What’s the best practice for social media?

The best practice for social media is to be a polite human being. Yes. It really is this simple. If someone compliments you, respond. Ignoring people is the best way to alienate your potential audience.

Be a polite human.

Yes, I’m Captain Obvious today. Or am I?

Many of us in geekland have immersed ourselves in social media and you can be blinded to those things that seem obvious.

Let me digress.

When I was in college, the “science for teachers” course was so easy, having already taken AP Chemistry in high school, that I couldn’t believe we had to take it. But I’ll never forget what my professor said to me:

“You’ll have a hard time teaching math and science, Bridget.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you won’t get why they don’t get it.”

That became a driving factor in my mind for years to come. In fact, when I was a student teacher in the second grade, I was given the remedial math group. Our task: to learn to read an analog clock.

When I was a kid, people didn’t all have digital, so the only choice was analog (and, to be totally honest, I read it best to this day).

I tried EVERYTHING I could think of to teach these kids how to read the clock.

One day, I had an epiphany.

We became the clock.

How? I made two sticks, one longer than the other, to represent the clock’s hands. The kids sat down in a circle, twelve of them, and each held a number. When the short hand pointed at a person, they announced their number, followed by the long hand who announced the minutes represented by their number and position on the face.

It worked.

What seemed obvious to me was a challenge to that group.

Fast forward to 2013 in my first social media panel and questions and answers. I was, honestly, aghast that after the three presentations a person asked what the best practices are.

Off camera, I answered:

Excerpt (watch video):

It’s a social network. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to tell people: “You should thank somebody for talking to you.” Like he tweeted to me something “Oh I’m really excited” and I responded.

Because if David said something to me like “Oh, I really like your necklace” and I just turned around. How rude is that? Do you think David’s going to want to be my friend anymore? We don’t do this stuff in real life! Right?

And he’s like “Dude. She’s wacked.” But I’m saying… (laughter) …That’s not how it works.

But that’s how people do it on Twitter all the time. They’ll say something, “@David Oh I really like that color blue on you.” (Which is a great color on you, by the way.) And then he just …ignores me. How do you think we’re going to have a relationship? We’re not going to have a relationship.

The next tweet is going to be “@David is a jackass because he’s not responding to me” or I’m going to be thinking it in my brain. Or you won’t respond at all. But it’s sitting out there on the internet… on the interwebs.

“So, the most important thing is for you is to be a human being.”

What we do online, we would never do in person. Would you walk away from someone who was talking to you? Would you parrot back what someone said? Would you bully someone in person?

Derek Sivers has a video called “A Real Person, A Lot Like You” that I’ve watched nearly a dozen times. He says that the internet or computers has a way of dehumanizing us. We feel more bold to antagonize or be mean. We need to realize that on the other end of the internet is a real person, a lot like us.

So what’s the best practice for social media?

Be a polite human being. It wins every single time.

I’ve broken down the Keys to Being Social by topic or characteristic in this book available on Amazon.