Top 10 social media best practices

No matter if you’re new to social media or if you’ve been active for years, it’s always a great time to evaluate your efforts. Below are the 10 most popular suggestions I share when it comes to participating on social sites.

1. Start with a plan: Before you sign up for a social site, come up with a game plan. You should be able to answer these questions: What do you want to accomplish? How much time do you have to spend on maintaining a social profile? Who do you want to reach and where can you find them online? Those questions will help determine which tools and sites you should use. If you don’t know, start doing some research.

2. Fill out your profile: Adding a photo or filling out your bio may seem basic, but it shows the community that you care. Photos help users remember you, and bios allow them to find you easily.

3. Be transparent: Interacting with folks on social sites can be a very personal experience. Users want to trust you – so make sure your profiles honestly portray who you are, what company you work for and why you’re on that site.

4. Be genuine: Stay true to who you are. People will want to connect with you if they feel you offer an authentic relationship. Similarly, while setting up RSS feeds to accounts or connecting Twitter feeds to Facebook may save you time, they don’t offer the authentic relationships many users are looking for – or will want to interact with.

5. Stay active and commit time to building your profile: Creating a successful profile online can take weeks, if not months. During that time you’ll learn it’s important to maintain and update your profile every day. Posting often will remind your friends that you’re active on the site, and they’ll be more likely to interact with you. Note: Be careful not to post too often. You don’t want to clog up your friends’ feeds with all of your posts.

6. Listen and interact: For the most part, being active on social sites requires two things: participating and listening. Remember that your profile isn’t a one-sided conversation. If you want folks to comment and interact with you, you’ll need to spend the time interacting with them. Be engaging by posting interesting content, asking questions and being polite (saying thank you, etc.).

7. Follow people back: It’s a general courtesy to follow those who friend you. Mutual friendships offer several benefits like the ability to send private messages to one another. They also show the community that you’re interested in others, rather than keeping to yourself.

8. Edit your posts: Become familiar with the editing options each site offers. On Twitter you can determine how your Tweet reads; but did you also know that you can edit the headline, description and photo on a link posted in Facebook or a link submitted to Digg? This means you can take out the “ –” text that often appears after the headline and customize the description to something that is appealing to your audience.

9. Track metrics: If you’re not sure how much of an impact you’re making, check your metrics. This could be as easy as setting up an account with, a link shortening service. It tracks how many clicks each link receives and offers other analytics. It’ll help you figure out if your effort is yielding the response you want.

10. Mistakes happen: We all make mistakes online, but it’s important to learn from them and move on. If a message does go out that’s incorrect or inappropriate, take a moment to correct that mistake or apologize. The community will appreciate it.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Amanda Maurer is a digital news editor at the Chicago Tribune, who specializes in social media. She blogs at; you can also follow her on Twitter at @acmaurer.

Top 10 social media best practices

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  • Scott Leadingham

    I’m passing on what Vadim Lavrusik (@lavrusik) responded when I posed this question to him and others on Twitter: Give credit and check for accuracy. I very much concur!

    I’ll add my own two cents, which somewhat complements what you’ve said above: Know your role and fill a niche. Don’t call yourself a “social media expert” just because you’re on all these sites. And don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Rather than trying to emulate all these other people and trying to gain more followers, friends, connections, etc, identify your strengths and stick with them. For example, if your Twitter bio says “journalism/media industry follower” (as mine does) then tweet a lot about issues affecting the journalism/media industry.

  • Thanks, Amanda, for these pointers.

    As someone who’s still learning (every day) from others on the social media landscape, it’s great to read posts that encourage community participants to foster relationships rather than focusing so much on the value of metrics / numbers / followers.

    Great job. See you in the Twitterverse (and perhaps sometime IRL!)

  • @Scott — Thanks so much for the suggestions you passed on–I completely agree!

    @Mari — I think we’re all always learning; it comes with the territory. Good luck out in the Twitterverse!

  • Hey Amanda,

    Good points. With social media rookies in mind, I’ll add this: While it’s great to have a plan, do research and commit time on a regular basis to building a profile, and have those things ready to go when you build an account, it’s still better to begin — even if slowly and without much familiarity — than to wait to have these things before starting. If I could add one tip, it would be this: Have fun. That’s why most people are on social media to begin with. They’re reading what they love and sharing what they love, because they love it. Social media for work works best when it’s done in the same spirit.

  • Good advice, Amanda. I would add: Think before you sync. Synchronization of social tools can save time, but you can also annoy people on one platform who don’t care about your activity on another.

  • This is a great list! I really like that you have “Track Metrics” as one of your best practices. Social Media can be such an amorphous tool, the only really barometer of how successful your efforts are will be your metrics/analytics. Its sooo important!

  • once we understand what social media can do for us we need to understand how to protect our networks. There is a webinar they are hosting that should be very cutting edge. You can register for now. It delves into social media and security, obviously a hot topic right now.
    There’s also an excellent whitepaper download from Palo Alto Networks, “To Block or Not. Is that the question?” here: It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, AIM, etc.)


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