“Social” is not your father’s marketing. When participating in social media and social networking in business, here are 10 basic rules about what not to do:

  1. Don’t get started in social media if you have significant product deficiencies, customer support problems, or even corporate culture issues. Social media makes good businesses more successful and bad businesses bankrupt.
  2. Don’t use social media to explicitly sell. Instead, educate, enlighten, inform, and entertain your audience. In so doing, you’ll position yourself and your company as experts.
  3. Don’t “set it and forget it.” Lack of conversation makes you look worse than not showing up at all. Once started, sustain your participation and interaction.
  4. Don’t go negative. Never, never, never criticize your critics. Thank them for their input and do your best to address their issues. Even if you can’t make your critics happy, you’ll demonstrate to everyone else that your company is tuned in and responsive.
  5. Don’t mix personal and business accounts. In fact, please make sure that your company owns your social media accounts. After an employee departs, the company may not be able to access their personal account.
  6. Don’t expect to control the conversation. Social media is not an advertisement, product brochure, newsletter, email blast, or one-way monologue; it’s a conversation. Conversations are bidirectional and can have rough edges. It’s likely that your customers and prospects are already talking. Join in.
  7. Don’t worry about a little negativity. Studies show that a little negativity increases credibility and empathy. Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Be responsive to the negative, but know that such information can actually accelerate purchasing decisions.
  8. Don’t feel the need to talk about everything. I like sausage, but I don’t want to see it made. Be honest and use discretion. Authenticity is one thing; opening the kimono is something else.
  9. Don’t be a generalist. With literally hundreds of millions of blogs, videos, podcasts, tweets, etc., to choose from, every individual can tailor their content consumption to his or her exact interests. Focus on one topic and do it well.
  10. Don’t overwhelm your followers with too much information. Everybody is busy. Providing too much information is as bad as providing too little. Find the “Goldilocks Zone.” As a side benefit, this helps you to focus on the content with the highest value.

Social media is now required for interacting with your customers, partners, suppliers, and even employees. By getting started today, your company can (to borrow an idea from Charles Darwin) adapt to a changing environment more quickly than your competitors – to survive and even prosper. Now is the time; what are you waiting for?

Image credit: flickr user Rahim Packir Saibo (share, non-commercial, attribution)