Top 10 social media tips to avoid being a hack

Posted by on Mar 11, 2011

As the Fugees say, there are simply “too many MCs not enough mics”, especially in the social media sphere.  Self proclaimed social media experts and gurus are around every corner.

Everyone is spittin’, but not everyone is heard.  Why? Chances are, the silenced ones either need to step up their game or they’ve ticked off one too many people.

Melody Fury Social Media Tips

Social media is a broad term that has been criticized since its infancy because it’s often misunderstood. I blame that partially on hacks – those “gurus” that do more harm than good for their reputations.  Worse yet, they simultaneously drag down the businesses that they represent.

So allow me to clear my throat on why social media is an extremely useful resource if utilized properly.

First, watch this quick Global News segment where I touch on how social media is an essential tool to the hospitality industry. The Vancouver Police Department and the Pan Pacific Hotel also demonstrate social media’s diverse reach and benefits.

Whether it’s with Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Youtube, Foursquare (the list goes on), social media spreads information faster and to a wider audience than ever before. Leverage it to your benefit but avoid being a hack. Here are some pointers to ensure your social media usage doesn’t backfire on you:

  1. Establish your personal brand– You are your best ambassador and nobody can communicate that as well as you. They don’t need to like you, they just have you know you and what you stand for.
    • Be genuine and comfortable in your skin and voice.
    • Find your niche and own your expertise. Do ample research and take your stance with confidence.
    • Don’t be annoying or it will tarnish your brand: don’t suck up, mass tweet, auto DM, or pick fights.
  2. Grow up, this is not a popularity contest – Listen, your success is not determined by how many followers or “likes” you get. The quality of your followers is by far more important than the quantity.
    • Followers that are engaging, knowledgeable, and powerful are much more valuable than dormant, irrelevant followers.
    • Focus on establishing relationships with those that are passionate about your subject area and the numbers will take care of themselves.
  3. Gain followers organically a.k.a. don’t cheat – Think you’re being stealth? We’re all watching and we DO notice. Just like in highschool, there are many ways to appear popular but at the end of the day, it can leave you feeling dirty and empty.
    • Following a crowd of people, then deleting them when they follow back is the social media equivalent to sleeping with the football team to gain popularity. Trust me: they won’t let you forget it.
    • Another way to gain followers is to bribe them, of course. Giveaways are a quick way to boost followers but use them with care. Be sure that the prize is relevant and valuable to your readers and keep the entry method simple. Again, without top-notch content and engaging your new followers, the greedy little fingers will simply “hide” or unfollow you after you’ve announced the winner. Aim to personally connect with each contest entry; after all, these are real people, not numbers.
  4. Consistency over length – Like it or not, in our technological generation, we all have the attention span of bumble bees. Hook’em, deliver your point, and set them free to pollinate.
    • Keep your message concise and use as many keywords as possible. Consider how long someone can read your post on their tiny phone for during a bumpy bus ride. (Yes, this post is an exception.)
    • When tweeting, 100 characters is the new 140. Better yet, keep it under 90 to make room for RTs and comments. The more details you provide in your tweet, the less curious people will be, and the less inclined they are to click the link.
    • Schedule your tweets for crying out loud, with tools such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. Swarming your follower’s feed with continuous tweets is not only irritating, but highly ineffective. Rather, spread them out throughout the day to hit different audiences and timezones.
    • When it comes to blogging, do as I say and not as I do. Try to post short and engaging posts consistently rather than long posts infrequently. This is an effective strategy to retain your readers’ attention.
  5. Remember the social element of social media – The biggest mistake that businesses make is viewing social media as yet another channel to talk about themselves. Personally, if I reach out to someone 3 times and do not receive response, I promptly unfollow them. They are telling me that my opinion is not valuable. To avoid that:
    • Listen to your followers. Put your feelers out and take interest in what they’re talking about.  It’s also a good idea to tailor your content according to what receives the best response.
    • Value and address the public’s feedback. I warn skeptical businesses that people are talking about them regardless if they “believe in social media” or not. Social media provides the opportunity  to address positive and negative feedback promptly so we have more control over what’s being said.
    • Engage your audience. Talk to them rather than talk at them. Leave open ended questions, encourage comments, use #hashtags in Twitter so anyone can jump in the conversation, and periodically attend tweet-ups (as nerdy as they sound) to network in real life.
  6. Increase accessibility and share-ability – Make it easy for your readers to contact you or to share your work with others. There are numerous toolbars and plugins to help you out and displaying the key, recognizable social media icons is a must. The fewer clicks required, the better.
    • Each social media platform requires special attention so I suggest avoiding using auto-feeds. For example, avoid feeding your Twitter feed directly to your Facebook page because it can come across as gibberish to the tweet-illiterate. Likewise, be aware of how your RSS feed looks when auto-fed to Facebook. It’s also annoying to see Facebook updates fed through to Twitter that are cut off midway.  In other words, don’t be lazy.
  7. Spread the love – You’ll get nowhere on your own in this game. See others as your colleagues rather than your competition, support each others’ efforts, and build alliances with those that share your perspectives.
    • Support others’ events, enter their contests, comment on their work, share their work with your network etc.
    • Connect the dots. Facilitate networking by making introductions.  A good way is to recognize the experts in different areas and ask them for advice on behalf of others. People love being recognized as experts in their field.
  8. Keep everyone guessing –  Always keep a few tricks up your sleeves and use them at opportune times. While it’s important to establish your voice, predictability will cause people to tune you out. Throw in a few curve balls and surprises periodically to shake them up and potentially capture a new audience.
  9. Don’t panic – At the end of the day, there are more important things in life than social media. If you don’t “get it” or can’t perfect it, don’t sweat it. Like everything else, refining your social media voice takes time and practice. Experiment and test out what works for you.
    • Most importantly, don’t obsess over it or let it take over your life. If you find yourself constantly checking how many followers/ comments/ RTs you have, especially in the presence of company, you need to take a breather.
      If you’re experiencing withdrawal syndromes, I suggest taking a quick getaway with loved ones to somewhere without 3G or wifi. Your social life will thank you for it.
    • New to all this? Ask for help. I’m always here for you or can refer you to someone even better.
  10. Friends don’t let friends tweet/ update/ blog drunk. Use social media responsibly.

