The Five New Rules Of Social Media Marketing

by Aléz Odendaal Inspiring Interns

Things move fast on the internet.

This phrase is so true and overused, it almost goes without saying. Yet we don’t always apply this principle in the way it’s begged to be. Many of us simply dismiss it as a statement explaining the move to digital from traditional mediums, although this move is well over a decade old.

Others tend to think of it as a description of the way new social platforms are born or acquired, or new fortunes made and strange job titles created with an intense frequency not seen before the world wide web. Yet none of these explanations get to the true meaning of ‘things move fast on the internet.’

You see, the real truth behind this saying is knowing that our online platforms necessitate constant change. There is no plateau, no breathing room. Your foolproof algorithm for success might only last until the next update becomes available for Instagram.

The complex social structures that come with a global society, connected through the very same space you use to advertise your business, don’t make for a soft, safe space to grow your brand. If you’re not adapting, you’re not succeeding.

That said, here are five rules of social media marketing that are going to carry you through for at least for the foreseeable future. 

Not Every Platform Is Right For Your Brand

The early 2000s brought on a new age of the experimental. Every business, from bakers to law firms to plumbers, flexed their digital fingers and explored every corner of the internet social media would allow them to go. But now that we’ve all calmed down somewhat, we can consider the point that not every outlet is right for you.

Take law, for example. While a Youtube channel giving pro-bono advice or a run-down of popular cases might work well, other visual platforms like Instagram will be far less fruitful. That’s because while both Youtube and Instagram are concerned with what you can see, Youtube’s viewers are interested in information, not aesthetics. The opposite is true for Instagram. Identify each platform’s strengths and weaknesses, then be honest with how these align with your business goals.

Interns Don’t Necessarily Make For Good Social Media Experts

If your social media team was chosen primarily for their age bracket then, despite popular opinion, you’re not guaranteed successful digital campaigns. That’s because while user input is important for user experience experts and departments, it’s not true that every millennial or Gen Z person understands why a post or platform does well, or even that they subscribe or post to these in their own capacity.

Assuming that a person is X because they were born in Y, is ageism. And ageism could be killing your profits.  

Keep Abreast With Software Updates

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat (and to a lesser extent, Twitter), all make use of fairly frequent software updates. These are opportunities for them to expand their range of app abilities, and fix any bugs plaguing users from the last updates.

They will often introduce changes that affect the way you can advertise on these platforms, so keep up with news to make sure you’re never wasting resources on methods made redundant by new product features. Updates can even be exciting, if you choose to look at them as opportunities to one-up competition with something as simple as early adoption of Instagram’s ‘swipe-up’ feature.

Take The Cringe Out Of Topical Content

Repeat after us, ‘Not every hashtag is a hashtag for me.’ There’s nothing less attractive than a brand who doesn’t know it’s audience or limits. Trying to crash every trending topic on Twitter is not the way to win anyone over.

Choose which stories are relevant to you by asking whether by weighing in on serious issues you would contribute meaningfully to the discussion, or whether a quick drop-in on a humour-centred trend would surprise and delight existing customers familiar with your brand values. Aim for the wink-wink, nudge-nudge in-joke, not the one that risks it all for an unreturned high-five.

Don’t Leverage Social Movements Solely For Your Own Gain

‘The Future is Female.’ ‘Support Your Local Girl Gang.’ ‘Who Run the World? GIRLS!’ These are all slogans you can find on t-shirts, handbags, and embroidered patches sold by companies with no prioritised interest in the feminist revolution.  

Don’t commodify a social movement because it’s fashionable. People can spot that a mile away. Name a few brands you know have done so, and we can almost guarantee they’re currently being used as no-no case studies in social science departments of universities around the world. That’s not a good look for your company.

This doesn’t mean you should forgo all corporate responsibility, or that you can’t contribute to popular social rights movements, just make sure that your efforts are mindful, and that there is follow-through with actual humanitarian results.


Aléz Odendaal writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate marketing jobs are currently available.