Skip to content

21 Rules for Social Media Marketing Success

Social media marketing is something that you cannot afford to ignore. Taking the time to develop other properties on social channels can help you to drive traffic instantly and long into the future. If you aren't leveraging social networks in your content marketing strategy then you need to start today. Here are 21 rules that will help get you started.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the act of using social networks and communities to build brand recognition, manipulate social streams, and drive social traffic within the network as well as external targets.

If you are doing business online and haven’t fully embraced social media marketing then you probably aren’t realizing the full potential of your efforts.  Social media networks are no longer optional as a part of any serious strategy, they are required.

It is important to note that social marketing is not the same as social media marketing.  If you would like to know how they differ, then see social marketing vs social media marketing.

Social networks drive traffic, and if you know what you’re doing, they do so in a more controlled fashion than “traditional” tactics like SEO.

So many budding online entrepreneurs seem to focus heavily on SEO and driving traffic to their site and either does not consider the communities that exist or simply make a token effort to “get the word out”.

SEO is great for driving free traffic, and assuming you are good enough at it to get a significant amount of traffic to your site, it’s also your biggest weakness.

The monopoly of free traffic held by search engines like Google have quickly become a thing of the past and, while still significant, are giving ground to alternative traffic sources like social platforms.

Google Is Not The Only Dance Partner

It used to be that the only way to get a significant amount of traffic was to delve into the voodoo that is SEO for Google and its ilk.

Once upon a time, the way to push traffic (freely) to your content was to worry incessantly about titles, HTML tags, keyword density and other topics that created intimidation and angst for most, and a significant income for the few.

These on-page factors were then multiplied by considerable investment in off-page factors like getting links to your content.

Despite our best efforts, periodically Google would come out with an update, also known as “dancing” (shudder).  The dance, as many people used to call it, is why I made reference to Google being a dance partner, the term “partner” being used very loosely here.

These updates often resulted in the loss or gain of significant rank within Google’s search results for various keywords, many times immediately!  Like, you go to sleep and you’re fine, only to wake up the next day destitute!

If you were the beneficiary of improved ranking for the keywords you were going for, then you were ecstatic …this time.

But others, and perhaps even you, on the next update, would possibly lose rank, or worse, be eliminated completely from the SERPs!

Social Media Marketing To The Rescue

Today, social media marketing (SMM) and social media optimization (SMO) using social networks are part of the answer to the search monopoly.

I’m in no way suggesting that Google isn’t going to continue to be one of your sources of traffic, but it doesn’t have to be your only source of free traffic.

Paid marketing is always going to be an option, a very significant option in fact, but there’s a huge advantage if you can generate traffic to new content by leveraging your social following while subsequently influencing search results through added social sharing.

That’s what social media marketing and social media optimization can help you do, and in this series, I’ll be focusing on not just the top networks, but several lesser known networks to really maximize your reach.

Here’s a list of the social networks that most people think of:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn

But there are so many more networks that many simply ignore:

  • Reddit
  • Snapchat
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
  • WhatsApp
  • Digg

I find it fascinating that people that are using content marketing will put so much time and energy into “long tail keyword” research and implementation, but won’t take a few minutes to post some relevant content to networks that will often produce so much traffic.

Social networks are great for long term traffic, but once you have a following they really shine for getting instant traffic to new content.

Social Media Marketing Isn’t About Selling

Probably one of the bigger mistakes people make when trying to leverage social networks in their optimization and marketing strategies is trying to sell to the curious.

There are rules in the universe and in social media, and I’m not talking about the various social etiquette that changes from network to network, I’m talking about the general rules, the rules that are the difference between failure and success regardless of the social platform.

Rule Number 1 – Listen to your audience

You need to hear me, this is rule number 1 because you need to understand when I tell you that instead of selling your audience, you need to be listening to them.

You must understand them.

  • Learn what interests they really have
  • What pain they feel
  • Empathize with them
  • Engage with them about their concerns
  • Understand that it’s not about you, it’s about them

Once you’ve wrapped your head around your audience you are trying to reach, then – and only then – are you able to help them with the solutions that you can provide.

