How to Spot Bad Advice on Social Media

All of us at some point have received advice on Social Media. Whether it was how to do social media better, or reading articles with titles like: “How to Post Better on Instagram”, “How to get Repins on Pinterest” or “How to Increase Your Facebook Engagement”… and the list goes on.

A lot of the advice that you read online is really sound. However, when we first enter the social media space and get the keys to the Church Twitter account or Facebook page, we are given a LOT of advice. You’ll be asking questions about best practices for the platforms and a lot of people with good intentions will give you advice. The problem is that the advice can come a bit tainted, or as if it’s law and written in stone.

This post is all about learning how to best interpret the advice that you’re being given in such a way that it doesn’t hurt you down the road.

Most Advice Isn’t Absolute Gospel Truth

Sometimes when you receive advice about social media, you’ll hear it as “The ONLY Way to Do X” and people make it seem like it’s absolute Gospel truth. Then as the platforms update, your way no longer works and you’re stuck.

Quick example: It used to be said that you can never cross-post content between Facebook and Twitter. There was good reasoning behind it because of the way Twitter was handling and displaying images, but since then Twitter has updated and now it’s encouraged to cross-post and share between the platforms. That advice no longer holds true.

When you get started with social media, you’ll hear advice like that all the time and take it for the absolute truth. However, as you go along things will inevitably change and all the advice you were given in the beginning is now irrelevant. The question is: how do you take the advice and the thousands of blog posts on best practices and filter between the good and the bad?

Bits vs Atoms (or 1’s and 0’s vs Atoms)

Bits (or 1’s and 0’s) vs Atoms is a good framework to keep in mind when you receive advice on social media.
Atoms are physical things. Anything like your desk, your chair, the wall, planes, trains and automobiles, and the entire transportation energy is made up of atoms. These physical things and industries don’t change very often, and when they do, it’s usually not a radical change. At least not since the industrial revolution. The rules surrounding physical things and their best uses and practices stay true throughout time. Traffic rules, rules for sitting in chairs, these types of things stay constant and are something you can always rely on.

When you move into the digital realm and deal with anything related – like social media – you’re dealing with Bits… or 1’s and 0’s.

When you’re dealing with code and anything built online, that stuff is changing and updating all of the time. Technology is advancing daily, every hour, and the platforms built online are constantly changing and advancing as well.

If I gave you a rule of something you should never do on Twitter, that holds true only for that particular moment in time. Once Twitter updates something with their code and allows you to do things a little bit differently, the advice I just gave you can suddenly become irrelevant.

An example is this: You read an article saying that you should follow back everyone who follows you on Twitter to maximize the amount of people who will see your post. Twitter then changes their algorithm and decides that content will only be displayed more based off of engagement. All of a sudden, your tactic of following people doesn’t work anymore.

Sifting Through Advice

When you receive advice on social media, be sure to always hold it very loosely. Remember that it may be true at this moment in time, but always know that the rules online change.
Some of the trigger words I look for when I see advice on social media are phrases like:

“You should never”
“ALWAYS”
“This is a must”

These are phrases you really have to think about whether or not they’re true now, or will always be true even when the networks update and implement changes.
I often find that a lot of advice, even advice I’ve given to my podcast listeners, has changed! I’ve done my podcast for over a year now, and even some of the advice I’ve given earlier on will need to be updated because it’s no longer relevant.

Remain Flexible and Adaptable

This doesn’t mean you should ignore all advice. What it does mean is that you need to look at it from a flexible approach and ask yourself:

“Is what they’re telling me true for this moment right now, and will it be true later on?”

As you hear advice from experts in all different places, keep in mind that any rules dealing with anything digital are always bound to change. You need to remain flexible in your thinking and your implementation on social media so that you will be able to change as quickly as the social media platforms do.

Keep in mind that there will always be something new to learn with social media, there will always be updates and there will always be new “Best Practices”. If you keep this in mind, you’ll be agile enough to adapt to the future that lies ahead of you and your Church.