The 10 Rules of Social Media Commentary

October 4, 2011


The 10 Rules of Social Media Commentary
By Steve Tobak

Chances are you spend more time commenting on blogs, updating, linking and tweeting than you ever imagined you would. We all do. Some post anonymously on blogs, but most of you see it as a means to establish an online presence to network, raise your visibility, and invite business opportunities.

At the same time, employers are checking the social media activity of potential new-hires and companies are monitoring social media sites for competitive intelligence, as we discussed in The Hazards of Being Too Social in the Age of Social Media. Everything you post – every comment, tweet, link, and like – is ultimately linked to you.

That’s a pretty big deal. Unfortunately, since this is a relatively new thing, a lot of you come across like amateurs (like the guy below). That isn’t good.

What you say and how you say it has a direct and material impact on your online presence, marketability, career, and your company’s business. There are real-world consequences to your virtual actions.

As a blogger whose posts are widely disseminated and commented upon, I see a pretty clear distinction between folks who add value and help their cause, and those who don’t. I’ve even done business with a few. Guess which camp they’re in? That’s right, you don’t want to be in the don’t category.

To help you accomplish your goals instead of unwittingly squashing them, here’s …

The 10 Rules of Social Media Commentary

  1. Share thought provoking stuff, not trite fluff. There are hundreds of microbloggers and commenters that are complete frauds who pass themselves off as leadership gurus and the like. They post mountains of obvious platitudes that thousands of mindless followers eat up. If you want to be taken seriously by real business people, steer clear of that route.
  2. Differentiate; don’t be a contrarian just for clicks. Sure, you’ve got to have a bold, unique value proposition to rise above the noise these days. Still, if you’re going to challenge conventional wisdom, you’d damn well better have something solid to back it up. Otherwise you’ll instantly lose credibility.
  3. Tell interesting anecdotes; don’t overreach with broad conclusions. One commenter recently ranted about the screwed up, dysfunctional, evil little family-owned business from which he was recently fired, then concluded it foretold the demise of corporate America. Bit of a reach.
  4. Relate to the post; don’t spam it with gratuitous self-promotion. When you comment on a post just to get your link in there, you’re like a parasite who adds no value. It’s tantamount to unwanted telemarketing calls and spam that fills up our email in-baskets. Really.
  5. Have a sense of humor and humility; don’t be thin-skinned and fatheaded. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves or puff themselves up to appear like they’re big shots. It’s sad to watch. All that does is make you look frail and small. Business people see right through that stuff. Great example: “I’m unsubscribing.” Nobody cares.
  6. Comment with passion and resolve, not anger and vitriol. Conflict can be constructive or destructive depending on how you do it. It helps to follow the golden rule of conflict resolution: address the problem, not the person. Too many use comments to act out and throw tantrums like whiny children.
  7. Stay on topic; don’t go off on a tangent. One of my recent posts used a metaphor that involved orange juice (don’t ask). You wouldn’t believe how many people commented about orange juice – all the sugar, the calories. Sheesh. And God forbid you use a politician as a leadership example – some people will always go off on the politics.
  8. Give your opinion; don’t pass judgment. Saying “you’re right” or “you’re wrong” can be a figure of speech to denote agreement or not, but some folks come across as the social media equivalent of judge and jury. You’ll find plenty of sad examples of that – even by some well-known people – in controversial posts like The Gender Pay Gap is a Complete Myth.
  9. If you can’t write, don’t. When comments are incomprehensible jumbles of misspelled words and poor grammar, that doesn’t reflect well on you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you wouldn’t speak that way in a business situation – at work, in an interview, with a customer – don’t write that way when you link or comment.
  10. Read the whole post; don’t go off on a headline or one sentence. All too often, folks retweet or comment on something they haven’t even read all the way through. They come across like they have the attention span of a flee or they don’t know what they’re talking about. Ever heard of RTFM? Same thing, except I’ll call this RTFP.

By Steve Tobak

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