This type of approach is the key to building trust and a long-lasting relationship in a way that is mutually respectful to your audience, and to yourself.

Post information that is not only informative but engaging.  Sometimes post controversial views and get a conversation started.

Maybe you thought of another point you want to make in your post.  You could edit your post, or you could post a comment.  Don’t be afraid to be the first person to comment on your own post.

Sometimes you may want to leave some points out so that you can “break the ice” with the first comment by asking, and then answering, a question.

People often need a nudge.  You can even ask a direct question to your audience and leave it open to provoke a response, assuming you already have traffic.

The point is that engagement yields understanding.  Questions provoke the need to respond, especially if there is any passion at all around the topic.

For passion based sites like Pinterest, it can be very easy to get a conversation going based on the substance of your pin, because many who use Pinterest use it because they are passionate about the stuff they post.

Pinterest is a social platform that is passion based, meaning that it is a passion network.  That’s one of the things you’ll learn, is that each social network has a “type” of behavior.

Rule Number 2 – Use the tool your audiences uses to better understand your audience

It’s important to know your tools, and social networks are no different.

The social network itself is a window into the heart and mind of your intended audience.

Learn the tool, know the tool, use the tool to research groups, lists, industry leaders, and the media they produce.

Find the people that make up your audience.  They may even be in your friends list right now.

Pay attention to the types of topics and media that your audience reacts to, and how they react within the network that they are using.  Every network is different, you need to understand that a tweet on Twitter will likely not have the same effect on Facebook (for example).

More specifics on these and other tools will come later to get you started, but It’s up to you to constantly continue learning the tools of your trade.

Rule Number 3 – Provide huge value and quality

This is by far one of the most important rules, it would be first except to provide value, you have to listen and know your tools so that you can communicate with your audience.

One of the easiest ways to gain trust is to provide massive value in what you offer.  By providing massive value you constantly increase your worth to your audience and your industry.

Remember it’s about your readers, not you. By providing “above and beyond” content and resources to your followers you will begin to attract attention from members of your industry, which then further increases your authority and trust.

Today’s average person expects more, and has a short attention span.  The next distraction, and maybe even your competitor, is only a click away.

When I say huge value, I mean give as much value as you can, then when you think you’ve given all you can, give some more!

And remember, at one time it was enough to create a whole bunch of content.  Not too long ago you could create doorway pages and just spam people aggressively to get some traction.

Today, quality wins over quantity for the long play.

Provide quality material and add huge value for the win!

Rule Number 4 – Engage your audience, immediately!

I’ve seen this sinful behavior so many times, SMH.

Someone will post content to a social network, probably linking back to a blog post or some other piece of content.  They put so much time and effort into their creation, and after they post it …crickets!

What I mean is that they will post something, and then exactly what they want to happen …happens!

They get a comment, or even better, a question! Then they wait for days before responding to it.

Do not do this!

I’m not saying you have to wait around for things to happen, but today it’s so easy to be notified when engagement happens, make certain you are being notified, and then engage!

Engagement is the goal!

Rule Number 5 – Create things that get shared

Just like the concept of compounding interest is a powerful financial tool, compounding material can grow to viral status.

Even if your video, podcast, article, or graphic doesn’t go viral, every share you get is another chance to get someone engaged to create a lasting relationship.

This rule goes hand-in-hand with Rule number 3, create quality content.

If you are creating high-quality media with huge value, then it’s going to get shared.

Not everything you create will get shared, and that’s okay.  But you never know when someone is going to stumble upon (perhaps literally with StumbleUpon) your post or video and share it.

It only takes one big-name in your industry sharing what you create to explode your traffic, your followers, and your email list!

Rule Number 6 – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

That’s right, it’s the golden rule.

If you want people to like, plus 1, upvote, and share your material, you have to be willing to share their material.

In some social networks, it’s important to try to keep your follows and interests contained within your target area.  But it’s not necessary to be anal about it.

