"We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in."
- Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer @ J. Walter Thompson
Many brands and marketers testing the social marketing waters may fret over breaking some secret code of conduct on social media. But no worries – it’s simple. Hearken back to those manner lessons you (hopefully) learned from that strict parent or grade school teacher. If you’ve mastered basic party etiquette, you’ve mastered the basic dos and don’ts of social media. The platform-specific tactics (“Is vertical video better on Instagram or Facebook?”) you can learn from your niece or a web search.
Here are five good partygoer rules, with social media translation:
1. Don’t come to a party empty-handed (wine, dessert, card…)
Sure, a Terminator marathon and pizza with your crew may not require this. But for any serious party you’ll feel a little shmucky arriving without at least some small token for the gracious hosts.
Social media translation:
Newly invited to a professional forum, Facebook group, or other online community? Your first impression is best made when you post something useful, non-promotional, and ideally unique. Show that you’re glad to be there, and not determined to treat the other attendees as fodder for immediate digital sales pitches.
Maybe your first few posts can be about cool third-party events that are relevant for this crowd but are under-publicized – even better if you know of legitimate discount options they can use. Or useful social media tips from Guy Kawasaki that could really benefit this audience.
But how do you know what would be really appreciated? Glad you asked. See Rule 2.
2. Be mindful of basic house rules (No Shoes? Keep Out of Doggy Room?)
Remember that time you clomped gleefully into the Jeff & Lily’s living room, where people turned to welcome you to the party in their bare or socked feet on the new tangerine-colored carpet? And you in your suede loafers stood there, quickly realizing the pile of shoes at the front door under the “Please Remove Shoes, Dear Guest” note was there for an actual reason? Yeah, if that WAS you, you remember.
Point is, there are rules, subtle or not, to every gathering. Online or not. Worried about tripping up on Reddit? There’s a good wiki they've set up to explain both prohibited AND encouraged behaviors. Into fossiling by any slim chance? TheFossilForum.com has a thorough FAQs and Tips section available to newbies who’ve just signed up – as do many good forums. So read the rules. Observe others applying them. Live them. It will be that much easier to make a good first impression when you do. (You may learn some useful tips to apply to other forums as well.)
3. Don’t barge into gatherings just to spread your own message out of context
Probably, no one has ever slinked up to you at a party and softly cooed, “Whisper sweet sponsored content in my ear.” People attend a poetry reading to hear poetry, a car lot to see cars. You know the party toast (or even the eulogy) that starts out as a heartfelt tribute to the “guest of honor,” only to morph cringefully into how good a friend/companion/inspiration the SPEAKER has been? It turns into a humble-brag self-tribute, burning precious time when all the listeners really want to hear are fond or funny anecdotes about the real subject of the gathering.
Know the room, respect the room. There are ways to slip in effective promotions to small or large defined audiences, but it’s a delicate dance and must be handled with care, timing, and wit. Two opposing examples:
A. First, the spontaneous Oreos tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl, when a power outage caused the stadium to black out for 34 minutes. 100 million TV viewers turned to social media, where many saw a perfectly simple, timely tweet and image from @Oreos with the punch line: “You can still dunk in the dark.” It generated 10,000+ retweets, 18,000+ Favorites, and 5,000+ Shares – in the first HOUR – plus positive media headlines in more than 100 countries, for a media spend of… $0. Oreos said it was able to bang out such a quick, quality tweet because it had both executives and its frontline social media team in one room together monitoring the action.
B. Contrast that to the now infamous DiGiorno Pizza tweet, which jumped into the deep end of a serious conversation without looking, and paid the price. In 2014 @DiGiorno went for witty and tweeted: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” They apparently hadn’t done the simplest of research on the hashtag topic. #WhyIStayed was the centerpiece hashtag for a heart-wrenching national conversation around women who had stayed in abusive relationships and how to regain control of their lives. Cue the backlash.
4. Assume there’s a DBAA* clause in effect wherever you are
No matter how exclusive the party; no matter if you don’t think anyone is listening; assume your behavior is in the spotlight for even your grandma/boss/entire World Cup audience to see. Digital content travels far and fast, so just because you don’t know anyone in Denver, best behave yourself even while you’re visiting Denver.
Next time you’re tempted to, say, intimidate, coerce, or just plain bully your customers, think twice. Then don’t do it. The collective voice of digital consumers is a powerful and vigilant force today. Stay professional online at all times – it will preserve your friends, your reputation, and your job.
Take this cautionary tale from the upscale Union Street Guest House in New York. In 2014 it charged couples who booked weddings at the venue $500 for every bad review posted online by the wedding party and guests. (The hotel refunded the money once the review was deleted – how fair-minded). You might have guessed, but the response on Yelp and social media in general was swift and fierce. Yelp itself issued a statement how its service exists to “warn consumers about bad business behavior such as this.” The hotel later stated that its entire policy (clearly stated on its website) had been a joke. Sigh. A 1.5 star average review is probably not the result they were going for: Yelp: Union Street Guest House.
* Oh, DBAA? “Don’t Be An A**hole.”
5. The Golden Rule
You can never go wrong here. Say it with us: Do unto others (online or off) what you would have done unto you.
From a marketing perspective: Only offer up to others (your audience) what you would truly, sincerely appreciate being offered assuming you were a member of that audience. Otherwise you can’t complain about the constant noise and clutter in social media. Because you’re it.
See you at the party!