Playing by the rules in social media

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I have been getting more and more annoyed at the constant assault of political propaganda being thrown in my face on Facebook lately.  That is in spite of the fact that I agree at least in spirit with most of it.  After all, most of my friends share my general political view.

But on the other hand, I already know what I think about politics, the upcoming election and the candidates. I don’t need anyone to tell me how to vote. I don’t need any help. And frankly, most of my Facebook friends that post political stuff are not really qualified to help; they are not political experts–they are just people with strong opinions who watch a lot of cable TV news.
And then there is the fact that even though I agree in spirit with many of the posts, I still know that they are often nonsense–full of political spin at best and outright lies at worst.
So, I eventually reached a breaking point and posted this update:
Remembering the good old days of Facebook when people just posted pictures of their dinner rather than trying to educate the rest of us on how to vote.
Well, as you can imagine, that non-partisan post still turned out to be inflammatory.  People accused me of being trivial (“You come to Facebook to look at pictures of food”) and non-patriotic.  Some mentioned that I was being hypocritical since I use Facebook to promote my music.
I do not deny that I use Facebook and other social media to promote my music.  There is nothing wrong with using those resources to promote what is important to you. (That even includes politics.) I would strongly recommend that everyone take advantage of social media. But as I said to someone that brought that up, there are rules about how you use social media to promote an agenda.
That led to another person questioning me on what the rules are.  Tongue in cheek, he asked for a copy of the rules and wanted to know who enforced the rules and what the penalty was for breaking them.
And here is what I said: There is no official copy of the rules, the people that participate in social media create and enforce the rules and the penalty for breaking the rules is irrelevance.
In other words, here is what I mean.  If you want to rant on Facebook about politics all day long or promote your business all day long and refuse to follow social decorum for doing so, that is your right.  But no one is going to listen to you.  You will be irrelevant.
If on the other hand, you want to actually influence people on Facebook, you will voluntarily submit to the democratic rules that have been established.
There is no written official set of rules, but these are three general guidelines:
1) Remember why people come to that site in the first place.  In the case of Facebook, they come to keep up with friends.  They want to look at pictures of each other and talk to each other.  They do not come to learn about your political opinions or to buy my music.
2) Don’t be one dimensional. If all you do is post political spin or advertisements for your business, people will notice quickly and tune you out.  Only a small fraction of your posts should be marketing in nature.  If you are a political pundit who is trying to sway the next election through Facebook, make sure you intersperse plenty of non-political messages into your posts.  Even on my Facebook Christian Pianist page, you will not see me marketing anything in well over 90% of my posts.  On my personal page, I will go months without ever mentioning my music.
3) Don’t be so opinionated.  Asking questions will always get better results that giving opinions.  That is not to say you should always avoid strong opinions.  But ask at least five questions and invite feedback for every strong opinion that you give.
Right now, social media is an incredible way to influence or market.  But I really worry about its future. Already you can see how people are starting to turn Facebook into massive obnoxious billboards for their businesses or bully platforms for their ideology.  If that trend does not reverse, the time may come where more and more people will give up on Facebook entirely.  For sure, I know a lot of people who want to ditch Facebook at least until after the election:)
If there is hope, it is that there are rules, even if they are not official.  There is policing that goes on and people who abuse the rules are weeded out and become irrelevant.  Don’t become one of the casualties.

3 thoughts on “Playing by the rules in social media

  1. Duncan says:

    Thanks Greg. I’ve been frustrated by the political posts ever since I moved out of the USA. Since we probably share a few friends on fb, I really hope this piece helps a little bit. I’ve thought about leaving fb several times over the last year, but haven’t only because I still enjoy keeping up with old friends a little. But if it gets worse as November approaches, i might change my mind.

  2. Shelly says:

    Hear hear Greg. I am a Republican but the Republicans on Facebook almost drive me toward being a Democrat. It is a joke that they think they can sway votes by inflammatory rhetoric.

  3. James Kail says:

    I agree with the poster above. I am a republican but it is the republicans on facebook that drive me nuts. They post the most stupid stuff without fact checking and are so obnoxious.

    They actually think they are going to change any minds?

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