The Latin phrase above translates pretty closely (Latin can be…well, it’s Latin) to what we know as “the golden rule” – Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Are there situations where this rule doesn’t apply? I bring up this rule today because I’m thinking about a question that was asked during a webinar that I presented a few days ago.

In my presentation the entire middle and meat of the theme were a set of rules of engagement for social media. The question asked was “How do I use all of this if I have a business-to-business company?” I had to think about this for a minute. Would the rules of engagement apply differently across different types of businesses?

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but I did want to include the rules I used in the presentation for you here today. The rules are not my own, but are nonetheless some of the best and most complete that I’ve encountered. From the blog Market Like A Chick by Coree Silvera, here are the rules:

1)  Be Transparent

Your honesty (or dishonesty) will be picked up right away in social media communities. If you’re a corporate blogger, use your real name, identify the company you work for, and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you’re writing about (like an affiliate or a sponsored review) be the first to point it out rather than waiting for someone else to “uncover”.  It’s never a good situation when you seem to be hiding something, even if it was completely innocent. 

2)  Be Judicious

If you’re writing about a topic that you’re not completely familiar with you should make this clear to your readers. Don’t get yourself into trouble with trademarks, copyright, fair use, or trade secret disclosure laws.  Respect private brands and keep yourself out of court. If you’re writing about your employer/corporation outside of their internal community you might want to use a disclaimer something like this:

“The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent ‘Your company’s name’ positions, strategies, or opinions.”

3)  Be Smart

Make sure your efforts to be transparent don’t violate your employer’s privacy, confidentiality, and legal guidelines. Before you plaster that company report all over the web, be sure to clarify if it was meant to be private or kept internal. Or, if you want to write about the competition make sure you know what you’re talking about. Be smart about protecting yourself, your privacy, and confidential information. What you publish is widely accessible and will be around for a long time, so consider your content carefully when you participate in social networking.

4)  Perception is Reality

In online social networking, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred. Just by writing on a subject you are creating perceptions about your knowledge and expertise in that area. This can work for you or against you depending on how you write.  Social media has become the new sweat equity.  You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on advertising if you know how to communicate and create an authority figure perception. On the other hand, if you’ve identified yourself as an employee for your company, be mindful of the perceptions you’re creating of your employer – good or bad.

5)  It’s a Conversation

Talk to your readers like you would talk to real people standing in front of you or on the phone.  Don’t be afraid to bring in your own personality and be open about what’s on your mind. Write your content to be open-ended and inviting a response to encourage comments. Invite other bloggers into the conversation by citing and linking to their post on the same subject. You are creating relationships and they may visit your blog and join in by commenting on your blog just to thank you for the link love.

6)  Are You Adding Value?

This is probably the most important rule of social media engagement.  The best way to get your blog or conversations read is to write things that people will value. Social communication should be thought-provoking and build a sense of community. If you’re helping people with their knowledge or skills, build their businesses, do their jobs, solve problems, or understand something better—then you’re adding value.

7)  Create Some Excitement

It’s a big world out there and there are plenty of voices and opinions to listen to. Look for important contributions to the world and to the future of technology or your personal industry.  Be the first in your online community to create a public dialogue on an issue or put your spin on an existing one. There are always new innovations or news to discuss and write about, it’s our job to try and bring excitement to it.  If you walked past a newsstand and all the headlines were about the same subject, what would make you choose one publication over another?  Ask yourself how you can stand out from the crowd.

8)  Be a Leader

There can be a fine line between healthy debate and an argument. You don’t necessarily need to respond to every criticism or jab. Try to frame what you write to invite differing points of view without being disrespectful. There’s something to be said about stirring up controversy and even negative publicity can attract attention in social networking.  However, some topics—like politics or religion—slide more easily into sensitive territory. So be careful and considerate. Once the words are out there, you can’t really get them back.

9)  Did You Mess Up?

If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. If you’re posting to a blog, and you choose to modify an earlier post, your readers will appreciate you making it clear that you have done so. We are all on a learning journey and mistakes are part of life.  By being honest about your goofs you’ll build your value, not lose it, and you may even put a smile on someone’s face…quite possibly yours!

10)  Before You Hit Enter

If you’re about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off and hit ‘Enter.’ Take a minute to try and figure out what’s bothering you, then fix it.  Ultimately, what you publish is yours—as is the responsibility. So be sure.  Remember, what you publish will be around for a long time once it hits the web.

Are there situations where these rules don’t apply? Do you have some rules of your own that you’d like to add here today? Feel free to leave me a comment, your input is always appreciated here.

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