Using social media

Using social media (TED ALJIBE / AFP/Getty Images / September 29, 2012)

For me, following someone on social media is a lot like dating. I like to learn a little about them first before going all the way.

Following. Following is all the way. Sorry if you were expecting something else, but this isn't that kind of column. When I follow someone, it's because I liked what they were sharing or appreciated what they had to say. But not everyone is follow material. Some people are boring, annoying and predictable. And some make mistakes that leave us scratching our heads in sheer bewilderment.

So here are a few tips and best practices to not only get you more followers, but to get you noticed instead of blocked.

May I have your attention? Please! My social media partner-in-crime and So Social co-author Amy Guth has a great way of explaining this. Instead of telling me what you're doing, tell me what has your attention. Way back when Twitter had that new car smell, it got a bad rap because everyone was posting that they were eating. Or thinking about eating. I don't care about that, but I might care if you have photos of an amazing gourmet meal. In other words, what has your attention vs. the obvious. As Doc Brown said in the Back to the Future movies, "Marty! You're not thinking fourth-dimensionally!" Thinking fourth-dimensionally makes social media fun.

Not everyone cares about your schedule: Scheduling tweets or Facebook posts isn't the worst thing you can do, but scheduling something at an inopportune time is. There are countless examples of brands and people that had tweets set up during tragedies such as the Sandy Hook school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombings. I had an email exchange with someone after Boston who defended it with "oh, I had that set up loooooooong before it happened." Well, you know what? That's not a valid excuse. You are responsible for every message you send, whether it's automated or not. Also, scheduling tweets that far in advance can be a recipe for trouble. Be aware of what's going on around you at all times, and make sure the message you are sending is the right one.

Let me be direct – or not: One of the things that annoys me most on Twitter is the automatic direct message. You know, when you follow an account and you get a tweet immediately that goes something like this: "You are awesome. Let's be awesome together. Tell me the things that make you happy." Besides the fact that no one talks like this and I have little interest in talking about what makes me happy with someone I just met, the automatic direct message is lazy and it's not social. The real-life equivalent is screening a call and letting it go to voicemail. One is more convenient, but the other is appreciated. This is social media, folks. Show me the real you, not some watered-down version. Be social.

Keeping these three things in mind when you share on social media can be the difference between being just another follow and a superstar.

What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.