It’s hard enough

Best Practices, Maren Hogan, Social Media

We’re getting ready for SHRM12 here in the HR, Recruiting and Marketing world I inhabit. And as we do, I wanted write a quick post on the  ten worst pieces of social media advice EVAH!

1. Be awesome. This is the worst offender and not just because it’s slightly arrogant. I’ve said this to people and to their credit, no one has smacked me yet. This piece of advice assumes that the listener knows what you mean. It also assumes that they aren’t already being awesome. Better advice? Talk like you’d talk at a professional cocktail party.

2. Just jump in. This is not only scary, it’s downright harmful. For newbies to social media, it can damage their “first impression” to rest of the world. It’s the equivalent of telling a 4 year old to just cross the street. Better advice? Look, listen and THEN jump in.

3. Start a blog. Not everyone is a writer, this much we know. But someone may not be a blogger either. This is like telling everyone to rent a billboard on the busiest highway in America. What if they have nothing to put on it? Better advice? Curate an RSS feed of valuable content (or just read it on Facebook like the rest of the world.)

4. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. While this may be an apt saying for life, it’s not the best hope for socmed noobs. While there is definitely a time and place for professional debate on a myriad of topics, it’s not usually when someone first starts making friends. Better advice? Bide your time until there is an appropriate chance for respectful debate with respected colleagues.

5. Be transparent. I’ve said this too. It’s not so much bad advice as incomplete. Being transparent works for many, many bloggers and professionals who use social media but it’s not for everyone and too often, someone new to social media may think that being transparent means tweeting every thought that comes into their mind, even at the risk of their career. Better advice? Be yourself, but if you wouldn’t say it to your mother, your boss or any of your children, think twice before posting.

6. Get in the stream. Hashtags are tremendously useful but lots of folks new to the social media scene may overuse them or use them improperly. Honestly, on Twitter, there are no rules but there are ways of behaving that can get other members of your professional community to look askance. Better advice? Figure out which hashtags are useful and on which nights. Don’t overuse them or people will hate you.

7. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I have seen more online brawls at conference than ever before. Being overly critical of speakers, conference organizers and other attendees is not only rude, it’s ineffective. Many of us have learned to use social media as a sounding board for our own opinions and are able to openly critique celebrities and authors, so it’s a natural next step to take people that seem above criticism  Better advice? On social media, as in life, correction for most things is best given in private. Many speakers, bloggers, even analysts find themselves learning from audience members more often than not.

8. Follow, follow, follow. Following everyone just for the sake of following is just plain silly. Before you know it, your social streams are filled with articles that don’t apply to you and “friendships” that are anything but. My own experience with Twitter started with a conference a few years ago. I was able to follow a few friends and then select the people I met at the conference who I’d had real conversations with. It wasn’t necessary to meet every person in…well, person, but it did help that I had a core group of people who were connections on more than one level. Better advice is to follow the hashtag of the event and find the people attending and tweeting who are like minded or who have perspectives that match your own.

9. Go viral. If there is one piece of social media advice I genuinely abhor, it is this one. You cannot MAKE something go viral, you can simply create the conditions for it to possibly do so. Social media is about people and you cannot predict what people will or won’t do. Please stop saying this to the poor folks who are trying to learn social media. Just. Stop it.

10. “Well, so and so said….” Sometimes you have to blaze your own trail. It’s so important to remember that while there is a lot of information out there on how to be successful in social media and lots of lists of Do’s and Don’ts, what works for some may not work for others. Just because someone famous or smart or noteworthy said it, doesn’t make it so. The same holds true at conferences. We’re all learning and there is no gospel of social.