The inventor of the web as we know it, Sir Tim Berners-Lee said recently that his next mission was “to bring about world peace”. Seriously. He believes that if people talk to each other, listen and understand each other’s problems, then they are less likely to shoot each other.
So in order to guide you around the messy world of social media, and bring about world peace in the process, I have compiled this short-ish list of rules…
- Obey the rules
- Social media is ALL about your audience, be they consumers, viewers, fans, followers or users. It has nothing to do with you, or what you think.
- The best followers lead from the middle of the pack – usually by example.
- 1 active user is a BIG deal. They have 140 friends. And their friends have 140 friends each. Therefore 1 piece of great content has the chops to reach 2.7m people within just 4 generations.
- If you actually spoke to people the way most social advertising speaks to people, they’d punch you in the face.
- People share emotions they don’t share facts. No amount of science, data or clever analysis will ever change this. Therefore make your content calendars appeal to people’s hearts, not their heads.
- Just because you work in social media doesn’t give you permission to sport a waxed moustache, tight jeans, TOMS or a buttoned up tartan shirt. Whilst this may be acceptable in your darkened office, listening to Spotify on your Bose headphones, dressing as such in the boardroom will render you a douche.
- Stop thinking about business in terms of B2B or B2C. Neither exist anymore. The only thing that matters is P2P. People-to-people.
- Facebook is not the answer to your problems. For some brands, Facebook is the last place you should be. Go wherever your audience is. Chances are those blogs and forums that you didn’t care about are a damn sight more valuable than those shiny new social networks you’ve been telling everyone about.
- Understand that ROI can only ever be ‘Return on Investment’. It has NOTHING to do with a return on influence, impressions, interactions or any other marketing-related term beginning with the letter “i”.
- Learn what Social NPS means.
- Update your page or delete it.
- Anybody can buy you 50,000 followers for $1,000 or 100,000 fans for $20,000. If your boss thinks fans and followers are valid success metrics, refer him to rule 71 before you refer to rule 77.
- If all you ever do is respond to complaints – that’s all people will ever send you.
- As monetization attempts go up - consumer experience usually goes down.
- The half-life of a tweet is now 6-7 minutes. A good Facebook post lasts a couple of hours. A great YouTube link is not much more. Social media is not about survival of the fittest anymore. It’s survival of the fastest. (This obviously changes the game for brands that out-source their voice / community management to agencies).
- Facebook operates a stealthy and mysterious algorithm codenamed EdgeRank. This operates with the sole purpose of sensoring bad content and keeping it out of everyone’s newsfeed. This is often good for user experience. Apparently. But not so good for brands who want to reach all their fans. That being said, all good content still rises to the top… eventually. When in doubt, see rule 49.
- Look after your audience. It is 7 times cheaper to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one.
- Over 90% of people who visit a brand page never return. You only have to look at most brand pages to understand why.
- Nobody can manage any more than 150 relationships. Or 5 friends “of any consequence”. Before you disagree and defend your 30,251 friends and 101,000 fake followers, Google “Robin Dunbar”. The science behind “his number” will prove you wrong.
- Engaging with your fans and creating a community are NOT the same thing. Seriously.
- Live by the 90:10 rule. 10% of your time should be spent creating great content. 90% of your time should be spent engaging with your audience. That means chatting to everyone. Listening. And then CARING about what they say. Under no circumstances is this ratio to be reversed. Ever.
- Just because you can measure everything doesn’t mean that you should. Soft engagement metrics such as PTAT, likes and mentions look good on a report, but will not keep you in a job. Measuring ROI or NPS on the other hand will. If unsure, see rules 10 and 11.
- Despite what your boss might think, social media is not cheap. Nor is it easy. It can be very expensive and incredibly difficult (especially if you do it wrong or take bad advice). Rules 34 and 35 obviously come into play here.
- The correct ratio of Followers to Following is 10:1. eg. It is acceptable for someone with 10,000 followers to follow 1,000 people. Whilst high following numbers are difficult to manage (see rule 20), Twitter lists were invented for such instances. Note: Anyone with a disproportionately high ratio one-way or the other is either a) Katy Perry b) Pretending they didn’t acquire their followers by questionable means. Both options should be frowned upon.
- Some of the best directors I know have learnt everything they know about social media from their children. Do not under-estimate these ankle-snappers. Socially-savvy-cellphone-obsessed teenagers now check their phones an average 150 times per day and will find out most things before you do.
- Social media is the only area of business where you don’t need to outspend your competitors in order to beat them. This is because rule 4 is a BIG deal.
