The Rules of Social Media

As part of our social media roadmap in the September 2012 issue of Fast Company, we asked social media's savviest users about their best practices. Now we're asking you to share your rules, too, and adding some of your best submissions to this crowdsourced guide. So tweet these rules and keep adding your own as together we chart a course through this rocky terrain.

Browse #TheRules:
On Content | On Engagement | On Follows & Fans | On Philosophy | On Process & Goals

ON CONTENT

Last year: Pump out content. This year: Optimize content.

Chris DeWolfe, @Chris_DeWolfe

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Don't try to be clever, be clever.

Wally Petersen, @Draftfcb

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Stop & Ask: Would an ACTUAL person talk that way?

Noah Brier, @heyitsnoah

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Don't use ads to prop up boring content. Use ads to accelerate successful content.

Jeff Widman, @jeffwidman

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Always be honest and trustworthy, in everything you say and do.

Madeline Johnson, @marketcouncil

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People care what you had for breakfast--if you're a food brand.

Natanya Anderson, @natanyap

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Forget individuals. You're creating content that encourages groups to form.

Jonah Peretti, @peretti

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Never tweet just the headline of a story. Be creative and give people a reason to click.

Ryan R. Reed, @ryanreed

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Don't say things you wouldn't want to be quoted as saying.

Saqib I. Ahmed, @SaqibReports

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Everyone says they don't want to be marketed to. Really, they just don't want to be talked down to. Read More >

Patrick Starzan, @Starzan

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Hire a good writer so your brand has a distinct voice and personality on social sites.

Tom Jeffrey, @tjeffrey

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Entertain me. Tweets are short; so is life.

Tom Whaley, @TWSaint

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Stop using exclamation points in every post. Unless you genuinely scream uncontrollably at cocktail parties.

Roshan Bhula, @roshanbhula

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"NEVER USE ALL CAP LOCKS" in tweets or Facebook, use your indoor voice in the world of social media.

Shaaz Nasir, @shaaztastic

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Don't tweet about everything, tweet about what you know best.

Krista Rossow, @natgeokrista

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Not everyone can be "trained" to create interesting tweets -- it takes personality to tweet personality.

Laura Good, @goodlaura

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Don't use to many #tags in one tweet.

Leszek Kurycyn, @LeszekKurycyn

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Quality over quantity.

Lauren Gallo, @missgallo

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140 characters ARE enough.

Thomas Vanbrabant, @abdulinho

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Thou shall not retweet everything you read.

Papas Con Cuero, @papasconcuero

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ON ENGAGEMENT

Don't make people do X, Y, then Z. Stick with X. Read More >

Alex Iskold, @alexiskold

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Take Twitter conversations offline and build a network.

Auren Kaplan, @aurensays

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Listen first and never stop listening.

Dave Kerpen, @davekerpen

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You should worry about all those who don't complain and simply go away mad!

David Nour, @davidnour

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People are going to talk about your brand. Can you afford to NOT participate in that conversation?

Brad Moore, @ferdenherd

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Sticky customer issues are sometimes best to take offline and resolve via more traditional channels, i.e. email, telephone, etc.

Hassan Mikail, @hmikail

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A tweet must be answered, no less than a ringing phone must be.

Jared Schechtman, @Jareds81

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People would rather talk to 'Comcast Melissa' than 'Comcast'.

Kip Wetzel, @kipwetzel

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Social media engagement has to be an everyday routine. The keyword is "engagement"

Kumar Kandaswamy, @kumar_k

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If all you do is respond to complaints, that's all people will send you.

Marcel LeBrun, @lebrun

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Open your fridge...how many of those brands do you really have time to have a relationship with?

Rich Meyer, @richmeyer

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Social is a conversation, not a message.

Robin J. Phillips, @RobinJP

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Just tweeting or posting stuff is neither connecting nor engaging.

Ron Villejo, @Ron_Villejo

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People are fickle, change their mind often, and don't usually do what you want them to do.

Matthew Knell, @matthewknell

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Go beyond the dialogues: promote "multialogues."

Beto Do Valle, @betodovalleTF

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A small act of appreciation (on a brands part) will go a long way to the person who receives it

Gabi Gesch, @gabiwinks

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It's a conversation not a commercial.