I bet you have more pointers to share.
Start the ball rolling by commenting below or hollering at me on Twitter or Facebook.



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  • Simone

    Ah yes, social media… the thing that I sometimes hate and sometimes love… :) Thanks for the tips!

  • jamone

    pretty lame if you ask me. Twitter is and has always ultimately been another form of communication. Anybody can be or claim to be a Social Media Guru, all you gotta do is have a crapload of followers because business only care about that. And thats the truth because they don’t know or don’t care if your followers are quality followers or not. 2000 low-quality followers still looks better than 500 quality followers. Get it?

  • Melody Fury

    Hi Jamone, thanks for proving my point. Business that are so clueless as to not investigate their candidate’s backgrounds deserves a hack. I’ll give you one solid, first hand example. A restaurant trusts their hands in a “social media guru” that organizes a bloggers dinner. Many hack bloggers jump on board to the hack’s invitation. They eat up a storm, rack up the comp’d bill, and in return, write useless reviews that tarnishes the restaurant’s reputation. The media budget can be better spent on quality, not quantity. Get it?

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    A really great post Melody, well-thought out and well-written. With so many different social media sites out there now days, like Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon etc.. sometimes it’s hard to know where to effectively concentrate your efforts and to know whether the time spent is paying off.

  • Nutmeg Nanny

    Great post! I try to follow number ten religiously…but sometimes fail…haha :)

  • Renu

    You’re a goddess! Thank you!

  • Ariane C

    Excellent pointers, Melody! I too am quickly irritated by businesses who tweet out constant streams of self-promotional banter, without any thought or consideration to their audience.

    And then there are the drunk tweets! Oh yea, hooray for social media!

