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10 Social Networking Don'ts

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I recently wrote about the ways in which social networking will change the IT profession. I posited that organizations' use of social networking will expand IT professionals' roles and change how support is delivered and managed. Savvy IT pros should certainly be learning everything they can about social networking platforms and best practices to both guide and support their organizations' use of the technology, including what not to do on social networking platforms.

1. Don't let accounts lie fallow.

Savvy social networking is based on relevancy and timeliness. Whether it's an internal or external social media platform, you are judged by the frequency with which you update your account and contribute to conversations where you can provide value. In terms of an organization's presence on, say, Facebook or Twitter, it looks really bad when the latest update is, "Happy New Year. We hope 2011 is a profitable one!"

2. Don't let questions and concerns go unanswered.

While it's important to keep accounts current, it's even more important to be monitoring (or "listening to") accounts to see what customers are wondering about, concerned about, and happy or angry about. There's probably no bigger social networking no-no than letting a customer concern posted on a public page just sit there. Not only does the customer who complained know that the complaint is not being addressed, but all other fans or followers know it, too. In addition, the data derived from active listening can be used to make strategic business decisions moving forward.

3. Don't be anti-social.

Committing to social networking presence means committing to social networking. This involves frequent updates, sharing of relevant information, and engagement with customers and partners. This last piece may be the most challenging, but it can pay off in a big way over time in terms of brand loyalty. And, when it comes to things like help desk and support, it can pay off literally--in terms of reduced costs.

4. Don't forget whom you are "talking" to.

Information is shared differently depending on the social network. Of course, all of this could change as I write, but with Facebook, for example, your updates and comments are shared with everyone that you have added as a friend. On Twitter, you are sharing information with everyone, as anyone who follows you can see your tweets. Update accordingly.

5. Don't take privacy and security for granted.

With public social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, changes are made with little to no notice. Companies that are doing business on these networks must ensure that they understand the privacy and security implications of each network, and are making every effort to protect their own as well as their customers' data.

6. Don't be inconsistent.

Social networking requires a big commitment in time, and part of that time must be spent ensuring consistency across all of your organization's social media presence. For example, check that profiles on each platform include the same information. And while the messaging capabilities will differ across networks (140 characters each on Twitter, for example), the messages themselves should be consistent.

7. Don't be that person who shares only videos of cute kittens.

While you will be judged on the quantity of time you spend on social networks, what matters most is the quality of what you bring to the table. Do share articles, videos, blog posts, and other content that people in your organization or industry will find useful. In short, provide value. This builds your company's brand, and you can build your own personal brand this way, as well.

8. Don't work without a policy net.

No matter how many followers or friends you have, social networking is relatively new to all of us, and things are changing all the time. Social networking policy should be developed to guide anyone involved (or hoping to be involved) in an organization's social media strategy. Policy should be developed to provide protection, agree experts, but it should also work to encourage employees to participate in social networking and to educate them about doing so in a safe, appropriate way.

9. Don't let just anyone be a mouthpiece for the company.

While social networking gives voice to many people, you want to control the voices speaking for your company. It's great to involve as many different people from as many different parts of the company as possible; just make sure that anyone who is posting on behalf of the company has been trained and has signed off on the aforementioned policy.

10. Don't forget to use common sense.

We can create guidelines, but there's no rule book for a medium that shifts as much and as often as social networking. When in doubt, you pretty much can't go wrong if you consider the integrity of your organization and the satisfaction, security, and privacy of your customers first and foremost.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.