For example, pretend that you sell dog toys.  Your readers probably are interested in little dog toys, big dog toys, and smelly dog toys.  But, even though you should be focusing on dog toys most of the time, other canine related topics will be of interest to your readers.  Dog beds, calming music for dogs, and training techniques for instance.  Always think laterally.

Sometimes you’ll come across something that is totally unrelated to your specific area of interest, but if you like it, there’s a chance your audience will too.  Use good judgment, and don’t be afraid to share.

If you see something you like, even if it has nothing to do with your industry or topic, then like it.  It’s okay, really!

The point is to share and share alike.  Good things come to those who share …like you get your stuff shared.

Rule Number 7 – Invest in the influencers

Every single industry or topic has its influencers.  These are the people that shape the industry as “thought leaders”.

These people should be your targets, especially if you have a really good piece of content and its relevant to them.

Meaning, that if you can make something within your media about them by mentioning them, then make sure you do mention them in each of the networks that you are using to get the word of your content out there.  Um, you ARE following them, right??

You may even want to reach out to them via the social network mechanism’s, by sending them an email, or by contacting them by whatever means makes sense to let them know you’ve mentioned them.  A little ego boosting can go a long way.

It only takes one of these “big dogs” to mention you even in passing to get their audience to take notice of you.

So, do it well, do it right, and when it makes sense, mention them.  Now keep in mind, you don’t want to be the social equivalent of a party going name dropper, your references need to be tasteful, classy and they need to make sense.

Remember, it’s not about you.  It’s about providing value to others.  Always.

Rule Number 8 – When possible, use the art, Luke

Okay, that was just bad, wasn’t it?  C’mon, cut me some slack, what kind of geek would I be if I didn’t get at least a little Star Wars humor in?

Pictures are worth 1000 words?  Maybe, maybe not.

You do not always have to include an image, video, or other visual aspect with your post, but you’ll often get more engagement if you do.

Social media marketing has the word “media” in the name for a reason.  Video is a bigger deal now than it ever has been, and it’s not going away.  More people are looking for video options and material than ever.

Meme’s on Facebook are a big deal too, as you would know if you’ve been using Facebook to research your audience.

There are countless ways to create meme’s.  Just creating a graphic with some words on it isn’t enough.  You have to be clever, witty, and creative.  But the tools are out there to make your job much easier.

Rule Number 9 – Not all social networks are created equal, each social channel needs its own strategy

Do not treat all social platforms the same, just don’t do it.

Obviously, you can’t post as much information in a normal tweet as you can a Facebook post, but is that the end of the differences?

No.  Not even close.

Each platform has different video requirements, recommended image sizes, social etiquette, and nuances.  Treating everything the same because it’s “easier”, or you’re “ignorant” is not okay.

That’s right, I just called you ignorant, but I put it in quotes so it’s okay, right?  No?  Okay, so then it’s not okay for you to treat your social accounts the same either.

Make sure you’ve got a well-defined social media channel plan.

Rule Number 10 – Be consistent

Consistency is second only to persistence.  And social media is no exception.

A great way to break trust and simply bore people is to post something today, then go silent for a month.

One you’ve established an audience, be consistent with your activity.

Do establish some kind of schedule, the more consistent the better.

Don’t post too much of the exact same category of content too often, unless you are working on some kind of series.

Even then, posting some other material in between serial topics, even if you have already written all the posts in the series, can build anticipation and create excitement.

Scheduling posts into the future is a great way to manage your own activity and be able to take a vacation now and then.

Rule Number 11 – Use hashtags and mentions appropriately

This is another strategy that is going to vary somewhat between social network platforms, and knowing the effective and appropriate way to leverage the right mentions at the right time can quite literally be the difference between success, and meh.

Done correctly you can legitimately leverage groups, lists and even influencers to build your audience and your social reach.  But it has to be done in a classy way.

Remember rule numbers 1 (Listen to your audience), 2 (use the tool your audience uses to understand your audience) and 6 (do to others as you would like done to you).

Rule Number 12 – Don’t just promote your blog

If all you are doing is promoting posts from your blog on your social media, then you aren’t following rule number 1 (listen to your audience) or rule number 2 (use the tool your audience users to understand your audience).

