When I’m asked to speak or teach others about social media, I often stress that the “rules” for social media networks are quite often the same as they are for other social interactions. Simply, act on Facebook (or Twitter, or LinkedIn, etc.) as you would act at a social event–listen, be polite, etc.–and you’ll probably be OK.
Good behavior is good behavior, and the opposite is also true.
While watching the 1984 classic The Karate Kid was on cable recently (yet again!) it occurred to me that a great deal of Mr. Miyagi’s advice for young Daniel-san is also applicable to social media. Here are some of my favorites.
“Walk on road. Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squish just like grape.”
Many people ask me how they can find the time to take advantage of all the different social media networks out there: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, maintaining a blog and on and on.
The answer is simple–don’t even try. Join the networks that you feel give you the most benefit and participate regularly. Just making a profile is a bit like walking in the middle of the road. It’s far better to focus on one or two communities and reap those benefits than to have a dozen usernames and passwords you seldom use. Too many sign-ups and too little conversation and you’ll probably find yourself saying that you don’t get this social media thing and can’t see any benefit. And you’d be right.
“Just remember, license never replace eye, ear, and brain” and “There are no bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.”
There is no seminar that will give you a short cut to making social media work for every situation. Yet, somehow, I’ve never seen an industry spawn so many overnight “gurus.” When my car breaks, I take it to an experienced mechanic, not a “transportation guru.” A licensed and trained dentist, not an “oral care guru,” cleans my teeth a couple of times each year and tells me if I need fillings.
By almost any standard, the Internet itself is a relatively new medium, and social media is in its infancy. Facebook is only five years old. There are not centuries–even decades–of accumulated best practices and learning. There are no ancient texts to be deciphered or undiscovered secrets awaiting discovery. And there are no “gurus” that can give you a fix-all short cut to success. Don’t let these people baffle you with BS. Use your eyes, your ears and your brain. Read what smart people with successful track records in setting and reaching specific goals using social media tactics say, and think about how you can make that work for your situation. Like anything worth doing, it takes time to develop your voice. Watch and learn, but don’t mimic or look for a one-size-fits-all blueprint. No matter what you hear (or get spammed in your Twitter stream) short cuts simply don’t exist.
There’s a great scene in the movie when Daniel asks Miyagi, “All right, so what are the rules here?”
“Don’t know,” he replies. “First time you, first time me.” In a nutshell, that’s social media. In many cases it is first time you, first time me. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook, and he’s only been at it five years longer than the guy that joined yesterday. Don’t expect a “guru” to replace your eyes, your ears and, most importantly, your brain.
“First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.”
Put another way: don’t follow 5,000 people before sending your first tweet. There are three legs to the social media stool: the size of your audience, your ongoing relevance to your audience and your ability to engage your audience. It’s not a pure numbers game, and those that make it one simply don’t get it.
Start out by understanding how the people you want to engage with are using the medium. If none of your friends are playing Farmville on Facebook, they probably don’t want you to ask them to help you water your crops a few dozen times a day. It’s just like walking into a room at a social mixer. You don’t run up to the first people you see and say something like “Hey, how about them Broncos?” before you even know what they’re talking about. You listen first and join the conversation appropriately. Same thing in social media networks.
“Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home.”
Balance in social media means offering far more than you ask for–and selling is asking. If your Twitter stream is a series of offers to download your e-book or visit your sales-heavy blog, you’re not going to get very far in the long run. You might get a bunch of followers, but the other two measures–the ability to engage and long-term relevance–will fall flat.
Achieve balance–strong reach, relevant conversations and strong interaction with your audience–and success will follow.
“For man with no forgiveness in heart, life worse punishment than death.”
OK. Some of you will catch that’s from Karate Kid Part II, but it’s the perfect finish. Social media is new. Go easy if your friend on Facebook he’s making you nuts with Farmville. Just talk to them and tell them what works for you. Let them know you’re not interested, but that you’d love to hear more about their family. If someone offends you on Twitter, act like you would in the office–talk it out. If the problem continues, unfollow, but don’t expect everyone to know the rules–and let’s face it, there aren’t many–on Day One.
Be patient, bring people along, and help them join your circle.
After all, isn’t that what Mr. Miyagi would do?
Doyle Albee is a principal at Metzger Associates in Boulder, Colorado. He is snarky, enjoys great red wine and can be found various places on the web (both with and without the wine). Follow him on Twitter and check him out over on his social homes page – DoyleAlbee.com.