The Ten Commandments of Social Media

by Simon. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.

If you’ve ever wondered how to go about the whole social media thing, Lon Safko, author of the Social Media Bible suggests 10 commandments that go a long way to embracing the phenomenon:

Commandments 1. Thou Shalt Blog (like crazy)

Blogging, although possibly now considered old school is a first priority. Set up a blog, a personal blog, a business blog, says Safko, It’s easier than you think. There are a multitude of Blog providers and software for self-hosting. My clear favourite is WordPress, which provides a hosted solution much like Blogger.com or GoingOn.com, or in my case, the software to setup and manage your own blog.

Commandments 2. Thou Shalt Create Profiles (everywhere)

Create profiles on the websites that interest you; do it now before someone else takes them. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. That’s commonly called cyber squatting. So get out there. If you have a personal brand, set up all the profiles you can against that brand, alternatively just use your name. For example, You can see my Google and Facebook profiles, the later of which has allowed me my own distinct URL. You can see more of my profiles via the links in the footer of my website. For the technically-minded, you can use Open Social to make filling in your profiles as easy as a click of a button.

Commandments 3. Thou Shalt Upload Photos (lots of them)

Upload photographs. You’ve got them, afterall you probably own the latest and greatest digital SLR from Canon or Nikon. Don’t upload the one with you with a lampshade on your head, that’s somewhat counter-productive; but other photographs? Absolutely; show your creativity and interests. Customers want to see and participate. You want to give people a face to go with your company. Sites such as Flickr, known for hosting some stunning photographs, are regularly used as a private area through which not only photographs, but product designs can be discussed and developed with clients. Photobucket is another example, albeit more consumer orientated.

Commandments 4. Thou Shalt Upload Videos (all you can find)

Safko, like many others, sees videos becoming an important part of business interactions: You all have got videos. I don’t care whether it’s training videos or customer videos, grab your video camera and go interview some of your customers. What’s better than seeing your customer’s smiley face on your Web site? And it doesn’t cost anything. Fortunately, much like the plethora of photo sites, there are some really great video websites out there. My favourite is Vimeo, but you could also use the more familiar and popular YouTube.

Commandments 5. Thou Shalt Podcast (often)

In my opinion this is a tricky one, much like video. Safko suggest if you’re too cheap to get a camera, use the free audio software that’s in your computer. That’s what I did. I created 48 audio podcasts. If you take the podcasts I did for my book and played them back-to-back, they run 24 continuous hours of interviews. You can do that. It’s free. It just takes time. But like video, people don’t necessarily have the time, budget or talent to produce relatively decent Podcasts. If you’re going to create decent Podcast, however, put them on iTunes where they can easily be found. If you have a smart phone, you could also try the AudioBoo and Qik, they are simply awesome at recording and publishing Podcasts and Videocasts respectively.

Commandments 6. Thou Shalt Set Alerts (immediately)

Set alerts. People are talking about you. You probably need to know what they are saying and you want to participate. A simple approach would be to use Google Alerts or Technorati and the soon-to-be-released Twitterati. If you have a greater concern, companies like Brandwatch dedicate their lives to spidering the web and garnering what they call company sentiment based upon conversations.

Commandments 7. Thou Shalt Comment (on a multitude of blogs)

Commenting is like going to a cocktail party says Safko, You wouldn’t walk into a networking event, walk up to a group of people talking, and tell them your name and what you do in your business. That would be rude and unacceptable. Listen first. Read the blogs and add comments. You can be controversial, that’s okay. But participate. Get involved. Many blogs allow comments and there is also a 3rd-party services, such as Disqus, that help you keep track of all your comments.

Commandments 8. Thou Shalt Get Connected (with everyone)

Get LinkedIn. Put it in your email that you have a LinkedIn account, you have a Facebook account, and that you have a Twitter account. Make it a part of your heading on your letterhead, because that’s how you propagate. That’s how you sell it.