Sometimes you need to write something that ONLY exists on your individual social platforms.  Sometimes, in fact often, you want to contribute something that only exists on Facebook (for instance).

One exception is that Twitter is kind of a universal “shout out”.  Meaning that you can post something on one social network, and then get away with tweeting about it to drive people to it.

As in all things, do it well, do it wisely, and be classy.

This rule actually is crucial when executing rule number 13.

Rule Number 13 – Revisit popular social contributions

If you get something that is really shaking things up on your various social networks, then take that as a free, but very valuable lesson.

You now know something that people are very interested in.  This means that you can do some research and figure out a way to expand upon it and leverage the momentum you know is there to create new material that will, in all likelihood, get great engagement, reach, and traction.

Use this knowledge to make more social interaction happen by posting to your social networks, and even better, by creating blog posts that you then post on your social networks.

Rule Number 14 – Don’t limit yourself to one social channel

There are people out there that would advise you to focus on one social channel.  I think this is a big mistake.

Different people use different social networks and even different aspects of that social network.  Knowing and using many is not a bad thing.

In fact, I’d say the more you can effectively use the better.  It’s all about hustle.

What you need is to understand the facts about each social network so that some (or most) of the guesswork is taken out of the equation and you can stick to the content and social aspects of the channels.

Use tools to your advantage and you can expand your reach further than you likely ever realized.

It’s all about time management.  It is possible, with tools, to reach many social networks.  However, one is better than none.

If you simply can’t seem to manage your time well enough to focus on several, then at least for now, commit to one and do it really well.

Rule Number 15 – Leverage your momentum when writing a post

When you come up with a piece of media whether it’s a blog post, a video, a podcast or something else, write at least 6 and possibly 10 or even 20 posts for each type of social channel you are using.

These posts will be used to refer back to your media you created in multiple ways across many days, and can even be used far into the future to increase the possibility that people are going to see your content.

You can always do this later, but having a plan to approach each social network with prewritten content while you’re “in the zone” is way better than trying to come up with something timely when you need to post something: Right. Bloody. Now!

This is a really effective strategy and will be discussed in detail later.

At the very least, write 1 post per social channel you are concentrating on and post it linking back to your blog post.

Rule Number 16 – Listen for pain (Rule number 1 revisited)

Your social platforms and your audience within them are great resources for new ideas, products, services, and even businesses.

Always stay vigilant, and take a little bit of time when things are moving slower to look through your most popular social channel(s) in order to find these “diamonds in the rough” that are just sitting out there waiting to be picked up.

I can’t tell you how many times this has worked for me …countless times.

Just keep your eyes open and really connect with your audience and industry, you’ll be shocked at what you end up learning.

Rule Number 17 – Don’t steal other people’s stuff

I know this should likely go without saying, especially if you are following Rule Number 6 (do unto others), but don’t steal other people’s content or images.  Sometimes this happens because people don’t know better, but ignorance is no excuse!

If you quote someone, make sure to give credit and even a link.  If you use an image, make sure you have permission or that you understand the licensing requirements that come with using the image.

There’s no reason to cause bad blood and it’s often very easy to either come up with your own media, use free media, or get permission to use someone else’s media.

Rule Number 18 – Be a curator of content

Right in line with rule number 12 (don’t just promote your blog) where I tell you to do more than just promote your blog posts by creating exclusive content for the social platforms you are using, you also need to be bringing interesting things to your audience …that you didn’t create.

This is a segue from/to rule number 6, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

By promoting (sharing and liking) other people’s stuff that is relevant and interesting to your audience, you are cross-pollinating and sharing your audience with others.

You may not always get some love back, but often you do.  Plus, it just makes you more interesting because other points of view, and other voices, are complimenting your own.

Credibility comes from many places, to be credible you want to associate yourself with others that have credibility.

 Rule Number 19 – Leverage events and trends

Keep track of trending topics and try to keep a few posts and tweets handy by anticipating some of these trends, especially those that repeat.  You’ll see many trends occur over and over again.  Being quick to jump on these trends is pivotal to getting some social recognition.

