Image by Mats Eriksson via flickr

All You Really Need to Know About Social Media Is To Ignore What You Learned In Kindergarten

As countless five-year-olds across the world start their first day of school this week, they’ll begin to learn fundamental lessons for succeeding in education and in life. Kindergarten, despite what many believe, isn’t just about colouring and sharing. It is during this first year that you are instilled with the fundamentals of formal education, interacting in a social setting, and more.

Many of the lessons learned during this formative period stick with you for the rest of your life. This is a good thing… in most cases. Thankfully, five-year-olds don’t hold executive positions in Fortune 500 companies, because here are three Kindergarten lessons you should definitely ignore on social media (and in most business situations, for that matter):

1. Don’t Talk When Somebody Else is Talking

Teachers ask students to raise their hand before speaking so that classrooms don’t erupt into chaos. We all know how essential it is in that environment, and keeping quiet while others are talking is a great rule for many social and business situations. It is not, however, a good rule to abide by when engaging on social media.

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are constantly shifting and changing. In the span of one week, the top trending topics on Twitter might include a political coup and a pop star’s blunder on stage. To be successful you need to stay on top of your game and ALWAYS talk when others are talking.

There is no time to wait your turn on social. The success of your social media campaigns depend on you being timely and in-the-moment. Oreo probably does it better than anyone else, and showed how important immediacy is with their Super Bowl ad homerun. Be active when the conversation is active. It’s when everybody else is quiet that you know you’re probably talking about the wrong things.

2. Don’t Look at Anyone Else’s Work

What keeps this class from exploding into anarchy will also keep you from succeeding at social media. Photo by woodleywonderworks.
What keeps this class from anarchy will also keep you from succeeding at social media. Photo by woodleywonderworks.

I once had a teacher who, when she caught you cheating off of another person’s paper, would ask “Are you Italian? Because you’ve got ‘Roamin’ eyes.” Her relatively relaxed stance on copying (and clever wordplay) might not sit well with other professors, but it’s the perfect model to follow on social media.

Social networks are an open forum of people and businesses, “open” being the operative word. You should always be monitoring your competition to see what they are doing right and wrong. Look at their test, in the metaphorical sense, and take the ‘answers’ that work. But, like any good school cheater would know (kids, stop reading here), make sure to put them in your own words. You need to take successful social media strategies and campaigns and make them your own. Add your own flare, your company’s brand, and own the techniques that work.

And you don’t only need to monitor competitors. Monitor the best brands out there. Look to social media experts for inspiration. Even your followers might be taking your content and presenting it on social media in a way that attracts increased engagement. Always look at other people’s work for in order to advance your own social success.

3. Play it Safe

Scraped knees and crying kids make for a difficult class environment, so it’s no surprise that young children are taught to play safe and not take risks. Playing it safe might be one of the most influential lessons we’re taught in Kindergarten, one that guides our actions through our entire lives. But it could also be one of the more harmful lessons when it comes to social media.

While social networks are new to a lot of people, after a few days or weeks on Twitter or Facebook it isn’t hard to see patterns emerge. Companies like to advertise their products in a specific way, or respond to questions with pre-written answers. Often they’ll repeat the same marketing message word-for-word on two different channels or accounts. When you approach social media in this way, you’re liable to lose followers or at the very least not gain any new fans.

Social media success is dependent on you keeping it fresh and taking occasional risks. The Los Angeles Kings hockey team gained a massive amount of followers by showing some snark and attitude on Twitter. Many brands are starting to utilize Vine or Instagram videos which, while often not very polished, make things interesting for followers. In the age of social media, it’s the people (not the broadcasters) that decide what content succeeds or fails. Playing it safe is a great way to get nowhere.

So there it is! You can thank your Kindergarten teachers for a lot of things, but you may want to ignore their lessons when it comes to your social media strategy.