9 social media rules to break

Experts often tell us we should “break all the rules.” But how do we do this wisely? How far can we go? Here’s timely marketing advice for would-be social-media rule-flouters.

Social media has changed in the past few years in ways nobody could’ve predicted. The successes of many brands have turned the unwritten rules of social media into best practices. Those best practices have become strict guidelines.

If you follow the rules below you will have social media success. But for an outstanding online presence you should break commandments.

It’s not easy. It requires that you think, test, be patient and take chances that may not pan out. If you’re willing to try, get outside your comfort zone by breaking one (or all) of these rules:

Rule #1: Don’t post too often and don’t repeat posts

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you should spam your audience. When I encourage you to break this rule, I’m saying don’t be afraid to repeat your social updates to reach new people. You don’t have to repeat your post word for word. Play with the words, the pictures or the hashtags. Share a quote or change your call to action. Test different words and ideas to see which get the most clicks.

Why? Every day people post 500 million messages on Twitter. Let that sink in for a moment. Unlike Facebook, Twitter shows every message without applying a filter, but if readers aren’t online the moment you post, they won’t see it.

Everything happens so fast online that even Twitter suggests repeating your posts to reach larger audiences: “We saw that brands that tweet two to three times per day can reach an audience equal to 30% of their follower base during a given week.”

So, if you want your messages to reach your audience, repeat your posts.

“Social media ‘experts’ recommend not posting too often-and certainly not repeating posts. Let’s just say that I disagree.” – Guy Kawasaki

Rule #2: Not every social network is best for your company

I agree that you don’t have to be present on every social network. That doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to Facebook or Twitter just because that’s what everybody in your niche does.

You may think your business can’t be on Pinterest or Instagram because you don’t have enough visual content to engage followers. But, if you’re creative you can make Pinterest work for the most “boring” niches. Share infographics, famous quotes and industry statistics. Fill your Instagram account with “backstage” photos of employees or inspirational quotes or photos of customers enjoying your products. Show the human side of your brand.

Don’t be afraid to stand out! Instead of following rules, focus on knowing your customers and the social places they love and use. That’s where you should be.

Rule #3: Limit yourself to 2 or 3 hashtags per post

A hashtag acts like a bookmark for your online prospects. When one person accesses content with a hashtag, they get everything associated with it.

This makes hashtags a wonderful marketing tool. Why? If you use the right hashtags, you find yourself in the right market to do business. No one argues against hashtags.

How many hashtags does it take to drive readers away? Experts say you should limit yourself to 2 or 3 hashtags per post. This rule is OK for Twitter, but not for Instagram, where more interactions take place on posts with at least 10 hashtags. Don’t take the experts’ word. The best way to find the perfect number of hashtags is to test it yourself.

Rule #4: Share others’ content more than your content

The many rules of social sharing (the 80/20 rule, the golden ratio, the rule of thirds) say you should share other people’s content more than your own.

We get that! Because of people who oversell themselves on social channels, everybody hates the idea of self-promotion. But blatant self-promotion is not quite the same as sharing your useful content with audiences. It comes down to knowing your audiences and their needs. You must create content that adds value and solves readers’ problems, content so amazing it’s a sin not to share it. If your posts are hugely useful, your readers won’t mind if you break sharing rules.

Rule #5: You should tweet or post a certain number of times per week

There are rules for how many times you should post on social profiles, how long posts should be, with or without photos, and what times of the day and days of the week you should post. These practices are based on other people’s tests—what worked for them. Use them to start your own tests, but don’t settle for their numbers.

Analyze your results and iterate. Share content only if you add value, not to follow a checklist.

If you don’t have content to share for a few days don’t worry. It’s better to stay quiet than to post for the sake of posting.

Rule #6: Develop a social media marketing plan and stick to it

A plan is crucial to your success. But everything changes so fast in social media that what you plan today may be obsolete tomorrow.

Draft your plan, know your goals, but stay flexible to adapt quickly to the unexpected .

Rule #7: Optimize your posts 100% for each network you share them on

Every social network has its peculiarities. Your content should reflect these differences. Adapt your posts to the platform you use. Or should you?

Take a look at Zara. They post the same content on all social channels. On Facebook they could’ve added more explanation of their pictures, but they choose not to. It’s not out of laziness, it’s because that’s how they connect. They let images tell the story.

This boldness made Zara one of the 20 most liked companies on Facebook. Break the rules creatively and efficiently to stand out and get millions of followers like Zara.

Rule #8: Be part of the social media conversation in your niche

Social listening is a very powerful practice to identify conversations among customers or prospects that you should join. Whether they love you or they share their disappointment about you, track and join these conversations to clear things up.

Don’t obsessively engage in every conversation on every platform. It’s more productive to join in only if you have something valuable to say.

Rule #9: Use perfect grammar

There are grammar rules you can bend for the sake of more relaxed social media conversations.

Proper grammar is important for your brand’s online reputation. Use casual grammar to clarify your message by talking to audiences in a familiar tone appropriate for your brand and niche.

These 9 rules you can and should break to make your brand stand out. Remember that there’s a right and a wrong way to break rules. Choose wisely to remain the hero of your story.

Zoe Summers is an experienced social media consultant and one of the co-founders of Mass Planner, a social automation software. A version of this article first appeared on Business2Community.


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