Five Social-Media Strategies to Avoid

With All the Online Noise Out There, Don't Annoy Consumers With Missing Mascots and Shameless Self-Promotion

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While companies busily high-five each other over implementing social-media plans that have limited strategy around them -- and while the majority of celebs send tweets that make them look like twits -- let's look at a few rules of thumb that I hope can help those jumping into what can be awfully frigid waters.

Most importantly -- thanks for adding to the list.

1. Celebrities/CEOs/Politicians/VIPs/Elvis/Persons of Note: Put down that iPhone. Never have I seen a better excuse to employ a PR expert than the almost daily implosions of everyone from pro athletes to comedians on Twitter (especially). If anything, learn from Kim Kardashian, who keeps it vapid and harmless. Don't be like LeBron, whose reference to the "Greater Man Upstairs" dictating his fate on the court after not showing up in the Finals didn't win him any fans.

2. Shameless Self-Promotion: To be online is to embrace ego on a continuum, create one's own world and rule that tiny electronic universe. Any company impeding that world by selling anything will be ignored like I was at the junior prom (before I built this incredible hair). Ask a few simple questions: Who's your audience? What will engage them in a real way?

3. We've Kidnapped Your Favorite _____: Lately I've seen mascots and other supposed icons of companies go on vacation/disappear suddenly with the company asking fans and followers to like their page to bring back the mascot. Cue the sound of one hand clapping or liking the page. Also, as a lover of mascots from outside the New York area, it's just personally upsetting for me to think of a large Styrofoam character bound and gagged in the back of some trunk.

4.Play This Game! Or … don't. I think a burger chain offering someone the opportunity to see if they can dip sauces in the right sequence using their mouse is the equivalent of offering them a crack at Space Invaders or Asteroids. Note: If born after 1980, I just wrote something borderline hilarious. If you're going to create a game, it better be hot and if it's not hot, it better be funny. Entertain the people!

5. Great Questions = Real Engagement: You can always tell when a company has put serious thought into a question. Good questions make you stop, think, reflect and, most importantly, beg you to be a part of the discussion. The most powerful component of social media is handing the reins over to your (hopefully growing) audience by tossing a question that 's the equivalent to a softball to Ryan Howard. Make them hungry to hit it.

If the brand isn't already built to last, ignore all of the above and get your eye on the ball. The strongest brands who weave their essence into their social strategies per the above are also the smartest brands.

Peter Madden is founder-president of AgileCat, Philadelphia.
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