There are no rules with social media

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long while but, having read yet another “do it my way” post, I couldn’t hold off any longer. (Note to self: there are no ‘Ultimate Guides’ to anything!)

Of course, it’s a paradox for me to say there are no rules (that’s a rule, stupid!) but, fundamentally, I believe it the case.

Why?

Because we’re human, and there’s no one size fits all across any (marketing) paradigm, particularly one which is influenced by our tribe and not one that belongs to (or so they would have you think) another entity. (Sorry that sounds terribly pompous; but what it means for you and me is that we have to stay true to who we are and stop copying others.)

I know it’s tempting to ape a successful business, and let’s face it there’s no shortage of exemplars, but you’re deluding yourself if you believe that you can copy a purported Twitter, Facebook or blogging strategy. It’s stating the oh-so-obvious, but just because it’s worked for a competitor, even one that looks deceptively like your business (law firms are two a penny), doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Saying there are no rules doesn’t negate the need to do something. (Again I know I’m stating the obvious, but you would be amazed how little social media production actually happens but so much is expected.)

For many businesses they still think that sharing their news and lots of what-we-do material is enough. But it’s not. For a start, and as glib as it sounds, no one is remotely interested. Their sole preoccupation is, you guessed it, themselves. Further, people are not interested in your company. They only become interested (not care) when they need something. Notwithstanding this, it doesn’t mean that when your putative customer starts their online journey they are automatically in the mood to buy.

Note: Try as I might to convince people that they have to look at producing content (stories to be precise) for the whole buying cycle, they all default to the standard sales operating procedure: a call to action that bangs out in loud flashing banner type words–BUY OUR PRODUCT/SERVICE… NOW!

Be smart.

Think about your own experience.

Sure, you’re time poor but that doesn’t mean every time you open a browser your finger is poised to press the Buy button. To begin with you might not even know why you’re online, and it’s only because you trip over something that piques your interest that you are led down another alley and so on. Also, don’t think one-dimensionally with your content. I love words more than you can ever imagine but it’s music that makes me cry. Likewise, I love film but I feel more deeply connected with audio as a result of my childhood experience of having 30 black and white TVs that didn’t work (my dad was a TV repair man–enough said) and defaulting to an old Roberts radio that crackled into life and allowed me my first taste of sport when listening to heavyweight boxing.

At this stage, you would be right to question the title to this blog (it’s not SEO pumped up I promise). With what I’ve said already, I’ve already laid down a slew of my proclivities which have all the hallmark of rules. That’s not my intention but merely to get you to reflect if what you’re doing is right for you or if you’re merely copying what others have told you or you’ve read/watched elsewhere.

If I have a message it’s that you have to be prepared to go it alone, try lots of stuff and learn from your mistakes. If this feels a little like the Lean Startup methodology (http://theleanstartup.com/principles) (Build, Measure, Learn) then you wouldn’t be a million miles away.

The thing is by sticking too rigidly to a rules-based approach, you’ll undermine your own efforts when said rules don’t deliver. Also, it’s fun not to know precisely what you’re doing from one day to the next.

One final thing. If you want to make a difference with social media you have to find a way of connecting inside and outside the organisation. Whilst rules help to minimise risk, they reinforce an approach that is bereft of energy and passion which is vital to making that connection.

I accept that for a lot of businesses, particularly in the professional services space, what I’m advocating may sound suicidal, but my belief is that you can still afford to let go once in a while without betting the farm.