The entire fitness magazine industry is built on the idea that there is an infinite number of flashy headlines to describe the same piece of advice: if you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.
The same is happening online. The net is covered with Top 10 and 20 lists offering best practices and quick fixes to everything from writing emails to social media marketing. But at the end of every list, you can’t help but feel as though you’ve read nothing new.
Not wanting to be outdone, we’ve prepared a list of things that should be so obvious that everyone knows them—but doesn’t necessarily remember to do them. Enough with the introduction, here’s the stuff you already know:
1.Don’t be “that guy”
You know how at every conference you’ve been to, when the microphone is opened up to the floor, there’s always that one person who a two-minute, three-part question that has nothing to do with anything? It’s the same when you’re talking to people online. Only say what you need to, edit yourself, and make sure what you’re saying to your audience is valuable—to them.
2. Fit the message to the audience
You share different stories and jokes at family dinners than when you’re out with friends. This is universal common sense: having something worth saying is important, but so is saying it to the right people. Know what appeals to your audience and craft your message accordingly.
3. Talk to people on their own terms.
There’s content and then there’s distribution. We no longer get to make assumptions about how people want to be reached—we have to ask them or at least give them options. This means making it available everywhere: over email, on facebook, on twitter, in video. Different channels for different people. Be sure to tailor accordingly.
4. Don’t be boring
5. Listen up
There’s an old Mark Twain quote, “there are no dialogues, just intersecting monologues.” This is probably still true online, but at least now we can hear what everyone else is saying. Just make sure the feedback you take to heart comes from people that matter. The internet is full of people who have more words than thoughts—keep a grain of salt on hand for when they show up. Having said that:
6. Engage when you need to
Not all comments deserve replies, but some do. It’s not acceptable to hope that—Apple style—other people will do the heavy lifting of defending you. Valid concerns need to be transparently addressed, and invalid ones need to be diffused head-on.
7. Ask the data
We’ve moved beyond making decisions on gut feeling. It’s now incredibly easy to make data-backed decisions thanks to a host of free tools, like Google Analytics. By looking at the numbers you can ask informed questions about what worked and what can be better. If you get really fancy you can even run experiments with the data.
At the end of the day, it’s all common sense. The problem with common sense is that we take it for granted and ignore it. There’s a reason every magazine selling an easier way to get that six-pack sells—even though we already know the secret: eat less and exercise more.
It’s the same online.