One of the most popular pastimes in the social media world is either becoming a social media consultant, or criticizing people who claim that they're social media experts but have few qualifications or achievements to their credit. My aim usually is to avoid doing either of those things.
What I hate, though, is when bad advice becomes so common that it's impossible to escape. Many "rules" of social media that you hear about often are blatantly wrong. Avoid these five social media traps that self-proclaimed experts blindly offer:
1. You should focus on comments.
Have you ever looked at the comment chain on a YouTube video? It's most often a mix of idiotic comments, nonsensical LOL-style half thoughts, and spam comments with links selling something irrelevant. Why would you want to encourage that type of feedback on your videos—or any online content, for that matter? The problem with online commenting platforms is that they're often anonymous. When you allow for anonymous comments, the overall quality is often so low that any valid comments are buried, making the entire online commentary useless for anyone trying to navigate it.
What's the solution? One idea is to turn off comments directly on YouTube, embed your videos into a blog or other website—and then encourage people to enter a dialogue with you there.
2. Customers always want conversations.
Imagine you're trying to book a flight to see family in Florida, deposit a check via your mobile phone or find the address of the nearest location of a chain restaurant—do you really want to have a "conversation" about that? Of course not. Conversations have a time and place—but there are also plenty of times your customers just want to get a task done. And the ultimate way to help them do that is by giving them a way to avoid having a conversation with anyone. There's a reason ATM machines are so popular. Sometimes we just want to get what we need and be happily on our way.
RELATED: 20 Ways to Look Dumb on Twitter
3. It's easy to start a community.
One of the most difficult things to do online is to create a true community. A community requires some amount of moderation, but mostly active participation from the individuals within the community. In other words, people, not brands, create communities—brands can just help to sustain them by providing resources or gathering points. If you consider this definition, a better way of thinking about communities would be to find a strategy for fostering or supporting them. Or better yet, why not find a community your customers are already participating in, and join the conversation in an authentic and non-salesy way? And if you do create your own community, never underestimate the importance of a consistent community manager. Without that dedicated presence and moderation, your branded community will fail.
4. You have to be a content creator.
Content creation is great, and for a business that does it well, it can have a great impact on connecting with customers. The problem is that doing content creation properly takes, well, talent. And unfortunately this isn't something that every business naturally does well. What if you don't have any writers, photographers, producers or directors in your team? One of the forms of content "creation" that is gaining in popularity actually doesn't involve creating anything at all. Consider curation, or the process of finding and bringing content together from across the Web. The 5 Models of Content Curation can help you to use curation as a way to bring valuable content to your customers without the ongoing burden of consistently trying to create great content.
RELATED: 8 Social Media Tricks to Get Clicks
5. Dashboards will tell you whether your social media plan is working.
Dashboards are the social media equivalent of the Hollywood cliche of riding into the sunset. Sure, everyone loves to see data visualized and simplified ... but that doesn't mean your dashboard is actually telling you anything useful. Instead of being romanced by the promise of a beautiful dashboard, you need to focus on the challenge of actually measuring something useful, then tracking it back to the goals you wanted to achieve. I call this "Visionary Measurement"—and it means thinking about business value instead of blindly chasing ROI without ever really defining what that means.
So the next time you hear someone share one of these "unbreakable" rules of social media—don't blindly follow it. Instead consider whether you might be better off following your own intuition and doing something more strategic instead.
Read more marketing articles.
Rohit Bhargava is the founder of the Influential Marketing Group and bestselling author of two books on how to bring more humanity back to business. He has worked with social media as a marketing platform since starting one of the earliest marketing agency social media teams in 2004. Despite having advised some of the largest brands in the world on using social media for marketing, he still continues to avoid being a "guru" of anything and instead just focuses on offering practical and hype-free marketing advice to his clients.