5 of the Bestest Practices Learned from Social Media in 2014

Education concept: Thumb Up and Best Practice on computer keyboaThe year is almost done — and looking back, it’s easy to say that “social media” had a colossal year.

Pinterest grew up to become No. 3 in terms of traffic. Facebook finally learned to monetize itself. Twitter’s attempt to look  more like Facebook actually worked. People now use the Internet for social media more than for shopping, gossip, or even porn.

However, 2014 was also a year for learning. There were lots of winners and losers (who will be making an appearance in the PRNewserverse very soon), and we can use to their experiences to come up with five best practice principles. This week’s #5Things does the homework for you and dives into lessons learned.

Here are the 5 bestest practices learned from social media in 2014.

Paid-social-media-ads1. It’s not free. Countless screw-ups and resulting dramas stem from corporations having disinterested and often disengaged social media teams. Just as social isn’t “just for the cool kids,” it isn’t for the uninformed. If you want to have any presence on social media that matters, you must invest in a team that gets it (e.g., monitoring, research, paid promotion) and understands the digital world at large. You may also want to shell out for one of those corporate excursions complete with “trust falls,” because you need to trust your team enough to let them go with real-time engagement and watch the magic happen. If you don’t, the only thing disappearing will be your brand’s relevance.

science social media2. Engagement is no longer science; it’s an art. Statistics show that 53 percent of customers expect to hear back from brands within an hour. Sure, the obligatory “we apologize” or “thanks” response is good, but any robotic program can do that. Science is not what those social doohickeys require. What people want is authenticity: something that doesn’t appear like it was vetted by legal and corporate after a nail-biting, 14.5 hour response process. The digital world is full of trolls that deserve to be extinguished, but there are also real people with real things on their mind. And since you decided to get on social media, your party must be social. Antiquated “push only” tactics will put your brand on everyone’s “unfollow” list, so get active, stay social, and pay attention.

consistency3. Meet Content’s royal cousin: consistency. In the kingdom of social media, content will always be king. However, the focal point of that sage Bill Gates-ism is consistency. Content only rules when there is a steady flow of it; it’s not a “turn on the fire hose and then vanish for three weeks” kind of thing. Real consistency is about the tone of your message, how it is voiced, and the ways in which the brand engages. You can’t rock a buttoned-up approach during the week and let it all hang out on the weekends because you feel like it, because the audience on social media is much smarter than that (no matter what the C-suite thinks). You can’t fake it, either: it’s obvious when a brand tries too hard or doesn’t try hard enough. Don’t be that brand. Be yourself, and do it regularly.

work got time for that4. “Nobody has time for this” is not a good excuse. Yes, we get it: we are all busy, Captain Self-Importance. Still, you have to make time for social media. It’s not just a priority; it’s imperative, because your brand can’t live without it today. You don’t necessarily need multiple platforms (that can get unwieldy), but you should at least invest the time to master one of them. The president is busy; major corporations are busy; even the small business owner is busy. Yet they are on social with some purpose and regularity. Have you buried yourself behind a stack of old-school papers hoping no one sees you? That’s the funny thing about work — if you don’t get it done, you may suddenly have a bit more free time than you wanted.

ignorance is not bliss5. Ignorance no longer = bliss. Okay, so you didn’t pay attention to ‘The Twitter’ in college. Sure, you think Pinterest is only for old women looking for recipes. We understand your LinkedIn profile has a gray box where a headshot should be (for the last six years). However, “I don’t get it” is code for “I’m too dang lazy to hire someone to teach me or just do it for me.” And if you determine that this position is an acceptable one for your company (or even, yourself) in 2015, everyone else has already left you behind.

You and your brand/firm/personal project need to get better at it, because the cool kids and the mid-life crisis cases are all doing it together now. In the educated world, ignorance means “lack of knowledge,” but in the real/business worlds, it’s more often a fancy word for dumb.