Tami Belt, @1bluecube

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Stop thinking Campaigns and start thinking Conversations

Neil Hughes, @TIMJ_Neil

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ON FOLLOWS AND FANS

Asking me to follow you on Twitter guarantees I won't. Read More >

Cindy Gallop, @cindygallop

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Spend a little time getting to know each new follower and what they are interested in.

Computappoint, @Computappoint

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People love to feel that they are special. Make followers and those who interact with you feel like they are getting inside access.

Erik Johnson @erikj

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Don't buy Twitter followers; it tarnishes your authenticity. http://ow.ly/cPcL1

Erin Schulte, @erin719nyc

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Follow liberally. You never know who will lead you to discover something unique or important.

Liz Heron, @lheron

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Don't follow just to get followed. It's slutty.

Nneka Okoro, @Nnekarisms

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#SMR: Never buy fans for followers. Genuine users will find you genuinely pathetic.

Amber Lovell Boone, @puresurplus

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Follow people who have something worth saying...then follow the people they follow.

Rory Newcomb, @roryaileen

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Treat your followers like you'd treat your friends, not like numbers.

SonicomIT, @sonicomit

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Dont ask for followers,DO something worthy of followers

Wesley Diphoko, @wesleydiphokot

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ON PHILOSOPHY

The consumer is out for himself, not for you.

Andrew Weinreich, @aweinreich

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People fight for their privacy.

Caterina Fake, @Caterina

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Not everything will work, and that's fine. Read More >

Chloe Sladden, @ChloeS

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Having a LinkedIn and Facebook profile does not make one a Social Media expert.

Douglas Ritter, @douglasritter

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Everyone's an influencer.

Duncan Watts, @duncanjwatts

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People don't want to shop where they socialize. Read More >

Krista Garcia, @eKristaGarcia

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Civility still matters.

Emelia Sam, @EmeliaSam

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My Rule No. 1: Be wary of social media rules.

Ron Harris, @journorati

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Your television can't hear you. We can.

MTV India, @mtvindia

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Social media is all about collaboration, not isolation.

Niketa Patel, @Niketa

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Your fans own your brand.

Scott Hudler, @scotthudler

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People always matter most. Social tools enable and enhance our lives, but our lives don't exist in technology.

Sheena Medina, @SheenaMedina

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Social Media is like a spouse rather than a friend with benefits.

Dedric Lam, @dedlam

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Cooperation is the most important attribute of any successful social media engagement.

Richard Sink, @richard_sink

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Don't worry about tools - the two most important ones are always with you, your head and your heart.

Evonne Benedict, @evonnebenedict

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Reach without influence is useless and irrelevant like that direct mail piece in your mailbox.

Bilal Jaffery, @BilalJaffery

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ON PROCESS AND GOALS

Be creative and spontaneous. Every mistake (if used creatively) can become an opportunity.

Allan Vazquez, @allan05

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Post on your customers schedule, not yours.

Steve Armneti, @armentisteve

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Embrace negative content about your brand.

Brett Hurt, @bazaarbrett

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Rules are great but all aren't applicable to you. Test rules out to see what works for best results.

B Culture Media, @BCultureMedia

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It's an organism, not a process.

Michael Lebowitz, @bigspaceship

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If you don't see financial results, you wasted your money.

B.J. Mendelson, @BJMendelson

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As monetization attempts go up, consumer experience goes down.

Bo Peabody, @bopeabody

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Desktop is conquered territory. Mobile is the battlefield.

B. Bonin Bough, @boughb

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They're are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Chris Date, @chrisdate

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The only way to scale word of mouth: paid advertising.

Christopher Tuff, @christuff

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Social media doesn't exist in a vacuum. Make traditional media and social work together.

Deb Roy, @dkroy

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Social is 24/7, not a one-time stunt.

David Wertheimer, @dwertheimer

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Have an ROI. Have an ROI. Have an ROI.

Erin Mulligan Nelson, @erinclaire

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Update your page, or delete it.

Matt Monahan, @gomattymo

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Become BFFs with your Facebook reps.

Graham Kahr, @grahamkahr

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Solve problems for people who talk about you, even if they don't address you.

Hilton Worldwide, @HiltonWorldwide

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Don't focus on numbers (fans, followers, likes, etc.) focus on real conversations.

Duane Hogg, @iamduanehogg

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Consistency is critical. Don't expect results if you're not regularly putting forth an effort.

