Social Media's Unwritten Rules
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Social Media's Unwritten Rules

Yours success or failure on the social-networking sites will depend on how well you know these unwritten rules.

Anyone who is someone in the wired world can be found on the social media sites. The social-networking sites provide us with a way to promote ourselves and our work as writers for very little or no cost at all. I can be found on a dozen social networking sites, including Facebook (two pages—a personal page and a business page), Twitter, and LinkedIn. For the most part, there are no barriers to joining any social-networking site—no registration fees, no formal applications to fill out, and no waiting time. Anyone over a certain age can fill out the simple registration form and be up and running in a few short minutes. For those very same reasons, the barriers to gaining the attention you want from any social-networking site are high.

Everyone starting out with a social-networking site is told that the path to success lies in posting meaningful materials. The social net worker consistently posts useful and engaging material for their followers, and they must do this unswervingly to attract new followers. Much has already been written about creating your networking strategy but no strategy will succeed if it violates the unwritten rules. It is those rules that we will discuss in this article.

First: Two-way Connections do not imply permission

Social networking sites, like Twitter, Quora and Google Plus make it easy for you to follow anyone. You do not even need their permission to add them to your follow list; all it takes is a click of a button. Some of the people you choose to follow may elect to follow you back. Do not—I repeat—do not confuse this two-way connection as permission to interrupt them if they are involved in an IM discussion with someone else. You must build a relationship with all involved. That is the first, unwritten rule of using the social-networking sites—you need to build interpersonal relationships just as in any in person relationship. You must build up relationships slowly and carefully, there are no shortcuts to this step.

Second: Access does not mean entitlement

When you connect with someone on one of the social-networking sites and start exchanging posts with them, you have access to them. Having access to someone does not mean that they suddenly owe you something. If you read and promote one of their articles, do not assume that they owe you something in return. Social networking is not a tit-for-tat world. You have no right to ask them to promote something you wrote simply because you promoted something that they wrote. Remember your manners and the golden rule. Always treat others the way you would want them to treat you.

Third: Remember that activity is not necessarily productivity

One of the attractions of the social-networking sites is that you can publish almost anything, and that is where the problems start. You must keep in mind that you are promoting yourself as a writer and everything you write must reflect your ability to write on a professional level. Your posts must be composed the same way you would compose an article that you are submitting for publication. For the writer, there is no room for bad grammar, misspelled words, typos, or IM slang/shorthand in your social-networking posts. Your posts must also be of value to your followers, or else they will start to ignore you and your posts.

Fourth: More is not necessarily better

In order to succeed on a social-networking site you must write about the things that are of interest to your readers at the time you are posting. The topic that was hot yesterday may not be hot today and what is a hot topic today may not be a hot topic tomorrow. You must stay abreast of what people are interested in reading about at all times and one very good way of doing that is to read what others are discussing on the social-networking sites.

Fifth: Reciprocation is optional

What do I mean by reciprocation being optional? Equal actions do not necessarily create equal impact on the social-networking sites. For the sake of discussion, let us say that have 3,000 followers, and you promote something from someone who has 30,000 followers, to expect that person to promote something of yours is to expect to receive back ten times what you gave them. That kind of reciprocity can happen, and I am not saying that it never will; what I am saying is that you have no right to expect it to happen every time.

Sixth: Amplification without accomplishment is futile

The rules of mathematics apply to the social media sites too. You can multiply any number by zero, and the answer will be still zero. Unless your accomplishments are relevant and important to your readers and followers, it will not matter how often you post about them, the results will be zero.

Seventh: On social-networking sites, you get what you give

This may be one of the most important of the unwritten rules: If you want people to promote what you write, you must first promote something that they have written about. In fact, there are some social-networking sites that will actually ban you from the site if you do is promote yourself and your work. Once again, remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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Comments (12)

I do not have Facebook myself but have used some others.. I have dial up so everything is often slow to load and I give up trying. One thing which you did touch on is promoting others. I have one person who promotes my stuff constantly and I do feel obligtated to promote theirs even when it is not something that interests me (this is not a Factoidz writer I should mention), but I will also promote things from random folks that are things I truely beleive in whether that person is supportive of my things or not because having such things on a profile that show who you are as person will attract like minded people too, and its good to spread the word about positive ideas!

Very good. I agree with all of them.

Very good insight on social networking.

I am with Judith and of the seventh is perfect, superb work on this feature Jerry.

Very insightful. I got to agree with everything you wrote.

Well written. Very helpful information.

Impressive and informative work.well done Sir

Well done, Jerry. I'm still learning these sites.

I wish you would post the first rule in big letters on the sites. I am constantly being interrupted by people who I do not know.

Another amazing piece jerry.

These 'unwritten rules'' should be part of the terms and conditions for social sites Jerry, although of course it would be impossible to monitor. :-)

Another amazing write up from a seasoned and respected writer. We can all learn from this list. Thanks so much, Jerry.