Communicating Effectively Through Social Media

As popular as Social Media is, we can forget that this method of communication is still very new. So how do you know if you are using it effectively?

Below are some guidelines for interacting within any Social Media site. I realize some may be fairly obvious, but put together they all promote effective communication through social media.

1. Plug in regularly. This doesn’t mean you need to sign on every day, but do plan on two to three times a week. If this seems like a lot for you, limit yourself to only one or two Social Media sites and skip all of the others. It takes time to build your community, no matter which site you choose.

2. Be Interactive. Yes, you do need to say something. Unlike a physical meet-up, if you don’t speak up on Social Media, no one knows you’re there.

Many, many people don’t follow this guideline:

– There are 200 Million registered users on Twitter, but 49% rarely log on.

– Facebook claims more than 800 million users; just over 50% of them log on each day.

Take advantage of this opportunity to stand out and interact with your community:  In addition to updating your own status, respond to your friends’ posts. Engage with your community in order to announce your presence.

3. Be Authentic. Don’t worry about who you need to be when you’re on line. Just be you. Because you’re only using the written word and often not many of them, ‘who you are’ will only emerge over time. But eventually, your values will show up through your posts. When you provide a link to a news item, respond to a particular topic, and communicate with a select group of people, who you are rises to the surface.

Someone once told me that she doesn’t use Facebook because she didn’t think she was funny. Happily, being “funny” is not one of the requirements for social media. It certainly can add some spark, but it isn’t mandatory and sometimes it isn’t even appropriate. I find that it is the many different voices and styles that people bring to the community that make it interesting.

4. Brevity is best. Whether you are blogging or tweeting, keeping your words on point and concise is imperative. It can be difficult to distill your thoughts down to just a few words, but brevity is a sign of social media literacy.

According to Buddy Media, Facebook posts that are written with 80 characters or less (that includes spaces) have a 27% greater chance of engagement.

This guideline applies to videos as well. Research has shown that people often stop watching a video after the first minute or so.

But what if you have a lot to say? That’s ok… you have a few options:

– Put the details in your blog and then link to it through your social media post.

– Keep the information organized. Bullets and numbered lists enable quick visual skimming.

– Break your topic up into smaller bites and spread the information out amongst multiple posts.

– Include a related picture so the reader will know at a glance what the topic is about.

Do you feel like you need to learn how to be brief? Try playing with Twitter, which limits posts to only 140 characters (including spaces). The catch here is you really want to use fewer characters than that so that other people can easily re-tweet your message!

5. Public Space = Public Face Any social media site is a public space. Assume that anyone will see anything you post. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in public.

What does that mean?

Be respectful. The person you’re writing about has a good chance of seeing your post.

It’s a family show. It’s a good idea to keep your language clean. Pretending to swear (F*!) is a safe alternative.

Posts last forever. If you have to think twice before you hit the send button, reach for the delete button instead.

People share. You might have sent a message to one person, but people share messages (even by accident) and hackers can be cruel. Best to leave sensitive material unwritten (which, really, is a good personal guideline in general.)

6. Be positive. Everyone has bad days, and it can help to spout your frustration to anyone who will listen. That’s perfectly fine, so long as every day isn’t a bad day. Social Media isn’t just your playground. Think about your audience – who are you talking to? No one wants to hear you complain any more than you want to hear them. Instead – engage them. Share good things (along with the bad). If you really want to talk about something negative that’s going on, consider asking for advice!

Every day I see someone post of a famous quotation that’s meant to be thoughtful, uplifting, ironic… It’s a useful tool. (With apologies to Thumper), if you can’t say anything nice, quote from someone who did.

While some of these guidelines may seem obvious, it is important to note that they are, in fact, only guidelines. There aren’t any hard and fast rules here… And yet, we all hear stories about experiences from when a guideline has been ignored.  It can create quite a fiasco. Like with anything we do in life, it can be helpful to step back, take a look at what we’re doing, and make sure we are acting in line with our intentions.