- Social media is a lot like teen sex. Everybody wants to do it. Nobody quite knows how it is done. And when it is done, there’s surprise that it isn’t better. Despite this shortcoming, rule 26 will always apply.
- If you have “Social __________” in your job title, you are allowed to sit down with any person, from any team within your company, and ask how you can help them. Be aware though that most of these non-marketing people are very aware of rule 34.
- A plan of what to post on Facebook, pin on Pinterest, Tweet on Twitter or upload to YouTube does not a social strategy make. A good strategy outlines the direction that a company should take and why it should take it. In the words of Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
- Everyone says they don’t want to be marketed to. Really they just don’t want to be talked down to - or targeted with completely irrelevant ads for products that they don’t care about or have no interest in buying. Ever.
- Move fast and break things (and be proud of your breakages). If something needs changing or there is a better way to do it, your users will tell you soon enough.
- 90% of start-up’s fail. Chances are you are not the next Mark Zuckerberg no matter how good your “instagram-with-a-buy-button” app is. Create value and love your audience (no matter how small it is). Rule 4 ALWAYS applies.
- 85% of people working in social media have been in the industry for less than 2 years. Most of them have not failed enough. Chances are they have no idea what they are talking about and should be avoided at all costs. This rule applies to all digital agencies who became irrelevant after the .com boom and re-invented themselves as social media shops. If you were offended by rule 7, you probably fall into the 85%.
- Red Bull spends over one-third of its revenue on brand marketing. Burberry spends 50% of its brand budget of digital marketing. Nike spends 25% of its brand budget on social media marketing. You are neither Red Bull, Burberry or Nike, but if you ever have any aspirations of being anywhere close to them, you too must understand the (exact) value of your fans – before you spend all your money trying to reach them.
- Social is 24/7 not a one-time stunt. And yes I’m talking to you Old Spice guy. Just because you smashed a killer campaign, didn’t mean you could run away and stop tweeting the second your campaign ended.
- The majority of people use social media to waste time. Brands need to be respectful of this. Remember that not everyone on Facebook is ready to click on an ad to help them discover new products that they didn’t know they wanted.
- Twitter is not a social network. It never really was, users just tried to make it act like one. Twitter is a news and information network. Act accordingly.
- Don’t try to be clever. Be clever.
- Don’t use ads to prop up boring content. Use ads to accelerate successful content. (If you are unsure of how much to spend on ads, the 60:30:10 rule has often worked for me; 60% of your budget on media, 30% on creative / community management, 10% invested in strategy and measurement to make sure it all worked).
- People fight for their privacy. But rule 66 will always apply..
- If fans start publishing and sharing your content without your permission, offer to help.
- Reply to EVERYONE.
- The journey is the reward as Steve Jobs used to say. There is no finish line. Thinking that every conversation has a beginning, middle AND an end only makes community managers even more frustrated than they already are.
- This is not Google. Trying to buy 1 persons attention is not the same as trying to create compelling content that they WANT to share with their 140 friends.
- When posting content, you can either ask your audience to “click-to-buy” OR “click-to-share”. Not both. Choose wisely as you may not get a second chance. When in doubt refer to rule 15.
- Community managers are the real un-sung heroes of social media.
- The future belongs to the data ninjas, analysts and scientists. 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. Anyone who can make sense of this for a brand in order to filter out ‘the signal from the noise’, is worth whatever anyone is willing to pay them.
- Whoever tells the best stories goes home with the most marbles.
- If your product is competing on price, remember that only 1 brand can ever be the cheapest in the world. Chances are it’s not you. Therefore find something else to compete on before your fans embarrass you.
- Instagram is a great playground for brands. It transcends all cultural boundaries since it doesn’t have any language limitations. If you are unsure of what to post, refer to rule 55.
- If your content doesn’t work on a mobile device, it doesn’t count. 189m people now ONLY access Facebook on a mobile. 80% of Twitter users in the UK are mobile based.
- Pinterest works. It is a beautiful place to waste time. Hopefully it will continue to “work” even after they release an advertising API and un-ethical marketers try to ruin it. Said marketers will never understand rule 37.
- Engagement is not a dog. It cannot be owned. This is not 2003 or 1993. You are not in control of your brand anymore. Your fans are.
- Nobody cares what you had for breakfast (unless you’re a food brand).
- Stop trying to copy your competitors. Despite competitor monitoring software telling you otherwise, just because something worked for them doesn’t mean it will work for you.
