As social media platforms come and go, technology changes, but key principles remain. As a leader in your organization, you need to remember these key principles. A simple, relevant acronym should do the trick: S.O.C.I.A.L. – Serve, Open, Connect, Integrity, Action-oriented and Listen. While these principles are important at all times, it begins with listening, so we’ll cover the principles in reverse order.


The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer. — Henry David Thoreau

It begins with listening. You must hear what your customer, follower or stake holder says and how they act. Chris Brogan, author of Social Media 101, Trust Agents and Google+ for Business, explains you should create “listening posts”. You can do this with free solutions like Google Alerts (email alerts anytime new content, relevant to your interests is added to Google), Hootsuite (streaming social media posts, filtered by keywords) or more advanced (and expensive) solutions like Radian 6.

Chris Brogan - Social Media Guru

Social media expert Chris Brogan recommends Listening Posts


Action expresses priorities. – Mahatma Gandhi

Once you’ve done some listening, you should ensure you and your social media team are action-oriented. A great example of action-orientation is the Superbowl monitoring station. Using Radian 6 to listen and monitor events, a team of responders is trained to handle any situation: from traffic backups to missing children. When posts come across of anevolving situation, the monitoring team responds accordingly – from sharing alternate routes to alerting police.

Super Bowl Monitoring and Social Media Command Center

Super Bowl Social Media Monitoring and Command Center (source:


It takes less time to do a thing right than to explain why you did it wrong. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Your actions mean nothing if you do not reflect integrity. When actor/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma and more) was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight, because the crew believed he was large enough to require two seats, Smith blasted Southwest on Twitter. This provoked an outcry from Smith’s fans. However, Southwest Airlines quickly clarified to fans and the public that Smith typically purchases two seats, given his size, but in this case, tried to fly an earlier flight for which only one seat was available. The airline apologized to Smith for any offense. However, SWA also explained that, unlike most airlines, Southwest has a policy to refund any unnecessary “extra” seats purchased by “persons of size” when a flight is not full.

Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines - an example of integrity in social media

Southwest Airlines responded with integrity to Kevin Smith's complaints


Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.- Charles Eames

Even if you practice all other principles here, you may have no impact, without the right connections. The key to successful social media application is the quality of your connections. Follower ratio and the composition of your follower base is increasingly important. You may have a million followers, but if they only follow because they want the follow back, the relationship is useless. LinkedIn Lab’s InMaps provides a great method to visually depict your connections, their relevance and any potential overlap.

A LinkedIn Connections Map

My Connections on LinkedIn - Mapped by InMaps


There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy. – Joseph Pulitzer

The more open your culture, the better. Domino’s Pizza recently opened their culture when they launch the “Oh Yes We Did” campaign and the Pizza Turnaround website. The company posted media of customer’s blasting the quality of their product. Then the company captured reactions from the same customers as they tasted the company’s response – all new ingredients and recipes. The result was a hit, driven by authentically open response to customer concerns.

Dominos Pizza Customer - positive and negative

Domino's Pizza customer blasts the product in a focus group and praises the final result


“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – John C. Maxwell

On a recent tour and visit with Insights team, I got to see service in action. The company focuses on serving their employees with benefits like free food, free personal coaching services and more. The employees in turn focus on serving their customers first, by ensuring their needs are met – even if Zappos doesn’t make a sale. The longest call on record, without a purchase, is somewhere over 8 hours. Because they care enough to serve first though, their customers are huge fans, that double as the company’s “free” marketing force.

Zappos front desk sign - reads - powered by service

The front desk displays the sign reading Powered by Service


The next time you wonder what principles are important in social media, remember they have not changed for thousands of years. These same principles have been important in business, organizational life and communities in general for a long time. However, perhaps this simple acronym will help you remember the most prominent principles: S.O.C.I.A.L. – Serve, Open, Connect, Integrity, Action-oriented and Listen. Be SOCIAL when interacting with media.

Question: What principles would you add?