    A fellow Twitter addict,


  • Brian Robinson

    Very useful, Thank you Melody. I’m still discovering the power of twitter and thinking how to make the most of it (you’ve probably realized by the state of some of my tweets!) so these tips are great.
    I do have one irritant: Foursquare. Am I missing something or is it really that inane?

  • Liesa Billings

    Well said Miss Fury…nuff said!

  • Stephanie @ The Brunette Foodie

    Great post! I actually just unfollowed a company, because I had tweeted them {and DMed} the same question 3 times over two weeks looking for an answer. I got nothing. Not even a “we’re looking into it.” It was a sign that they really didn’t care, and I was looking for information on a big purchase so they lost out. The worst part is that the company is a small business, and I’ve told a few people about their customer service on Twitter being bad.

    I’d also add to your list to limit your “twitter party” participation. While I appreciate and participate in two twitter parties I make sure they are spread out: Monday and Friday. People who participate in a Twitter party every day don’t last very long in my feed. Those parties are great, but they rack up tweets. I don’t need to see 50 tweets each day from one person Monday through Friday. It clogs my feed and unfortunately leads to me missing quality tweets from others.

    Wow…sorry this comment is long.

  • Melody Fury

    Hi Brian, I’m noticing your twitter presence grow stronger. You’re well on your way! Foursquare, from a business standpoint, is more than a game. Geolocation provides a great deal of information and Foursquare is an example of how this data can be obtained. The most simple way that Foursquare can help a business is by brand repetition. The more people check in to a place, the higher their ranking is, and the more likely that they’ll show up as nearby a suggestion. Of course, there are more sophisticated methods of obtaining geolocation data but Foursquare is a good start. It never hurts to snag mobile app real-estate.

  • Brian Robinson

    Hi Melody, I appreciate your explanation of Foursquare. I think I’m going to have to start using it a bit to really get a grasp of its benefits. Keep up the good work, it’s always entertaining and informative. Thanks.
    Oh, fyi, the Uncle Neil at The Diamond is a seriously good drink new to their menu…guess I could have Foursquared that!

  • Jessica Hollander

    Hi Melody,

    I appreciate how candid you were in this post. Important message and refresh. Rasoee is also new (less than a year) on SM and I find there is something to learn everyday. Keep the tips coming, I’ll definitely pass this one along.

    Oh also – you’ve now got me looking into Foursquare… :-)

  • Dawn Donahue

    Thank you for such a clear, concise overview. Well written, candid (how refreshing) and valuable information. Thank you for your time and expertize – keep it coming.

  • Rob Tryon aka EffingOyster

    Hi Melody, This is a great post!! Since I’ve started tweeting I have been learning!! Mass Tweets are annoying and I am guilty of that and learning to spread them out. I do hate it when I ask some a question and they take their sweet time to get back to you. It took some time to figure out why. I wish I read this about 2 months ago and I could have avoided a few mistakes. I am very happy with my progress and happy to see that I am on the right track (according to your post). My next step is a blog and this post will help. I plan to read more blogs to learn more b4 i start. Thanks again for the great advice!! PS- I am always open to feedback and suggestions

  • Ling

    Great informative post! I agree with you – quality over quantity. I’m still trying to get the hang of using social media to promote my food blog, especially when creating short but enticing tweets. A work n progress, but I’m enjoying the learning process =)

  • Shauna from Piece of Cake

    What a useful and thoughtful post. Definitely will be referring back to your tips. Great stuff, girl!

  • MizzJ

    Great post and tips. Your point about linking Facebook and Twitter is a good one. Currently I maintain a Facebook page that links the 2 but I find it not very useful b/c of confusing information for both sides in the resulting update/tweet.

  • Val

    Thanks for the information, Melody. I totally agree in quality over quantity when it comes to using social networking. I have an app called Use Qwitter and it tells me who has unfollowed my tweets. That way I can unfollow those who have only followed me in the hopes that I will follow them back, and then quit on me after a certain period has elapsed!

  • http://ThreeSixtyPhotography Justin Lam

    This is a great post and tips on Social Media. I learned some of the lessons the hard way when I first started out. Now I have a better understanding about Social Media and your article really helped solidify it. Thanks!