I enjoy the wandering path that is social media for me.  The twists, turns and links I find are fun and most often illuminating.

Yesterday I found Jason Falls and his blog “Social Media Explorer”, because Lon Safko had told me about a comment Jason made using ‘Social Media Bible-Thumping’, which probably came up in his Google Alerts under ‘Social Media Bible’. 

I quickly found Jason in a search, checked his blog, saw that he was a co-founder of the Social Media Club in Louisville and that he was an active Twitter user.  I followed him right away on Twitter, because I like smart people on social media.  This morning I saw that followed me back and I clicked to looked over his recent tweets.  The latest tweet was “Reading some good stuff from @grinerhttp://tinyurl.com/c623u3 – Smart dude.” – on which I clicked to see what he considered to be ‘Smart dude’ stuff and came across David Griner’s blog ‘The Social Path‘ and his post “Is there really a right or wrong in social media?

I loved David’s post and his reference to Chris Brogans’ post “Your Doing It Wrong“.  I had to leave a comment and then I felt that just commenting on it was not NEARLY enough – I had a little more to say on the topic.

What I’ll say is that we MAYbe all doing it wrong, only the future will tell us otherwise.  Chris comes up with a 14 items on why you’re doing it wrong, some perfectly contradictory with one another (… you aren’t using FriendFeed, you are using FriendFeed…) and this is what people will pay us to help them decipher – to answer the question “What’s the right way to do social media?”

As far as I’ve been able to decipher, there are only a few real ‘rules’ to social media –

  1. Be Honest
  2. Be Respectful
  3. Don’t Get Irritated by Criticism
  4. Do What Your Most Comfortable With

Here’s a few words on each –

Be Honest – trying to pimp something you do not believe and using social media as a way to reach friends, associates, customers, prospects, stakeholders, etc. will come through in whatever you do. Gary Vaynerchuk is the most freaking passionate guy I’ve ever seen, a little loud at times, but ALWAYS passionate about what he’s doing and what he is sharing – we could all use a little Gary in what we do.  If you are not honest, if it is not your voice that surrounds you in your online presence – it will show and the desired result of building social capital will diminish or evaporate all together.

Be Respectful – While I do see that being somewhat confrontational gets traffic, I do not believe that being intentionally rude and disrespectful is ever the path to success in social media.  I think the ultimate end to this kind of behavior is alienation by your peers and the audience.  Examples abound… I refuse to link to them.

Don’t Get Irritated by Criticism – A tenet of social media is transparency; people will see many of your warts – and you might actually be wrong in what you present.  Robert Scoble is the best possible example I can imagine of this aspect – his book with Shel Israel, Naked Conversations really set the stage for his open, take-it-as-it-comes style and it has really set the tone for social media participants since it was published in January 2006.

Do What Your Most Comfortable With – if you like to write, get a blog; if you like to communicate with pictures, post your life on Flickr; if video is your thing, YouTube is not the only or best option around, but it is a great start; if you like to orate or speak well, podcasting might be your thing; if community is your thing, social networking on Facebook or 3D communities like Second Life can feed the need.  The point is whatever you like doing, whatever satisfy’s your craving to connect & communicate, just do it.  If connecting is not your thing – that’s an even easier problem to solve.

The last item has a lot of correlations with offline behavior as well.  I’ve met quite a few people who wonder what the online hoopla is all about, they’ve been involved in social networking in real life for decades, they’re not sure what the big deal is about online.  I can support that perspective as well, the rampant online activity is a migration to using the tool we call the Internet in a more personal way – much more personably than we could ever before the advent of Web 2.0 technologies.

So what if we are doing it wrong?  When telephones came out, they were all wired one to another; television signals were sent wirelessly to a set of rabbit ears.  Today there is a sharp reduction of public pay phones because everyone has a wireless cell phone and most people have their television connected to a cable. 

As a society & culture, we figured it out – we’ll figure this one out too.  heck, we might even be on the right trail by now.