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The Golden Rule of Social Media: Don’t Miss the Point

I’ve experienced many frustrations with Twitter since joining last year. But, I’ve learned a few things through those experiences. I’ve noticed that some companies bombard people with tweets every few minutes. Sometimes the promotions they offer are special, but most of the time it seems they’re just trying to keep their names at the top of your feed. Some people I’ve followed tweet the stupidest information, like, “Cool! Did you know it’s physically impossible to lick your elbow? Try it! LOL!” (Needless to say, those people are quickly un-followed).

Other people auto-follow me based on a tweet that I post on a given topic. Say I mention I’m working on a Joomla! website, and suddenly I have dozens of Joomla! “experts” following me in hopes that I’ll follow them back. Some people do play the “follow back” game, in which they follow everyone who follows them regardless of the quality of those following relationships. A few of these are “seedy” Twitterers, who post smut to their feeds and hope the people they follow will “follow back” for some free porn. Some people only follow others as a way to build their numbers – Twitter, and Twitter-marketing becomes merely a numbers game to them.

Then there are the people who send a Direct Message like “Thanks for following!” as soon as I follow them – lame. Still others, when Tweeting, want to say more than their allotted 140 characters, so they write a paragraph-long Tweet in a text-editor, break it into 140 character bite-size bits, and post it piece-by-piece, one after the other, in reverse order, so that, when someone views their feed, they can see the entire paragraph in the proper order after it’s been Tweeted (thank you Anthony Robbins – he did this occasionally last year, hopefully he’s learned better Twitter etiquette by now).

The point is, all of these Twitterers have missed the point. Scripts to perform auto-tweets or auto-follows, over-posting to keep your name at the tops of feeds, or just posting pointless garbage and babble to Twitter completely miss the point of the service. As Janet Fouts writes in Social Media Success!, “Doing [likewise] makes it crystal clear that you don’t get social media, and you may actually be doing your brand more damage than you think. Go ahead, try it if you must, and watch people simply un-friend, un-follow and turn their backs on you. You can be shut out of the herd in a blink of an eye if you don’t contribute something real to the community.” (Fouts, 2009, p 48). And that last sentence nailed it: “if you don’t contribute something real to the community.”

The Golden Rule

Be assured that quantity does not equal quality here, and people on social networks realize that. To be truly successful with social media, we ought to focus more on the substance, quality, and value of what we contribute to discussions than anything else. We ought to make that our Golden Rule of Social Media: To add value and contribute something real to the community.

The Golden Rule of Social Media: To add value and contribute something real to the community

Doing so will surely make all our experiences with social media more pleasant. We can get our names out there, build a solid reputation among our followers and other Netizens, and become a trusted source of value and quality, in an online community that is so easily filled with fluff.

What about you?

What do you think should be The Golden Rule of Social Media? Think I nailed it, or missed the point myself? How do you Tweet? Are you one of “those guys”?


Fouts, Janet. (2009). Social Media Success! Silicon Valley, CA, USA: HappyAbout

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