When I first started blogging I voraciously read Darren Rowse’s Problogger website. It seemed like every conceivable issue I was facing had already been tackled and fixed by Darren. Similarly, I followed Yaro Starak’s advice, thinking I’d tread the entrepreneurial path. And when it came to marketing, I’d look to Olivier Blanchard’s insightful Brand Builder blog.
But I wasn’t really looking for a “how to guide” – I was seeking to learn the ropes. To understand the ways of this new, digital world.
What I realised pretty quickly was that this brave new world was not so unlike the scared old world that I was leaving behind with every tap on my keyboard. The lifeblood of social was relationships and the currency of that relationship was trust. And, really, the only way to learn the ropes was to participate – voyeurism can be fine for a while but is ultimately unsatisfying.
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The deep water of social media, however, can be managed effectively with a few simple rules:
- Don’t swim with sharks: We have an inbuilt radar for detecting danger and threat. In the real world (IRL), the hair stands up on the back of our necks, a little voice whispers in our ears and we cross the street to avoid an unpleasant person or situation. In the digital world the same approaches apply – yet we seem to turn off our threat detection system the moment we turn on our computer. Be sure to keep an eye and ear out for scammers. Trust your friends – the ones you know IRL. Don’t click random links in email or send money to people you have never met. Don’t believe strangers when they tell you how much better they can make your website.
- It’s not rude to ignore people: Following on from the previous point – if you don’t know someone IRL, it’s fine to ignore them. You don’t have to “friend” or “follow” someone who follows you on social networks. You don’t have to answer a random email. Develop a healthy sense of scepticism and you’ll be fine.
- Don’t publish anything you wouldn’t show your Nan: Yes, I did say “publish”. It’s important to realise that everything you put online is a form of publishing. That means it’s trackable, findable and traceable. Google will find it eventually. So before you go an have that argument with a stranger; before you flame your boss (when you think she’s not looking); or before you start sharing those photos of your ex that you really should delete, think again. If you wouldn’t say or show your grandmother what you are going to publish online, then your best bet is to save it for home.
But if these three rules are not enough for you, you’ll love Jeremy Waite’s 80 Rules of Social Media.