Social Media’s 10 Commandments

Social media encompasses a broad variety of different platforms where there are unwritten social media rules by which participants interact, engage and contribute.

While many of these networks tend to be self-regulating, as a marketer, it’s important to understand these generally accepted practices that govern social media behavior because users act under these established rules and expect others to do so as well.

To help clarify what’s expected of participants, here are 10 social media commandments that apply to both individuals and companies. Their observance makes social media engagement a positive experience for everyone regardless of their level and/or form of activity.

  1. Thou shalt be human. Your content has to sound like a real person. Corporate-speak that’s been stripped of any sense that a person wrote it just doesn’t work. That said, your writing still needs to be edited for proper English usage and shouldn’t contain the slang, abbreviations and contractions that work in text messages and on Twitter.
  2. Thou shalt honor thy social media participants. Since social media users drive traffic and buy your products, it’s important to understand them, their needs and motivations. (For help on how to better appreciate your audience, check out marketing personas and these points to know your audience.)
  3. Thou shalt give to the community. Contributing to larger community is at the core of social media. Related to this is the notion that “it’s not about you!” Therefore it’s expected that you give to the community. This can take a variety of formats such as writing blog posts or commenting on social media networks.
  4. Thou shalt participate. As a member of the greater community, everyone needs to be present to contribute. Realize that different people will contribute at different levels. Even lurkers are important as part of the community. (Here’s help on how to develop your next generation of super-users.)
  5. Thou shalt watch thy language. Participating in the social media ecosphere carries with it social responsibility, especially when you’re creating content. Whether it’s blog posts and videos or commenting on Facebook or Twitter, you must respect others. This means watching your language; don’t use obscenities or demeaning or disparaging language. Nor should you needlessly antagonize others or make fun of their challenges.
  6. Thou shalt not steal other people’s content. Social media marketing is driven by new, fresh content. Using someone else’s columns, posts or other form of content is old hat and ho-hum. It won’t attract readers since they’ve seen it before.
  7. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Check your facts before you engage on social media. Be aware that content creators may use a minor story detail to get a racy headline, attracting lots of attention but distorting the truth.
  8. Thou shalt share thy knowledge. At the core of social media is the idea of supporting the greater community by freely contributing to the knowledge base.
  9. Thou shalt use a variety of content formats. To keep your social media content interesting and engaging, it’s useful to provide an assortment of different formats such as videos, slide presentations and photographs. (For help, check this chart for social media content.)
  10. Thou shalt not cover only superstars and viral successes. It’s important to provide a variety of content for your readers. While it’s easy to write about the same thing that everyone else is, you need to add positive content to the conversation. Just repeating what others write does not add value to the collective dialogue. (BTW, you shouldn’t covet the superstars and viral successes either.)

From a marketing perspective, these unstated commandments help by setting expectations for how to interact on social media and how others anticipate you will engage with them.

Are there other rules that you’d add to this list of social media commandments? If so, what are they and why would you add them? Are there any of these rules that you’d eliminate? If so, why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


If you’d like to read further, here are some related articles that you might be interested in.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Tags , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • http://nicwirtz.posterous.com Nic Wirtz

    Some are followed religiously, some less so and some are made to be broken, pretty much like any rule.

    I disagree with rule 5, there’s plenty people in social media that use interesting language to their benefit. Rule 5 conflicts with the “be yourself” rule too. If people swear a lot in real life, I’d expect their posts to reflect this.

    Rule 6 is almost impossible not to break, the sheer volume of content creators taking advantage of being able to self-publish ensures that original, fresh ideas are in the minority.

    Strong list, rules we could all live by!