Google defines best practices as being, ‘commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective’.
In the world of social media and content marketing, we spend a fair deal of time talking about best practices. We write blog posts about best practices to help others, and we updated our social streams with endless amounts of content to do with best practices.
This is great. It’s awesome to have such an amazing collection of content on social media best practices. If you’re unsure about how to tackle a certain challenge, conducting a quick search for best practices in that area can be a lifesaver. If you want to validate your thinking, benchmarking against best practices can provide a great deal of relief and help you proceed with confidence.
Best practices can be supremely helpful to study, understand and follow.
But best practices should come with a major caveat.
By their nature, best practices tend to be generalizations. Typically, they don’t specifically address your unique situation, opportunities and challenges. And getting too caught up in following best practices can affect your comfort and willingness to take a chance and do something amazing that may be contrary to conventions.
Best practices should be a starting point.
If you’re learning about a specific social media platform, strategic approach, technique or tactic, study best practices to get a handle on what works for most people. Then, think about these best practices in the context of your business, brand, consumers, competition, opportunities and challenges. This context should be applied to what you actually execute, and what you execute will be more effective as a result.
Create your own best practices.
After you’ve studied best practices, start thinking about a methodology to follow to create your own best practices. Figure out how you are going to monitor and measure your social media and content marketing efforts so that you can benchmark certain actions against others and see what works best for you and your audience.
AB testing is a great way to do this, and over time can help you to fine tune your social media and content marketing strategies for maximum effectiveness. In time, you’ll have your own best practices, and you’ll have developed a resilience to falling into a trap of feeling too comfortable about what you’re doing, which can be hugely detrimental to doing anything really special, which leads nicely into my next point…
Learn to fear comfort.
Best practices and ‘proven’ strategies and tactics can be your worst enemy. The validation that you’re following best practices can be comforting. You’re following what works. You’re doing things correctly. You’re doing what the experts do.
But what you’re not doing is anything different. If you’re not doing anything differently, then you’re doing things exactly the same as everyone else, including your competition. If you’re not doing anything different than your competition, then what effect do you really think you’ll be able to have on your audience? Do you think you’ll be able to more effectively convert them to consumers? Do you think you’ll be able to build a stronger more loyal audience? Do you think your activity will convert audience members to becoming evangelists?
Not a chance!
If everyone did everything the same, the world would be a pretty dull place, and the same holds true on social media.
Defy best practices.
I’m not suggesting you just disregard best practices, and the strategies and tactics that have proven to yield success for you and your business, but find opportunities to take a chance. Try something different. Try something new that you’ve never seen anyone do before. Try something similar to what others might have even failed at, but build on the idea and make a few changes for the better. Defy best practices and do something a little less comfortable every now and again.
Then, monitor and measure what you’ve done. It’s not going to be a success every single time, but when it is successful, you’ll have hit on something that is fresh and new, and that none of your competitors have done. You’ll be a leader, and your audience will take notice.
And for all of your failed efforts, nobody’s going to chastise you for trying something new and having it fail. After all, you’ll probably be able to recognize that the new thing you’ve attempted is a failure well before anyone else even takes notice.
So, there you go. Best practices can be incredibly valuable to study and execute against, but don’t get so comfortable that you never try anything new. Getting too comfortable can be your worst enemy, not just on social media, but more broadly in business as well.
Keep pushing yourself to be better, and to think about things differently. If you’re not willing to do this, your competition, or someone you don’t even know exists yet, surely will. And by then, it’ll be too late.
What’s the last thing you did on social media that was a risk? How do you keep your business on its toes, trying new things, innovating?