How Not To Suck At Social Media

Let’s just be clear, right up front.

Building your audience—especially your social audience—means power. Power to spread your ideas, power to serve more people and yes, power to build your earnings.

Can we agree this power is good?

Then not sucking at social media matters. It’s worth a little time and effort to do it right. Of course, every platform has its own set of cultural norms and nuances, but here are a few universal truths to mastering social media…

Start conversations. Your goal here is to engage your sweet-spot audience—clients, readers, buyers. Like people everywhere, they crave connection and intimacy. They will respond to genuine attempts at conversation. Look for your common ground—around your work and mutual interests (note: someone once hired me because they liked what I wrote about my dog).

Size isn’t everything. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. You’ll do far more with a small engaged audience than a vast one you view as a notch on your belt. The very best social media mavens treat new entrants to their community like potential “friends”, discovering what makes them tick and embracing them into the fold.

Be a giver. Of course, the bigger your audience, the more challenging this becomes. You don’t have to respond to every request, but sprinkling some free advice, offering up a referral or pointing them to a resource takes but a few minutes and is often never forgotten. Remember all the people who helped you on your way up? Pay it forward.

Stand for something. Not only do you need to be clear about what you’ll honor and defend, you have to protect your standards. That means ousting bullies or those who misuse your forums. It may also mean keeping silent—to avoid giving oxygen to mean-spirited trolls who make you a target of their rant.

Date before marrying. Social media isn’t any different than most in-person social interactions. You don’t ask someone to buy you—or your stuff—right after you shake their hand. So if someone follows you say on Twitter, don’t direct an auto-message inviting them to like you on Facebook. Too much, too soon.

It’s not me, me, me. Who wants to listen to a narcissist, other than a few Kardashian fans? Give some air to the rest of your tribe—share great content or give a shout-out to someone doing great things in the world.

Don’t be TOO shy. The downfall of some of the best givers on social media is that they don’t always share their pet projects or ask for help their audience would be thrilled to give. It’s OK to ask—being human is part of building intimacy with your audience.

Align your digital life with your real life. Match your profile picture, your images and your posts to your brand, to how you work and live. You are telling a story and consistency builds trust. The more you deliver what your best audience expects and desires, the closer they will align with you.

Beware of politics and religion. If they are central to your business and your brand, by all means dive in. But if they have little to do with how you build your audience, then tread carefully. Respect for different viewpoints is a fine art and may be too delicate for your natural talents (or your audience).

Balance the trivial with the sublime. We don’t care what you had for dinner (unless you’re a chef or a food critic). But we might care that your kids threw up the cotton candy and corn dogs you bought them at the fair—routine daily life makes for great social content in the right hands. We will definitely care about that big idea you’ve got to change the world—but PLEASE don’t bombard us with it every 15 minutes.

Spend the time (or hire it out—carefully). This is an investment in building your brand—you don’t get to come in and out inconsistently and then complain that you’re not getting results. Social media is a drip feed, not a deluge. Just spend a little time every day—no matter what—and you’ll start building real connections.

Let’s face it, succeeding at social media is not rocket science—it requires common sense mixed with a little humanity and some focus. Isn’t it worth a little effort NOT to suck?

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  • Your work is so special and important. I do not know how I got to you; but I wish I could thank whoever referred me. What you do, and send us as “free” advice, is worth it’s weight in gold. I am going to post this in front of me as I am working. There is no way to fail in the world of social media if we follow your lead.

  • I so identify with this blog.
    A perfect followup to the tribe commentary.
    All points worthwhile but think beyond the traditional social media towards the various on line networks and listserves of the networking and other groups where you might be involved.
    They can be as much a target audience as your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook relations (purposely chosen word).
    Just the other day a member of my Gotham network posted a need for help on behalf of a colleague; the request asked to respond direct to the colleague. I emailed a recommendation from my personal experience and also connected him to a friend who might help. As it turns out, he otherwise got the help he sought but contacted me directly after viewing my website (shows how important responding and including an email signature that makes sense are). A conversation started……

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