During the past few years, thousands of articles, Slideshare presentations, podcasts, etc. about social media best practices have been published. Heck, I've written dozens myself! All this information has emboldened businesses to follow a nearly identical set of so-called best practices, even though some of them are either outdated or ineffective.
Most of the best practices that are always relevant are really just common sense: don't always be selling on social media; don't ignore your critics; don't air grievances in public; don't trash talk competitors; don't share information that's too personal....and so on.
Beyond that, there are a couple of things that you should do on social media, despite having read or heard otherwise:
1. Do abandon your focus on ROI. Once upon a time social media was less about tracking impressions, clicks and sales and more about building relationships. Businesses need to get back to focusing on the relationships. Yes, there are several ways you can try to track the return on your social media efforts, but it's not the best use of your time. Even if you created a tracking link for every post you shared, and diligently recorded your social conversions and traffic from Google Analytics, you still won't have an accurate picture of how your social media efforts are paying off. There are just too many variables that are impossible to track. Word of mouth and device transitioning (when a consumer discovers a brand through social on their mobile device and then transitions to their desktop to do further research) are just a couple of those variables.
2. Do post as often as you want. You've likely read or heard this warning before: "If you post too frequently, you're going to lose fans/followers!" It's silly. If you're sharing content that your audience finds valuable, they're not going to unfollow you. Have you ever thought, "The New York Times has shared one too many informative and well-written articles with me today, I'm going to unfollow them."? I didn't think so. Another thing to consider is that on Facebook, on average, only 4 percent of a business's fans will see any particular post. On Twitter, because it's a live feed, I bet the percentage is even lower. The point is: The more great content you share, the more opportunities you're giving your content to be seen.
3. Do do your own thing. In the past, Facebook has made updates to their News Feed algorithm to prevent businesses from ruining a good thing. Memes are just one example. People like memes and when businesses discovered this, lots of businesses started posting meme after meme after meme. Soon News Feeds were littered with memes. Right up until Facebook updated the algorithm to no longer favor posts with memes. This is a classic example of businesses going along with crowd, until they were forced to do something else. So what's the lesson here? In social media, instead of consistently implementing recommended strategies and posting things that are easy, like quotes and pictures of cats, it's better to think beyond what everyone else has tried and experiment a little for yourself. When you take a risk, there is always the possibility of a breakout success.
4. Do let go of social media channels that aren't gaining traction. It's tempting to want to get your business on every new and exciting social network being covered by TechCrunch. But doing this often results in stress and disappointment. Why? Unless you have a team, there just isn't enough time in the day to manage more than two or three social networks well. If you're on Tumblr, Google , Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and you're not happy with your engagement and/or you think a certain platform isn't doing any good for your business, drop it. Unless you're confident that the platform is right for your business, and you're able to put time into it, you're better off focusing on the ones you know work for you.
More businesses should embrace the fact that social networking is still relatively new territory for everyone. Social marketing is an opportunity to be bold, to doing things differently--not to fence yourself in and be constrained by what the rest of the herd is doing.
Are there any "best practices" that you wish would go away? Or any that haven't continued to be effective for you?