Social media as a marketing tool can be invaluable for companies large and small who are looking to boost their online presence. But social media use on an online community requires some slightly different tactics from your corporate social accounts, and over the past few months I’ve observed some social media behaviors that I would encourage, and discourage, for online community managers.

1. Think Before You Tweet

Twitter is an excellent content sharing tool, and the more content you share the more likely you are to improve your SEO and reputation in your industry. This is why many businesses jumped on the Twitter train right away, setting up auto feeds to push every press releases, following thousands of people, and adding a “like” button to their entire site. My advice for online community managers is to be a bit more thoughtful with your tweeting. An auto-feed is a great way to push your content, but is exactly that: Automated. This goes against the concept of an online community, which is to be an engaging, interacting community of visitors sharing valuable information and prompting discussions.

What I would recommend is highlighting a few comments, discussions or articles via Twitter every week on your online community, and add a comment about it instead of just a link (something like “Our readers are passionate about their phones, check out the responses to the latest technology review article). Be sure to give your readers props too for contributing their comments or articles with the “@” features (because who doesn’t’ love to see their name in lights?)

2. Use the HashTag, Not a New Account

Companies are often tempted to create a new Twitter account for each of their business units or products. But on an online community, what you’ll want to promote is unity through one core site. Your community should be a one-stop-shop for all your visitor’s interests, and using the hashtag allows you to categorize and choose specific topics to focus on through your online community without moving visitors away from your main site. It’s also a way for people to more easily find your content if they search for it on Twitter. Think about what HBO does for its series. Rather than a site for True Blood, Entourage, and all my other favorite shows, you can just search by #trueblood. It’s more organic, more natural and much easier than managing multiple sites with multiple followers. You have enough on your social plate as it is.

3. Show Your Personality

This ties back to providing automatic feeds of your content – there’s no in plain links. Try showing some style on your online community (check out how to use social media for socializing in this recent article via #cmworld). Give your posts, your tweets, and your discussions some flavor, and people will be much more willing to interact with you and share your content.

4. Be a Giver, Not a Taker

Twitter, Facebook and Linked in can all feel a one way street. You push your content, start discussions, post links and ask people to come to you. But, on an online community it’s important to give AND take.  Give your readers props on your online community. Share someone else’s content, or start a discussion in response to someone’s posted article. The more love you give, the more you’ll get, and people will want to participate in your online community to get some of that attention you’re handing out.

5. Water, But Don’t Drown

Online communities need to be nurtured, but don’t go overboard. If you go to an online community with too much going on, it can actually serve as a deterrent. Choose a balance of content, visuals, discussions and social media on the site every week, and stagger your content based on a pre-determined calendar. Choose a certain topic to cover each month, or plant seeds on your community to help it grow. A community visitor should feel like they have something to contribute to a site, and if the community’s already full, what more will they think they can give?

Connect with us and join the conversation: What are some manners you think online community managers should follow? Facebook  | LinkedIn | Twitter