Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Social media rule #1: don't masturbate

Fellow marketers often ask for my thoughts on the "dos and don'ts" of social media. Here's the short answer: do participate, but don't masturbate. Yes, you read that correctly. Now let me explain.

Take status updates. Too often people use 140 characters to talk about themselves in ways that simply are not interesting, informative or entertaining to anyone but themselves. And talking about oneself in a way that benefits nobody else is the social media equivalent of masturbation.

Let's look at some examples. The following are a mix of personal and professional status updates from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that are masturbatory in nature:
  • 'Can't sleep'
  • 'We want to be your Social Media Monitoring Partner'
  • 'Still in office at 10-ish on a Fri PM after a successful week of biz''
These updates are masturbatory because none of them talks to anyone but the author. None of them informs or entertains other people, at least not in any CONSTRUCTIVE WAY. If you are struggling with how to make social media benefit you or your business, start by talking about something more than you or your business. Put forth ideas. Share meaningful observations. Offer helpful hints for people in your network.

Here are two helpful tweets from folks I follow:
  • 'Cool Tip: You can bid for travel package & Conf Pass for JavaOne on Ebay, cool way to bundle up your trip!' (this update also included a URL)
  • '[Name] has a pair of tickets for sale to the Chicago Cubs/Dodgers game on Thursday night (May 28) if anyone is interested'
A colleague of mine once told me that social media is like a business meeting or a cocktail party: If all you do is talk about yourself, you'll probably speak to everyone in the room, but nobody is likely to listen.

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