Simple Social Media Rules for Tech Leaders

Did your parents ever ask you “if your friends jumped off of a bridge would you do it too?” We are all familiar with this rhetorical question from our youth. The analogy is so clear, why would you ever follow someone doing something so misguided?

Some business leaders today have lost site of that simple analogy – I’m convinced that is why so many “leaders” spend their time following each other in circles; trying one bad idea after another because it’s the latest trend in the market?

As a UX professional, I see this shake out most often in the use of social media because “everyone else is doing it, we need to get our brand on there”. Lately it equates to jumping on every social medium out there. Companies are adding bells and whistles for people to comment and rate anything and everything. Then I see companies spend the next two years staring at usage stats and page hits trying to figure out if they’re getting anything out of it. Enter, User Insight, this is typically where we’ll receive a call to help figure out what’s wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with trying something new. Just make sure your moves are deliberate. When you don’t assess what your customers expect from your company and establish appropriate measurements of success you’ll miss the mark every time, and without measurements you may not even know it.

Let me give you an example…

Pinterest provides buttons to easily “like” an image on Facebook or “tweet” it on Twitter even though those companies could be looked at as competition. Why do they allow sharing across competitive mediums – easy, their customers want to share and not being able to share affects the user experience. By understanding what behaviors you can drive (or change) and what functionality you need to integrate into your process – you are demonstrating to your customers that you understand them and allow them to do what they want to do, which drives customer satisfaction and ultimately usage.

Some companies are naturally social while other businesses may have a difficult time gaining traction in the social space because it is not a natural part of a customer’s experience with that product or brand.

Let me give you an example…

UHaul has Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ accounts. A company that has more than 11million customers per year only has a little over thirteen-hundred followers on twitter. An executive in the dark may look at that and shake their head. In order to continue their efforts, a company like that has to have clear goals for those efforts and clear measures by which to measure success. How do you establish those goals? Look at your customers’ experience and interaction with your company. Why would they be social? When would they be social? What’s an appropriate interaction that will integrate with their current behavior? (How do you figure out user behavior – that’s another article – see: Personas)

In short, my point is that decision making for your company needs to come from what you know about your business and your consumers. Be inspired by others but don’t forget what you learned from your parents: what’s good for one company isn’t always good for another. Take the time to learn your space, really know your customers, and understand your goals even if they are subjective; then decide what makes sense.