By Mike Nelson (@Michael_Nelson)
The internet is where we communicate, conduct business, socialize and consume news – in many ways it’s become our second world. Everyone who has designed a webpage, developed an app or Internet meme or created a social platform has helped shape the infrastructure of this new world, and, to our good fortune, made it a relatively productive place. Once our world was built, however, we needed social norms to guide us on our new way of life in the otherwise free wielding internet.
A group of activists, the social media purists, saw the potential of the internet, not as a one-way channel for pushing and consuming information, but as a two-way channel for communicating. This group of motivated, smart visionaries scratched and clawed their way to a more conversational, transparent internet than what we would otherwise have today. They took it upon themselves to make the internet a place worth coming back to.
(Photo Credit: Charles Williams’ Photostream)
What would have happened if the social media purists didn’t exist, or didn’t win in the fight for an open internet? What if corporations refused to relinquish control? What if there was no move to engage, ask and respond? What if the spammers won? Or, what if advertisers laid the ground rules?
There has been marked change on the social web over the past few years brought on by the prevalence of social media in business today, but the norms set by the earliest social media practitioners still guide internet culture. For example, there has been a wonderful convergence of advertising and social media, especially in the past two years. It’s beautiful how advertising is now being used to introduce conversations to highly targeted individuals on Facebook, and point them to Facebook conversations about a cause, contest, product launch or opportunity they’d likely be interested in. Because the social media purists (mostly professional communicators) won, advertising is now being used to amplify online conversations, taking communication efforts even further, not pushing out one-way messages.
As communications professionals, how can we stay rooted in the guiding principles set out by the social media purists as we engage in social media for our clients? Here is a list of seven fundamentals to being a good citizen on the social web:
1. It’s all about the relationship: Online communities are continuously growing, and they thrive on participation and interaction. Think of your online relationships as investments in your brand.
2. Listen to your community: Monitoring and aggregating feedback from the social web, and then implementing a commenting policy that helps you stay connected and your community stay informed.
3. Have personality: There is a tremendous amount of noise online. Post with purpose, and give your community a reason to engage. Being conversational with social updates – not only tweeting/Facebooking press releases, etc.
4. Avoiding astroturfing, spamming, and overt link baiting: Call it out when you see it.
5. Comment often: Consume as much of the good content posted online as you can, and then share your opinion. When you see something relevant, interesting or provocative, comment on the blog post, retweet or share on Facebook. Personally, make a goal to comment or share on at least one post per day. On behalf of your clients, make a list of the top 10-20 blogs in your category and add them to your Google Reader, then monitor and comment.
6. Avoid ghost blogging: if you don’t have time to blog – don’t blog. If you only have time to blog occasionally, write bylined articles and submit them other relevant blogs. You’ll likely gain much more visibility and SEO benefits that way, too.
7. Golden rule: remember that the internet is full of real people. Treat them that way.
Certainly, this is not a comprehensive list. What else would you add?
Lastly, take a moment to think about how the internet impacts your life. Then, tip your hat to those who developed the infrastructure, and, more importantly, fought for the open and transparent type of communication we generally enjoy today.