Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

21 Rules of Engagement in Social Media

What follows is a modified excerpt from Engage!, the complete guide for businesses to build, cultivate, and measure success in the new Web.

Chapter 17

Social Media is reinventing marketing, communications, and the dissemination of information. For many businesses and organizations, social networks represent hallowed grounds, bringing together customers, prospects and the people who influence their decisions in a shared, balanced, and interactive medium. While businesses now have access to these rich channels, the true promise of social media however, lies in the direct connections that are forged between people who represent companies and the people who define markets of interest.

Conversations will transpire with or without us and it’s through meaningful engagement and the introduction of useful content that help us earn ongoing relevance. As such, there are rules of engagement combined with a strict code of conduct that businesses must employ when taking a participatory role in the definition and perception of the brand and reputation online.

Many businesses approach this today with the establishment of social media guidelines and policies. This is indeed an important step and not one worth economizing. But, it’s also not enough.

I highly recommend the introduction of protocol and direction that instruct and remind representatives of the importance and privilege of engagement.

If time is money, then attention is gold.

The openness of popular networks is trivial. Anyone can join and surely any business or organization can create profiles, groups or brand-related pages. It is the devices we employ, the intentions that motivate engagement, the value we offer in each exchange, the caliber of the content we create and distribute, and the rewards we introduce as part of the experience that dictate the significance of the brand-specific social graphs we weave. It’s a simple investment in either visibility or presence. In social media, just like in the real world, presence is felt.

Rules of Engagement

As social media continues to evolve, establishing not only policies and guidelines but also defining the “rules of engagement” will encourage thoughtful interaction as it benefits the business, brand, customer, peers, and prospects at every touchpoint. In the end, we earn the attention, relationships and business we deserve.

Following is an outline of best practices to help you craft a practical set of rules that guide representatives as they engage:

1: Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, challenges, impressions, and wants of the people within each network

2: Participate where your presence is advantageous and mandatory, don’t just participate anywhere and everywhere or solely in your own domains (Facebook Brand Page, Twitter conversations related to your brand, etc.)

3: Determine the identity, character, and personality of the brand and match it to the persona of the individuals representing it online

4: Establish a point of contact who is ultimately responsible for identifying, trafficking, or responding to all things that can affect brand perception

5: As in customer service, representatives require training to learn how to proactively and reactively respond across multiple scenarios – don’t just put the person familiar with social networking in front of the brand

6: Embody the attributes you wish to portray and instill – operate by a code of conduct

7: Observe the behavioral cultures within each network and adjust your outreach accordingly

8: Assess pain points, frustrations and also those of contentment in order to establish meaningful connections

9: Become a true participant in each community you wish to activate, move beyond marketing and sales

10: Don’t speak at audiences through canned messages, introduce value, insight and direction through each engagement

11: Empower your representatives to offer rewards and resolution in times of need

12: Act, don’t just listen and placate — do something

13: Ensure that any external activities are supported by a comprehensive infrastructure to address situations and adapt to market conditions and demands

14: Learn from each engagement and provide a path within the company to adapt and improve products and services

15: Consistently create, contribute, and reinforce service and value

16: Earn connections through collaboration and empower advocacy

17: Don’t get lost in translation, ensure your communication and intent is clear and that your involvement maps to objectives created for the social web

18: Establish and nurture beneficial relationships online and in the real world as long as doing so is important to your business

19: “un” campaign and create ongoing programs that keep you part of day-to-day engagement

20: “un” market by becoming a resource to your communities

21: Give back, reciprocate and recognize notable contributions from participants in your communities

Please consider reading, Engage!: It might just change the way you think about Social Media

Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:

Image Credit: Shutterstock

311 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “21 Rules of Engagement in Social Media”

  1. Hi Brian,
    That's a great set of rules. One I would suggest adding is to go one step at a time….learning to run before you can walk. It's too easy when entering a new domain to take on too much too soon. Also, a great way to learn, develop training and support systems and manage risk if you go one thing at a time.


  2. Brian,

    Love the list. I also agree with Adrian that taking things in phases not only allows your brand to resonate within a community but gives you a chance, as a marketer, to understand what's working with your followers and supporters in addition to the ability to listen long enough to give that audience what they are looking for. It's very refreshing to see a set of rules that actually brings you closer to your audience instead of one that only sets boundaries. I've printed out this list to keep handy when working with clients to best determine the right steps to help them engage with their customers and audiences. Thanks again!

    Kalyn Baldwin

  3. Brian-

    I don't disagree with a single guideline…but I don't believe there are rules to brand engagement in social media. If we were to look at a list of, say, the best corporate Twitter accounts together, and compare their behavior with the rules in this chapter, what would we find? Many of these brands would be violators of many of these rules. And yet, we might both use them as a model of success. Why? Because there are no rules in the way we typically define them.

