Earlier this week, I attended the Custom Content Conference in Miami, Florida where David Meerman Scott (author of numerous books including World Wide Rave and The New Rules of Marketing and PR) was the keynote speaker.

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David discussed the growth of the social web and how critical it is for publishers, businesses, and individuals to get involved and connect with people around the world in order to share ideas and spread information. 

During his speech, David provided seven basic rules of social media as follows:

Rule 1: Nobody cares about your products (except you)

This is something I discuss at length in my copywriting book for small and mid-size business owners (Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps).  People care about themselves and want to know how you can help make their lives easier, solve their problems, and so on.  David reminds us to speak in a language our audience uses.  Again, this is something I constantly advocate — speak with your audience, not at them.

Rule 2: No coercion required

David made a great point here that I love.  I am always very blunt about the fact that I do not like over-the-top, hard-sell, copywriting and marketing messages.  David validated that preference by telling the conference attendees that the Back button is the third most used Web button.  Why?  Because we’re sending people where they don’t want to go.  In simplest terms, don’t try to force a circular peg into a square hole.  It’s a waste of time and money and can do more harm than good in terms of negative word-of-mouth backlash.

Rule 3: Lose control

David provided a great example to show just how effective allowing your audience to take control of your content, business, brand, etc. can be when he discussed the Grateful Dead — the most popular touring band in history.  How did they do it?  They let the audience take control of the music by allowing anyone to record the band’s live concerts and distribute copies to anyone they want.  The music spread, and more and more people heard it and said, “I want to go see that band.”  The rest is history and Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead have been Truckin’ to the bank ever since. 

David’s number one piece of advice related to losing control — don’t put a gate on your content.  For example, if you write an ebook or white paper, don’t require registration or payment in order for people to access it.  David says you’ll see 20-50 times more downloads of that content if you remove the gate.

Rule 4: Put down roots

This is a classic marketing rule, which David clearly links to the social web.  In simplest terms, participate in online places where your audience already is.  It’s that easy.

Rule 5: Create triggers that encourage people to share

David told the audience at the conference that the key to this rule is understanding your audience’s “buyer personas”.  In other words, you need to do your demographic legwork first to get an idea of what your audience wants to hear, what they need, and what words and messages will motivate them to take action and join the conversation by sharing information and spreading ideas.

Rule 6: Point the world to your virtual doorstep

David suggests using the free content provided in Rule 3 as bait and then provide something else of value with a gate in order to collect email addresses, information, etc. 

Rule 7: Play nice

David reminded the conference attendees that there are written and unwritten rules of social media, and if you’re going to participate you should know them, follow them, and play nice — just as you did on the playground as a child.