- Nobody cares how many awards your campaign received. The world of social media is littered with countless award winning campaigns that never generated any real business value (or revenue).
- If you weren’t embarrassed about any of the apps you built when you launched them, chances are you launched them too late. It is up to your users (not you), to decide what is good and what is not. Don’t wait until something appears perfect before you release it. Ship. Fast.
- Despite what you think about him, Zuck isn’t interested in money. He really doesn’t want to turn Facebook into an advertising network (even though it is a VERY good one already). He turned down $10m for Facebook when he was a poor student at Harvard and the network was only 4 months old. Financially driven people don’t do things like that. You need to have a purpose bigger than yourself, if you are going to succeed.
- App.net was a good idea that was never going to succeed on any real scale. People aren’t against receiving marketing messages. They are against spam or pointless and irrelevant content. If you don’t like advertising, paste rule 78 on your cubicle at work.
- Having 1,000 comments on your Facebook posts doesn’t count if every one is a user bitching about a bad experience. Give your fans somewhere useful to post their issues and complaints. Your Facebook wall is not that place. Beware of rule 14.
- If you duplicate the same content across every social network because “you didn’t have the time or resources”, you deserve whatever abuse happens to come your way.
- Hipstamatic was a photo-sharing app that allowed you to share to social networks. Instagram is a social network that allows you to take photographs. Big difference. If you are building an app, get your priorities in order. If you want your app to succeed, beware of rule 33.
- Ben Silberman, the co-founder of Pinterest still has the personal emails and mobile numbers of his first 5,000 users. He still cares about what they think and asks them for advice. Follow his example.
- There is no such thing as a social media guru. If you think you are one, you need to ask your closest friend to give you a swift kick in the balls and remove it immediately. (If you are a girl, this will be difficult).
- Privacy is over-rated. Respect is not.
- Giving away free iPads to people on Facebook is fine - as long as you have no intention of building a lasting relationship with them.
- Not everybody likes kittens, girl fails, the Harlem Shake or bulldogs on skateboards. Find stories that resonate with your audience and tell them well. See rule 49.
- If you are a brand and you don’t want to see financial results from your social media activity, chances are you completely wasted your money.
- Only marketers care how many impressions or “eyeballs” your content got. They were also the only ones who ever cared how many people flicked past your newspaper ad, or walked past your billboard. Real people just want to find more time to do more cool stuff, or have their lives made easier, happier or more rewarding. Search for a purpose. Not another set of eyeballs.
- You don’t need 1,000,000 new “likes”. You need 1,000 new customers. Repeat until understood.
- Social media is too important to be left to the marketing department. Instead, build teams consisting of customer service, operations, digital, sales, support and commercial people. This newly formed team should be obsessed with nothing other than loving your customers to death and building a compelling “conversation strategy” that drives real business results.
- If you don’t understand what each kind of Twitter or Facebook ad unit is (and how it will benefit an organization), you shouldn’t be working in social media. Learn fast or go back to working in PR.
- Gangnam Style was not a viral success (it had a very elaborate 2 year seeding plan behind it). So if your boss asks you to create the next Gangnam style, or any viral video for that matter, you must either resign immediately or kick him in the balls. Or both.
- @StephenFry is not going to follow you and he is certainly NEVER going to DM you. Neither is Ashton Kutcher.
- Influence has nothing to do with reach or the number of followers someone has. If this was true, Justin Bieber would be the answer to every brand’s problems. This of course is not the case, unless you are Claire’s Accessories.
- If your boss bonuses you based upon likes, followers, viewers, subscribers or pinners; you need a new boss.
- The best advertising isn’t advertising.
- In the words of the original social media visionary David Ogilvy, the consumer is not a moron. She is your wife.
- Finally I encourage you to live by the social media policy etched on the walls of a large UK TV network. It simply says, “Don’t be a cock”. So don’t. But if you ever think you might be one, remember that as long as you are obeying rule 22, then you have nothing to worry about.
Bonus rules from David @Armano…
“Put your energy into making things that are LIKEABLE not some douchey social media strategy”. Nice. #douchey
"It’s more difficult to un-subscribe from a relationship".
* All these rather fine cartoons (if you didn’t know already), were drawn by the fabulous Hugh Macleod of @gapingvoid fame.
** Kudos to @FastCompany for kickstarting these rules in their September 2012 issue
*** Big love to the social superstars who inspired this post @GaryVee @BrainSolis Olivier Blanchard @Jowyang @Jack @ChrisBrogan SethGodin Ben Silbermann Zuck Sean Parker @ReidHoffman @KevinRose