3 keys to playing nicely in the social media sandbox

How awesome were sandboxes when you were a kid?

This is me as a child. You must pretend I am playing in a sandbox because I couldn't find a picture of me in a sandbox for this post.

This is me as a child. You must pretend I am playing in a sandbox because I couldn't find a picture of me in a sandbox for this post.

I used to spend hours in mine. I created entire worlds for my little Smurf and Monchhichi figures - little tunnels, roads, houses, bridges...and then usually I'd get the garden hose, flood the whole thing, and start building again once it was dry. (When it was flooded, I used to pretend it was hot cocoa. Because it kind of looked like it, for some reason.)

Sometimes I'd have a friend playing in the sandbox with me, and certain rules always applied:

  1. Do not take away your friend's toys.
  2. Do not throw sand at your friend.
  3. Do not pour water on or stomp on your friend's sand creations.

Everybody had more fun when you played nicely in the sandbox. Crying friends were never fun.

In the same manner, playing nicely in the giant sandbox of social media is key to your success as an organization. Here are three key rules to playing nicely in the social media sandbox:

Share your toys.

This points to Chris Brogan's 12:1 rule: The majority of your posts should be lifting up the work of others and engaging people in conversation, not promoting yourself. Nobody likes the kid on the playground who constantly brags about the cool toys they have. So don't be that kid.

Resist the temptation to throw sand (i.e., do not feed the trolls)

The problem with throwing sand? Your friend will probably throw sand back at you, and then you'll both just keep throwing sand until you're dirty and your eyes hurt because you got sand in them. In the same way, sometimes you need to avoid conflict by not feeding the conflict urges of other people. Spirited, constructive conversations can happen online, but if somebody is just slamming you or your organization in a purely destructive way, there are a couple of better ways to deal with it than engaging them directly:

  1. Let others stick up for you first.
  2. Message the offender privately and try to have a conversation to figure out why they're behaving this way, and try to get them to stop.
  3. If they get to the level where their comments constitute harassment, block and ban them.

Build things together.

Social media is perfect for collaboration. When was the last time you entered a joint venture with another organization? Maybe it's a South by Southwest panel. Maybe it's a joint fundraising venture. Maybe it's a new app that will help both your organizations. Find something you can promote in cooperation with others, so you all benefit.

How about you? What are your sandbox rules?