7 More Unwritten Rules Of Social Media

Navigating your way through social media can be hard. To make sure you're getting heard, practice these seven rules.
Foresight Plus, LLC
August 17, 2011

I previously wrote about unwritten rules for social media. Today, I want to write about the unwritten rules for being heard on social media. There are a lot of voices online. Don’t complain about the noise, design your strategy to amplify your signal in the face of this noise. Here are seven more to consider rules to consider when it comes to being heard:

1. You have to pay the price to win the prize

This golden rule of life applies well to social media, but it’s easy to forget when you are busy engaging in it. There is a temptation to take shortcuts, to find tips and tricks to get ahead fast. The promise seems to be a broad reach for seemingly no cost.

When you see someone on a social media site who made it instantly, pause for a minute and think if they really made it instantly or did they pay a big price way before they even entered the social media game. It’s easy to think if they can do it, you can do it too. The wisdom lies in changing that statement to: If they can do it by paying that price, you can do it by paying a price too.

2. You can copy the tactics but you can’t copy the foundation

Social media is mostly about amplification. While social media welcomes everyone with open arms, people with stronger foundations and meaningful accomplishments have a hugely unfair advantage.

Why? Because while everyone can talk freely, not everyone is worth listening to. We all know that people have a limited bandwidth to listen to conversations and they will gravitate towards listening to people with meaningful accomplishments (and stronger foundations.) From the outside, it would seem like all you have to do is to copy everything that someone successful on social media is employing and you really can do that.

Unfortunately, you can’t replicate the accomplishments or the foundation that other person has built for himself or herself. The key is in distinguishing yourself by making meaningful contributions and amplifying them.

3. Social media is not egalitarian

There are some exclusive clubs where they have a big barrier to entry but once you are in they are completely egalitarian. Social media is different. Anybody can setup a Facebook fan page for free and millions have created them already—77 percent of those pages have less than 1,000 fans. Ninety-nine percent of them have less than 10,000 fans. You can neither ask for equality nor for entitlement in social media. Everything needs to be earned. (Please read: What can you do when you don’t belong to a club?)

4. Not all buzz is created equal

There is one school of thought that says any kind of PR is good PR. People try odd things on social media based on that belief. Think about it:

  • Being funny is not the same as being witty
  • Criticizing is not the same as creating
  • Confrontation is not the same as engaging in a healthy debate
  • Pontification is not the same as enrichment

In any of the above cases, there is a possibility of creating buzz. But all that buzz is not created same. There is good buzz and there is bad buzz. The Internet has infinite memory and it rarely forgets. Bad buzz comes back and haunts you again and again as you are only one search query away from being exposed. (Please read: Are you creating the right kind of buzz?)

5. Being of use to someone trumps trying to use someone

If you have been on social media and have built a reasonable influence, you would have faced this situation—someone reaches out to you on a social network and almost instantly makes a request that is meaningful to him or her but almost meaningless to you. Decline the request and they disappear completely—mostly because they get busy trying to find someone else that they can use.

Think about it—nobody likes to be used. You don’t like to be used, I don’t like to be used. The ease of access because of social media might get some people carried away. But, in the long run, trying to use will never work. The alternate option is the directly opposite one—to be someone who is useful and allow the power of reciprocation to produce the results.

6. Actions matter and intentions matter more

For anything to happen on social media (and in many parts of life) you need to take action. No brownie points for just thinking about something—actions are what get rewarded. That is in no way bringing down the value of how you think about the actions you are taking—in other words, the intentions behind those actions matter a lot.

Why? Because however crafty your actions are, the intentions behind them will get revealed sooner than later. If they are not honorable, you are slowly alienated, moved to end of the inner circle and finally kicked out of the playing field. Just because one can engage in social media from behind a keyboard, nobody is genius enough to hide their true intentions for engaging with social media over a long period of time.

7. The larger the noise, the stronger the signal

The noise level on social media is high. The reasons for that include low barrier to entry, mindset that activity is productivity, the need to engage even if it means sharing mediocre content, etc. This seems like bad news but it’s really good news. For the consumers, there are filtering tools to reduce the noise levels and get the signals. As a producer, you immediately get an unfair advantage if you are sending the signals. The larger the noise, the stronger your signals.

Image credit: Martin Canchola

Rajesh Setty is an entrepreneur, author and speaker based in Silicon Valley. He also creates and sells limited-edition prints at Sparktastic. You can follow him on Twitter at @rajsetty.

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Foresight Plus, LLC