Jennifer Bilbro, @jennifer_bilbro

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Social media should be part of the upfront planning, not an after-thought.

James Ha, @imonke

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People trust their peers...become a peer.

Joe Turgeon, @Joe_Turgeon

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ROR is the new ROI...Return on Relationship!

Lindsay Listanski, @LListanski

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Be real. Be supportive. Be consistent. Be nice.

Lori Gama, @lorigama

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If fans distribute your content without your permission, offer to help.

Melissa Brenner, @marose1025

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Contests and sweepstakes are fine, if you want to encourage short relationships. Read More >

Mike Proulx, @McProulx

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It's okay to drive people to your site instead of Facebook's.

Tara Missrogue Hunt, @missrogue

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Only way to figure out what works on social media is to try it.

Radhika Kapoor Giri, @radhikakgiri

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Would you measure the ROI of your conversation with your friends?

Roberto Estreitinho, @restreitinho

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If you're bored by social media, it's because you're trying to get more value than you create. Read More >

Tim O'Reilly, @timoreilly

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Think past vanity metrics like followers. Read More >

Zac Moffatt, @ZacMoffatt

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Automatic Facebook and Twitter posts do the opposite of their intent: they drive audience away. Disable it.

Adam Henry, @viewofadam

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If you contribute content to a product for free, you are the product.

Andrew D. Nystrom, @adnys

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For restaurant's customer service there is no better tool than YELP.

Natascha Otero, @NataschaOS

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Use cross-channel strategy to full engage your customer.

Ben Tepfer, @bentepfer

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For the love of god, stop regurgitweeting the same message you blasted on FB five seconds ago

Alex Covington, @AlexNoelleCov

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Don't try to be everything to everyone unless you want them to ignore you.

Kendall Morris, @KendallMorris

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I know you're fantastic, so stop liking your own posts.

Julian Silva, @onairmastering

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Don't feed the trolls

Asaru Sans, @AsaruSans

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Show the real people behind your brand, and have a sense of humor.

Mike Wood, @mikewoodtweets

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Thou shalt set up Google alerts for both your brand and your domain.

Jeff Carroll, @jeffcarroll

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Different #socialmedia platforms lend themselves to different strategies.

Michael Behr, @bigpictureguy

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Never delete comments, queries or complaints!

Heike Meyburgh, @heikemey

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If you are active in social media, you don't need to say so in your social media bio. That's like having a bumper sticker on your car that says "I drive a car."

Dan G. Bergeron, @dangbergeron

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Don't tweet and drive

Greg Kubin, @kubeans

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Print "The Rules"

Click here for a free downloadable "36 Rules of Social Media" color poster, as featured in the September issue of Fast Company.

*Some of these rules were distilled from interviews as part of our September 2012 Social Media Roadmap issue.

Add New Comment

32 Comments

  • Swede on tour

    Declaring from the beginning to the followers, what they can expect to get when they follow you.

  • Tran Anh Tu

    This - itself - is a great idea, good example of doing social media - co-work with your customers, readers. Thx!

  • judith


    My husband has abandon me and the kids for the the past 8months now, and refuse to come back because he was hold on by a woman whom he just met, for that, my self and the kids has been suffering and it has been heel of a struggle, but I decide to do all means to make sure that my family come together as it use to, then I went online there I saw so many good talk about this spell caster whose website is shamuspiritualtemple@gmail.com so I had to contact him and in just 5days as he has promised, my husband came home and his behavior was back to the man i got married to. I cant thank the spell caster enough what what he did for me, i am so grateful.

  • Ron Harris

    Why does my link above in the Philosophy section href to the user account above me? Is it a meme or something, and if so do I have to wear bread on my head? *wonders* *listens to Drake*

  • Guest

    Social media scares me. Forget it; I'm too introverted and anti-social, and nobody can have a conversation with 10K people all at once. Any way to promote your blog/website without using social media?

  • Suzie Q

    "Twitter to Flash, Facebook to Stash, LinkedIn to get Paid, and Match to get Laid" - 2009.  Nowadays they're all trying to be everything for everyone.

  • Nina

    Social media is all about relationships.  How do you attached a ROI on friends, family and cherished business associates?

  • TrinkitsDesign

     Great article.  Being resourceful is key, posting interesting articles or thoughts could help build your following , if you are just an average Joe building your network.