Twitter feed or Facebook page. Here’s an example:

I had a bad experience with an airline a few weeks ago, and I didn’t hesitate to jump on Twitter, find their brand account, and voice my displeasure. Though it was late on a Sunday, the airline responded via tweet, and after a little back-and-forth, actually gave me information I could use. Great! The story should have ended there. But then I noticed they seemed to respond to everything I said, even if my tweet was only “Okay, thanks.” It was irritating. It felt like an argument in which the two sides were trying to get in the last word. Then I realized the person answering me was likely required to answer me, no matter what I said.

This makes for stilted conversations, which is exactly what you don’t want in social media. An even worse example is when someone is horribly rude to a brand online, and the brand answers with “Thanks for your feedback.” Doesn’t that seem inauthentic? I mean, if you were at a cocktail party and someone threw a drink in your face, would you say “thanks”? It’s probably better to just stop talking and let that bit of rudeness speak for itself.

2. If a commenter is rude or abusive on your Facebook page, delete the comment

Of course, the polar opposite of thanking a person for being rude is to delete their comment, which brands have the power to do on their own Facebook page, but which often causes small problems to become big ones.

Think about it: people who take the time to find your brand page to curse at you are angry about something, maybe rightfully so. If you delete their comment, you are doing the equivalent of sewing their mouth shut. Will that make them less angry? And will you seem like the good guy if any part of their argument was valid?

Brands need to recognize that rudeness from others doesn’t reflect on them, and should refrain from deleting anything from their page that isn’t spam or an exploitation hack (i.e., links to malicious code or malware).

3. Your brand needs to be everywhere, so jump on new social platforms early

Experimenting is great, but unless you have unlimited budget, you have to manage your resource costs. If you spend your team’s time and energy on every single platform that comes along, you will expend a lot for very little benefit. Concentrate on those platforms which have been proven to work, and keep your ear to the ground about the others. For example, LinkedIn has been around for years, but only when they recently added company and personal updates did they become a viable online news channel, and then usually only for B2B.

4. Your employees who are on social media are 24/7 representatives of your brand, so make sure they know that

Oh, this one irritates me the most. I have heard people say this, and they weren’t talking about the “voice” of brand accounts, they were talking about employees’ personal accounts. Listen – if you want to scare someone into never even venturing into social media, tell them they are brand representatives all the time, even midnight on a Saturday. Real flesh-and-blood people lead real lives, with real interactions. They are funny, not always goal-seeking, and occasionally inappropriate. They probably do things in their off-hours they wouldn’t do in the office, like have a cocktail or drop an f-bomb. Get over it. I would much rather get a thumbs-up about my product from someone who is obviously authentic online than someone who seems like a too-perfect corporate stooge. Unless their personal account reveals them to be an actually horrible person, they are not going to hurt your brand.

What social media “rules” have you heard of that you think should go away? Let us know in the comments.

Meet Expert: Peggy Gartin

Peggy Gartin Peggy Gartin (aka @thepegisin) is a social media marketer who currently manages the social media presence of Rovi Corporation and its DivX video codec. She serves as Social Media Club San Diego’s marketing director and as a moderator for beer check-in app Untappd. A former leader of SDTweetup and San Diego Metblog, she has written about social media for the San Diego Union-Tribune and contributed her technical expertise at several notable companies in San Diego, including Qualcomm, Cardinal Health, and LendingTree. She occasionally blogs at http://www.thepegisin.com.

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