Best Practices in Social Media Today

by Melissa Venable

Melissa Venable Headshot

I’m working on a presentation for the Georgia Career Development Association (GCDA) with the title: Best Practices in Social Media. But, I admit to you here that I’ve struggled with the phrase "best practices" for a long time. Best for whom? In what kind of environment or situation? And at what point in my process or my client’s process? While I favor the term "leading practices," it doesn’t get as much traction in a Google Search and isn’t as catchy in a headline.

It’s All About Context

What is the context in which you use social media? Best practices for your personal accounts may not be ideal for your professional accounts and vice versa. What’s best for someone else may not be best for me, and what’s best for me may not be best for you. While it seems like a lot to think about, this kind of parsing is a good way to think more critically about how and why we use social media. Here are a few questions to get your thinking started.

What audience do you want to reach? This may affect the platform you focus on, the tone and language of your updates, and the subject matter or format of what you post. Think about demo- graphics, as well as perspective, interests, needs, and career level. What do you want to achieve? I’ve written about goals before, but it’s worth revisiting regularly. How do you want your social media use to affect you, your clients, and your business or school? This could range from outreach and community building to branding and beyond. Be as specific as possible with your desired outcome(s).

What resources do you have available? There are costs involved in social media participation – time, effort, energy, and money (i.e., premium accounts and promotion). Whether you are a one-person shop with no budget or have a team of social media collaborators with funding, set realistic expectations for what you can achieve and choose your role models carefully.

Conduct a Best Practices Cross Check

When presented with a collection of "best practices" in an article, conference session, or conversation, take a little time to assess how they might apply to you and your work. I expect no less from the attendees at GCDA! Some ideas may be a perfect fit as is, others will make more sense with modification, and some won’t be relevant at all, based on your audience, goals, and resources. And...when you share your social media best practices this year (and I hope you will through presentations and writing), provide not only what worked, but also details about why it worked, so that others can make the most of your recommendations in their contexts.