Commandments 9. Thou Shalt Explore Social Media (30 minutes per week)

Explore social media. Safko suggests give it thirty minutes a week, that’s all I’m asking. Friday morning grab your coffee, lock yourself in your office, and give it thirty minutes. Just Google something. I promise you within the first 30 days you will be excited. You’ll be as excited as I am. You will get excited because of the ROI. I would contend that 30 minutes per week isn’t enough. Spend 30 minutes per day, exploring and keeping up-to-date with what is happening out there in the big-bad-world.

There are tools that make this a lot easier; they’re called social media aggregation or lifestreaming. FriendFeed is one of the best social media aggregation and discussion tools available, with numerous widgets and 3rd-party applications. It currently supports more than 40 social media websites. SocialThing allows you to see everything that’s going on with your friends on all of your social networks and allows you to interact with multiple sites at one time. Importantly, SocialThing interacts with the 3rd-party APIs, so data is sent to the source service, unlike FriendFeed. Alternatively, Flock is a web browser with a built in social aggregator, which allows you to interact with sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It is not as wide reaching as its online rivals, but does boast a blog editor, drag-and-drop image uploading and an RSS aggregator.

Commandments 10. Thou Shalt Be Creative (go forth and create creatively)

Safko’s final commandment is all about creativity; And the most important commandment is creativity. That’s all. It’s just creativity and having fun. But you know what, that’s what your customers want. They want to see transparency. They want to see authenticity. They want to see you having fun. They want to be able to relate and communicate.

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  • Lon Safko

    Great blog! I really like your analysis of each commandment. Of course there should be at least ten more about strategy, but it’s a start! I love your conclusion. It is all about “transparency”, “authenticity”, and “sincerity”. Thank you for taking the time to add your thoughts and helping everyone who want to better understand social media. – Lon Safko

  • Hey man, nice post.

    Your name has been poppin’ up on a few alerts of mine for sometime now. Nice to finally find (or at least have the time to find) some of your work.

    Will be back soon for some more namesake-based exploring.

    Catch ya later Whatley


  • I believe you are totally correct about authenticity, sincerity and transparency as our on line presence tells a lot about us. My real challenge is having the time to do it all and still keep my already income producing streams active. Thanks for the post.

  • ciobi

    Get a real life and then look upon your “commands” and see if it makes a little bit of sense.
    I repeat: GET A REAL LIFE!!!

  • @ciobi I think your comment is largely miss-placed. You don’t have to be someone with no life to take an active interest in either social media or the work that you do. The ten commandments serve as a way for you to understand the steps needed to interact and simply learn.

    “Get a real life” suggests that social media isn’t real, which inturn suggest the Web isn’t real. Whether you believe it to be real or not, it is still a multi-billion dollar industry that many people enjoy, whether as a career or as an interest.

    I’d be interested to discover what you consider a real life to be.

  • Alan

    I think ciobis point if slightly trolling is that you seem to care way to much about your online identity and that if you were to stop caring so much about twitter/facebook/blogs etc you may look back apon it and realise that yes the internet may be a billion dollar industry that many people use and abuse but it is not the be all and end all of life. Social media will come and go like most other fads – a few sites will survive but in the end most will fail leaving you with a whole load of wasted effort. Unless you feel like your blog is contributing to the sum of all human knowledge then in which case people will probably look apon you as a social media visonary in 100 years.

    oh and as i don’t use Disqus i doubt i will ever read a reply to this comment.

  • @alan I certainly agree that the social media and by extension, the Internet, is not the be-all-and-end-all in life. I often contend that people shouldn’t spend their lives tweeting or posting to their Facebook wall as has the potential to devalue face-to-face interaction. But having said that, social media does have its merits and indeed helps find new opportunities to interact, or for the capitalists out there, make a buck or two.

    Whether my blog or Twitter timeline is valuable is not for me to say. I just post what I am interested in. If that happens to appeal to people, then so much the better. If it doesn’t then it’s no loss to me or anyone else, and certainly no loss to humankind. It would take a very narrow-minded or narcissistic person to think otherwise.

    If this blog was about snow-boarding or mountain-biking would it have any more resonance than if it were technology; no. Everything comes and goes whether that is social media, art, finance, sport etc.

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