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You want to do social media right? Discover the only rule that matters.

Social media can seem like an intimidating place where the landscape is always changing (what? there’s yet another new tool?!) and wading through the endless amount of advice on how to be a social media success can make your head spin. I hear you!

So let me share this little secret: it all boils down to one simple principle. No matter what social tool you use, or what business you are in, you can’t do it wrong if you follow this one golden rule:

Social media is about real RELATIONSHIPS with real PEOPLE. (Tweet that!)

Too simple? Let’s break it down.

1.  Be yourself. Always. (But imagine that anything you say or do could be printed on the front page of a newspaper so just as in life, think before you speak.) Speak, tweet and post like a human being, using authentic language (you wouldn’t stuff normal conversation with 10 hashtags, so don’t do it on Twitter either!) and skip automated, formulaic messages (for the love of all things tweet-tastic, DO NOT set up an auto direct message to go out to each of your new followers).

Real relationships are genuine and take work.

2.  Friendships take time. When you move to a new city, you don’t snap your fingers and magically have a large, supportive group of friends. You have to start somewhere (when we moved to France, joining the local ultimate frisbee club was the natural first step for us), slowly meet people, grow those relationships and begin building a social circle. It's the same when you are new to any social channel. It won’t happen overnight. Find a place to start and be patient.

3.  Never, ever ‘buy’ friends, followers or likes. Seriously, you’d never do this in real life and it’s just as stupid on social media.

4.  Be consistent. It’s much easier to build a relationship with someone you hang out with regularly than someone you see only sporadically. (Especially in the crowded room of social media, consistency can set you apart.)

Be generous with your time, attention and knowledge.

5.  Don’t make it all about you. We all know what it’s like to have a conversation with that person who just will not shut up about themselves (get me outta here!). This means listening, responding to and celebrating the people around you.

6.  Give, give, give before you ever ask for anything in return. Think about this: are you more likely to help out a friend that’s been there for you, or someone who approaches you in the street just to ask for money? Keep sales pitches to a minimum, just as you would with your friends in real life.

7.  Treat people how you would like to be treated. If a friend came to you with a legitimate concern, would you refuse to acknowledge how they feel, hang up the phone or start yelling at them? Absolutely not. (If you answered yes, I don't think I can help you so go ahead and navigate away from my blog now.) If someone has a legitimate concern or complaint about you or your business, you should listen. Acknowledge them. Apologize if necessary and then respond as best you can. All without trying to hide their comment. Focus on being classy and you will rock this. (I emphasized legitimate because obviously, as in life, sometimes people are really off the deep end or have their own agenda, so use your own wise judgement to determine when it won’t be constructive to engage with these types of people.)

8.  Be valuable. Whether it’s a great recipe, a hot new brunch place to try or an introduction to a friend of a friend that helps us score a job interview, we all love friends that share their knowledge and connections, it’s no different on social media.

See? This isn’t some new puzzle, just relationship building put in a new venue.

Take action now

  • Say hi & introduce yourself to someone on social media you don't know in real life. (Yes, right this second! I'll wait here : )

If this makes you nervous, or feels too “network-y” to you, try doing it by replying to, commenting on or retweeting (with an added personal comment of course!) one of their posts. Remember, be genuine, generous and patient. This is about real RELATIONSHIPS. I promise if you remember that, you will kill it on social media.

Now get out there and start meeting people!

BONUS: Do this at least once a week, every week. (And watch your social connections blossom!)

I'd love to hear from you

How do you feel about building relationships on social media? Are you making solid connections? What do you struggle with?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! (I read & respond to every single one.)

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7 Responses to You want to do social media right? Discover the only rule that matters.

  1. Carolan Ross May 7, 2013 at 17:01 #

    This is a thought-provoking perspective about social media, Jackie. So many treat it like a ‘numbers game’ as if the numbers alone were significant. In the end, we are all faced with an avalanche of input via social media and so we focus on only what is truly meaningful and valuable. Those who hard sell or have a me-me-me approach get nixed by my filter first. Also “Give,give,give before ever asking for anything in return” – YEP!

    • Jackie Johnstone May 7, 2013 at 19:10 #

      That’s a great point, Carolan! I didn’t think to tie this directly to the ‘numbers game’ mentality but it’s so true. Because when we think of it as a numbers game we’ve already lost sight of who those numbers ARE! Thanks for sharing : )

  2. pamela May 8, 2013 at 11:40 #

    Hi Jackie,
    so true! I agree on each point you mentioned. At the beginning of my experience with social media (which wasn’t long time ago) I started tweeting like a robot. Do this, buy that and hashtags everywhere! Than at some point I realised it was… well…crazy an I started speking even about my life. I did this and it was great, I can recommend it and my followers (not many but as you said it take time) started growing and commenting.
    Social media is really about people and this is actually a good thing :)

    • Jackie Johnstone May 8, 2013 at 17:36 #

      Yay! Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I know it can be frustrating at the beginning if growth is slow — but real, engaged community is so much more rewarding than tweeting to 1000s of followers who couldn’t care less. Plus, I’ve met SO many amazing people through social media, it can really make the world a much smaller place. Keep at it!

  3. Hilarie May 9, 2013 at 08:41 #

    Hi Jackie, I opened my twitter account a few months ago and have become better and better at using it – especially as I’ve started to figure out exactly what I want out of it. I do find it VERY difficult to find people to connect with because for now it just seems a stream of people’s posts to their blogs or the automated updates from Facebook. I went to a conference in Toronto recently and connected with people on Twitter whom I met there and that’s been my biggest success for Twitter yet. It’s also made me braver and made Twitter more fun for me. When I tweet I often feel as though I’m talking down into a huge underground cave – echoes echoes! But when I tweet directly with people I often get good laughs or just that good feeling of having made a connection.

    Thanks for this post!
    Hilarie

    • Jackie Johnstone May 9, 2013 at 19:05 #

      Hilarie, if you are feeling like Twitter is just a stream of not-so-relevant posts, I highly suggest using a tool like Hootsuite where you can set up columns to highlight lists (both yours & other people’s) as well as any hashtags/search terms that may be interesting or relevant for you. I hardly ever spend that much time in my ‘Home Feed’ – once you are following a few hundred users, you’ll see only a fraction of their posts and it all goes by so fast. It’s much easier to make connections & discover new and interesting people to connect with. (I’ll be talking about time management on social media using tools like Hootsuite next week AND I’ll be doing a special tutorial on setting up your Hootsuite the week after so stayed tuned – feel free to jump on my list so you don’t miss out!)

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