    You use “best practices” in your post as well, and I think that is a better way of discussing what participants in social conversations should and shouldn't do.

    • Douglas Karr says:

      While social media engagement may not have rules, business should have them. Businesses must set standards for the behavior of the people that are representing them online…. it's only logical. It makes clear what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to protect the brand and the company. We've seen the damage that a single employee can do to a company. Having a set of rules for an employee sets a baseline standard from which they can work. The purpose isn't to punish what employees may or may not do, it's to get them to stop, take a breath, and ensure that they're adding value by engaging.

    • You're right, of course, Douglas. But those rules are on a case-by-case basis. Businesses define the guardrails & guidelines, but no one defines rules for them…and that's the difference.

  4. Nigel Burke says:

    I really enjoyed reading your summary of chapter 17. There are many points that apply to my business such as being more pro-active rather than just listening. Thank you for the awesome list!

    I really look forward to getting a copy and when I read it, I'll add a review to my blog (which I am sure will be positive)

  5. Wow, thank you for these rules, I agree with them, but once you are done with all of these, how do you find time for your regular work? 🙂 Especially if you are a small business who doesn't have the budget to delegate certain tasks?


    • briansolis says:

      Dagmar, everything comes at an opportunity cost and I know that many of these items on the list prove far more valuable than other things currently on our task list. 🙂

  6. I agree to all the rules but the real good one is “20: “un” market by becoming a resource to your communities”. This is really useful.

  7. Rob Berman says:

    Lots of work to tackle all 21 items in the list. A phased approach probably would work best as would a triage to the size of the organization against the rules. Some would be more important to smaller versus larger organizations.


  8. Already bookmarked the list as it was featured on Mashable last month:… . But great set of principles (don't like the term 'rules') for companies evolving to social businesses.

    Just started reading your book, and have a feeling this will be the most interesting of the 11 I ordered 🙂


  9. Brian,

    Like the 21 rules for engagement. I particularly like that you have everyone who is going to have customer contact be involved. (Rules 5 & 11.) Social media should not be the sole realm of marketing, the PR team, customer service, or sales. Instead it should be the combination of all of them that can give companies a dynamic approach to their engagement. The result being a give and a take in the conversation with the constant exchange of information as the valuable solution.


  10. I really like this list…it explains the mindset that newcomers need to understand, and seem to be missing. So many people are just spewing canned content, not engaging.

    In fact, I love the term “un-market”(did you coin it?” may I borrow it?) which might make the topic of a good blog post. It seems to be the paradox of social media that the more we participate beyond our own communities, and engage in a non selfish way, the more good karma (aka ROI) comes back to you. Something very zen about it!

  11. gucci says:

    Well , the view of the passage is totally correct ,your details is really reasonable and you guy give us valuable informative post, I totally agree the standpoint of upstairs. I often surfing on this forum when I m free and I find there are so much good information we can learn in this forum!

  12. gregory pouy says:

    Do you really think that Social media is reinventing the rules of communication and marketing ? From my point of view wee are just going back to the roots.
    When I'm giving a conference or talking about the subject I'm used t say that it's just like a sunday market where you've got different people selling tomatoes.
    If your you're not nice with people, you can still put big billboard or whatever communication tools, people will talk in the street, let know that you suck and buy their tomatoes to the nice guy even if it's a bit more expansive.
    What do you think ?

  13. Kathy Klotz-Guest says:

    All great points, Brian. I'd also like to add that FUN is not a dirty word and, yes, even B2B efforts could use more fun to build and maintain engagement (and, thus, greater loyalty) in communities. Fun is every bit a customer-centered strategy when done right.

  14. lary says:

    All points are really great and I think many of us lack in this. Just as people don't know where they should participate. Even when it is not advantageous and mandatory then also they try to participate and due to this lot of time is wasted and even no benefits from that.

    social media management

  15. Seamus O'Farrell says:

    I have just come across this weblog. I am not fully qualified to give proper feedback until I have read the book, 'Engage' … it looks interesting. However, with regard to the '21 Rules of Engagement' cited above, I have some questions; On what basis are these rules scientifically validated? Do they derive from validated empirical generalisations? Are you in need of tuition regarding communication through the medium of the English language?

    You might be well-served to think about applying your own 17th 'Rule' to the way you express and explain your ideas.

    Seamus O'Farrell, Twickenham, United Kingdom

  16. i like it your 21 rules of social media very informative blog ..:)

  17. Pingback: Anonymous
  18. Consistently create, contribute and reinforce and value hit the nail on the head for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Stay Connected