17 essential social media guidelines to follow

The author shared the rules that guide her social media journey. Consider adopting some of them, or call them bunk in the comments section.


This is the perfect time of year to reflect back and figure out what the previous 12 months yielded in the way of insights and perspective.

I decided to break out this analysis into several different categories for 2012, including the most relevant social media concepts I either adopted or believed in more strongly. I consider these essential social media guidelines, for clients and for myself.

As it is with life, in general, the more I think I know about social media, the more I discover there is to know. That’s humbling. But that’s how learning goes.

The point is to stay open and aware—especially in an area as rapidly changing as this one. I’ll just keep recalibrating the social media compass I consult for this journey.

Some of these were already among my go-to guidelines when advising clients or blogging or posting. Others, I adopted more recently. See how many you follow—or whether you agree.

My social media guidelines gleaned or reinforced last year

1. A social media policy needs to have more dos than don’ts to be effective.

2. Automatic posts, including tweets, are fine sometimes: If not scheduled more than a day or so ahead; if turned off quickly after unexpected events that might make them seem insensitive or out-of-touch; and if monitored regularly for responses, questions, or conversations

3. Otherwise, auto posting leads to one-way communication instead of social conversation.

4. Engagement takes work and an actual human presence.

5. Social influence is real and very powerful.

6. Social media is a direct line to customers, clients, and valuable relationships.

7. No one social media tool or channel is essential for a brand to use …

8. … But if choosing to use a particular social site don’t be AWOL.

9. Visuals, headlines, and design all count when posting content …

10. … But if you’re not offering insight or lessons that are useful, no amount of pretty-ing up will fix that flaw.

11. Social media is a vital part of any business; smart leaders of any age can get this concept.

12. Measurement is key and can include qualitative and quantitative data …

13. … But measurement in social media is still evolving; there’s not really one best way.

14. Brands should keep some control of, and say so over, their social media presence and “voice”; outsource social media mindfully and with care.

15. Social media takes practice and time.

16. Tools can help make managing social media easier; but they can also overwhelm.

17. It’s hard to know every tool; follow trends, though, and tools with rabid fans.*

I kept this list quite broad. And I could’ve added many more. I’m planning to build on these concepts and see where the lessons go in 2013. So much of my learning comes from the amazing talent I follow on Twitter and other sites. Some of them are here.

Let me know what you think and which concepts you’d include as essential social media guidelines, as well as which ones you follow—or which ones you think are bunk!

*Listly is a wonderful example of tools easing management (and of having rabid fans). It’s kind of like crowd sourcing on social media steroids. I started one based on this blog post: Essential Social Media Guidelines. (View more lists from Becky Gaylord.)

Becky Gaylord worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Sydney, before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. You can read Becky’s blog Framing What Works.

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