Breaking the Rules
Rules surround us. Society’s rules. Family rules. Business rules. Rules of religion, usually called Commandments. Rules for wearing hats. There are even rules for using Facebook and Twitter. Or so I am told. It seems the blogosphere is full lately of ways to help you navigate social media and I’m glad, because I have a hard enough time navigating my coffee maker. Actually, I don’t even try. The girls make the coffee every morning so that I don’t burn down the house.
I spent the better part of my blog reading time this week browsing the various posts and the links they provided. I found myself agreeing with most of what they suggested. However, there was one blog post I did skip after reading a couple of paragraphs because they came across snarky and belligerent. I don’t mind being given advice, but I hate when people talk down to me while doing it as if they have all the right answers. There are no right answers, except for the ones Twitter and Facebook made you agree to before giving you an account, which you probably didn’t read. Like most people you just checked the box and hurried on to fill your profile with something witty. There are, however, suggestions that have worked for others and preferences that people seem to agree upon. Furthermore, I witnessed the very people who were giving these rules also breaking them. It’s like after I read a book on the craft of writing and the writer tells me not to do something like use words ending in -ly and then I read a novel of theirs and the book is riddled with them. I feel as if I wasted my time reading the first book.
Rules are great and we need them, but we also need to break them at times. Sometimes in order to get the results you desire, you have to go against the grain and do what they tell you shouldn’t be done. I once worked for an owner of a food chain who believed if you weren’t in trouble, then you weren’t doing your job. (With your boss or city code enforcement, that is. I figured I’d explain that and run off and break some laws or get into a bind with your parents or spouse.) So don’t be afraid to do what others say you shouldn’t once in awhile. As the saying goes, it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.
You need to figure out what works for you versus what doesn’t and stick with that. Read everything you can on marketing, networking, and social media and then find a balance between what you are told as absolute and what you feel will work for you. I will be the first to agree that at times the Twitter newsfeed appears to be a lengthy billboard of advertisements. I will also admit that I add to some of that. It also feels like open mic night at the local bar and the audience is ignoring everything you say. I get ignored about as much as I gain a response. Furthermore, I add to the conversation by interacting with those who interact back. Balance.
I think the rules of social media can be reduced to just a few common sense guidelines.
First, don’t be an idiot. People don’t want to talk to rude, obnoxious individuals in real life, so why would they wish to online.
Second, don’t make it all about yourself. As I have said before, if you devote time into helping others with their dreams, they will help you with yours. And if they don’t, what does it matter? You’ve earned some good karma to help you on your journey. However, I promise you, it works and people notice. They appreciate someone who helps them get their word out and most will return the favor for you.
Third, introduce yourself, join the conversation, and be sociable. It is social media, after all, right? So what if not everyone talks back to you? I have almost 7,800 followers on Twitter. If we all talked to each other every day we’d never get off the computer. I don’t know how the people do it who have followers in the 20,000s or higher. However, you can make some serious connections and friendships by making it a point to talk to someone new every day. If someone doesn’t respond, just shrug and move on.
I’m not going to tell you not to cold call people, meaning shouting out a random @mention with a link to your product or page. It works for telemarketers, so the chance is it might work for you as well. However, like telemarketers, you run the risk of alienating people and being ignored, unfollowed, de-friended or blocked. You have to determine the risk and whether it’s worth it or not.
It’s the same with the direct message greeting and thank you with a link. I personally don’t do it nor do I pay attention to those that send them. I find them annoying, but then again, it must work because people still do them. Perhaps, if you just said hello in the DM and then reached out and built a relationship, you might get a better return for your effort but again, it’s up to you to determine what works for you. You might gain or lose.
I’m not an expert on how to use social media. I do something for awhile and then if it works, I keep doing it and if it doesn’t, I change it up. I also spend my time assisting people I am friends with, who talk to me, and who have something I think worth sharing. I am happy to say that that list gets longer every day and I have made some great relationships. I have also had the privilege of working with some fantastic writers, who have taught me how to navigate the murky waters of networking via social media. However, what I have also learned is that what works for one, may not work for another. You have to discover some things for yourself until you find what brings you the results you desire.
And don’t forget to break the rules once in awhile. It’ll do you good. I promise.
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