If you don’t have any posts handy at the time, then write something up quick.  Something is almost always better than nothing.

Then when you have those inevitable “aha, I should have said…” moments, take the time and type something up.  Keep a battery of these quips and quotable beauties handy and then when the opportunity presents itself, strike with a hot iron!

Events are another thing that you can leverage.  If you find (or seek out) events, you can borrow momentum from these events by talking about them and mentioning the events.

If you are taking part in the event, use the opportunity to create some value-added content and reference it in the event comments and similar conversations.

You can also use events for “hashtag hijacking”.  This obviously needs to be done tastefully, but if you can create something that tells a story quickly like an image or infographic, and then post it strategically during live events using the hashtags being promoted at the time, you can leverage some of the built-in popularity of the topic.

Try to target posts that make sense in the context of the event and hashtags or you’ll just seem out of place.  In fact, going back to rule number 3 (create massive value), if you are adding value then most will not mind.

There’s a whole gold mine of opportunity out there if you only take the time to look and think.

Rule Number 20 – C’mon down and you can be a contestant on…

Contests are nothing new, and they’re used all over the place.  If you’ve got something that has some value, or you can create some value for your audience, don’t be afraid to give it away.

Set up some incentives to get some likes, shares, mentions, or grow your email list by setting up a contest for your valuable products, services or lead magnets.

Give away things to a few to get a lot of value and increase your following.

  • A plain old fashioned drawing where someone provides you an email address, or you choose from the likes on a post where someone chosen randomly wins a prize.
  • Content, video, or photo contests like favorite quotes, or getting answers to questions similar to “if you were a multi-millionaire and didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, what would you do for the rest of your life?”. Then you choose the “best” one and they get a prize.

Get creative, these types of strategies always work well, once you have an audience.

Rule Number 21 – Social media marketing is about socializing

Social media marketing and optimization is about socializing, so start rubbing elbows with people that live and breathe marketing through social media networks.

Like many other industries, there are conferences about, and dedicated to, social media marketing.  The one that seems to get a lot of attention is Social Media Marketing World.  The next one is February 28th through March 2nd, 2018 and you’re going to want to get your tickets sooner than later as this event does sell out.

I’m in no way saying that you will be more successful with your social media efforts if you attend this, but I guarantee you’ll learn something.

If you can make the date, and you can afford the price tag, I highly recommend making the trip to San Francisco, California.

If you were wondering, the last time I checked the price was $1,597 for an all-access pass ($897.00 during the promotion period) or $697.00 for the creator ticket which is less access to things ($447.00 during the promotion period).

There are many more conferences, but this one is a great one if you are really interested in social media for building an audience and driving traffic.

In Summary: Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing through social networks should be a pivotal piece of your optimization and marketing strategies.

As I’m sure you know, building an email list is important, but these days, building a social channel audience is just as important.

Not only will it help diversify your traffic, but it will bring you more in touch with the people you are trying to reach so that you can do your job better than ever.

I’ve provided you with 20 rules that you should be following to increase the efficiency of your social media marketing efforts.

Finally, by attending conferences and other events related to social media marketing you will expand your horizons, meet new people that can help you with your efforts, and you’ll pick up new tips.

Be social!

Have Anything to Share?

What are some of the strategies that you use in general across multiple social networks?

Spread the love

2 thoughts on “21 Rules for Social Media Marketing Success

  1. Kristen Wilson

    Can I even just say one thing? These all are amazing points.. listen (well there is a novelty).. how about.. engage (wait, you mean it isn't about me)... customize your content and heck, be sure you are creating it (wait.. what?)... so sad that too many people or rather "business owners" just don't get it. Thank you for this super long and super amazing blog. I would make a kick a&& infographic too! 🙂

    1. James

      lol... Exactly! I'm glad you liked the blog, Kristen. As you indicated, it is sad. We have so much potential today, yet it seems that more than ever before, originality and collaboration takes a hit.

      Your point about the infographic is well received, and is an excellent idea! I guess I better get on that! 🙂

      Thank you so much for your thoughts, they're perfect!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *