The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, pt 1

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing is the 12th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


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The 10 Commandments of Social Computing

“I think our nature is to be active and engaged.
I’ve never seen a 2-year-old or a 4-year-old
who’s not active and engaged.
That’s how we are out of the box.
And if you begin with this presumption,
you create much more open, flexible arrangements that
almost inevitably lead to greater satisfaction for individuals
and great innovation for organizations.”
Daniel Pink, media theorist

Social Networking, Social Media, Social Computing — what­ever you call it, it’s big, it’s new, and it’s growing rapidly. We’ve collected several rules for using social media as the 10 Commandments of Social Computing.[1]

Thou shall not social network for the sake of social networking

Social Media is Not:

Social Media is:

A Fad

Relevant to Enterprises

Just For Kids

For Everyone

About New Channels to Push Messages

About Creating Conversations

About the Tools

About Strategy

About the Techniques

About Planning and Execution

A Numbers Game

About Creating Relationships

A Replacement

A Supplement to Existing Techniques

Thou shall not abuse social networking

Quick Tips

  • Don’t push, push, push
  • It’s a conversation, not a soapbox! (we’ll talk further about this)
  • Avoid over-updating
  • Example: being 1 of 200 friends on Facebook, but making up 25 percent of updates — You’re not that important!
  • Constant nagging to join groups or causes
  • Sending out multiple requests to join your cause — If they want to join, THEY WILL!
  • Too many email blasts

Don’t Push, Push, Push

People who do marketing are used to pushing their message out indiscriminately, hoping to somehow connect with those who will respond. In the traditional marketing environment, there is little way to identify ready recipients of the message, and marketers spend billions each year trying to segment the market and deliver the right message to the right person.

Social Media is different in three important ways:

  • You can have conversations with prospects
  • You can know more about your prospects and under­stand better how they will respond
  • You can actually more-directly measure the effect of your efforts to attract and inform them

Because the medium offers these advantages, social computing users do not respond as well to the traditional push style of marketing. They may even be insulted if you blindly push your message at them.

Increasingly, online users respond better to relationship marketing.

It’s a conversation, not a soapbox!

Avoid Over-Updating

If you’re constantly updating your status, posting to your blog or otherwise creating a high volume of messages in your social media venues, fellow users are likely to see you as annoying.

For example, if your Facebook activity comprises more than your fair share of the discussion, your friends may either tune you out or hide your updates.

It’s not all about you. It’s about the relationships and community that you build.

Similarly, if your messaging is one-note — join my cause, donate to my cause, write your congressperson about my cause — people will stop listening. You must balance your overt messaging with other messages of interest, either on or off topic. You’ll need to discover the exact proportions that work for your community for yourself, but a good rule of thumb is to contribute four times for every time you ask for something.

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party. You are making the rounds and you start to talk to someone who, although he’s talking about a topic you’re interested in, totally dominates the conversation and constantly asks you to come to his seminar and learn more.

Do you hang out with this person, or do you find an excuse to move on, and never re-engage with him?

Social media is like a big cocktail party. The boring monologists often end up speaking only to themselves.

How do you know if you’re over-sharing? Ask. Often. But not too often!   【ツ】

Thou shall focus on connections and community

People join social networks to be a part of something bigger than themselves. So it follows that most of the time, that something bigger is not you (personally) or even your cause. Remember, no matter how successful your community or your Website is, people will spend 99 percent of their online time elsewhere. So be careful to give them what they expect, and what they want, while they’re at your place.

One of the main things people want online is for their voices to be heard, especially by others who are passionate about a cause, issue, or topic. Enable that. Support their desire to be heard, to be valued, and to connect. What you say is important; what they say is essential.

Everyone is looking for a group that accepts them for who they are. Your job in creating a social media space is to foster that acceptance by giving them the tools, the space, and the permission to become a cohesive, self-sustaining group. That’s the Holy Grail.

People want relationships that translate into the real world, not just online! Nobody spends all their time online (well, they’ve at least got to answer the door and pay the pizza guy). Many people look to make their online time and relationships meaningful in TRL (The Real World). There are many ways you can encourage these offline connections:

  • Have real-world meetups[2] where virtual friends can press the flesh
  • Show your followers evidence of how their commitment to your cause benefits others by providing testimonials — written and via video or audio — from people you have helped
  • Encourage your followers to share details from their own lives, and the positive effect their commitment to your cause has on those they interact with offline


Thou shall not commit social networking narcissism

Narcissus was so in love with his image that he gazed at it all day, to the exclusion of other activities. Sound like anyone you know online?

The Web is full of people who are full of themselves — the kind who might say, “Enough about me. What do you think about me?” Many organizations act the same way online, showing an alarming sense of self-absorption. They may be talking with you, but conversation is one way — all about them, their organization, their fund drive, their issues and obstacles, their successes.

One sign of social networking narcissism may be constantly updating your status on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social sites. This is like push advertising and your contacts will soon tire of hearing all about you, especially if your status is boring trivia such as, “The line at Starbucks is long” or “My cat just rolled over” or “Going up the stairs.” Yes, these are all real tweets!

Of course, you may be over-sharing about your cause as well. Remember, it’s not all about you, your group, your cause! People spend most of their time elsewhere. You need to be interesting first, and interested always. This means you comment on other people’s posts; you send them messages asking how they’re doing; you help develop and sustain a relationship with your contacts.

Narcissism, self-promotion, and boring/excessive status updates are often cited as the top reasons people “unfriend” or disconnect with others online.[3]

Finally, the form of your communication also counts. Don’t just make statements; ask questions, and especially open-ended questions, even if they’re off-topic: What’s your favorite movie? What’s your best idea for promoting our cause? What could we be doing better?

 More Commandments

[1] For other folks’ 10 commandments, see: ,,,, and

[2] allows people to organize real-world networking meetings online:

[3] Reasons to unfriend: