Five years ago this month, I published Monkeys with Typewriters – a bit of a hippy treatise on the importance of social media to business. I wanted to look at how social tools could help businesses and all their relevant stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers and the like – be more productive, effective and – yes – even fulfilled and happy, because they would be communicating a whole lot better. Well, that shouldn’t be rocket science, should it?

Half a decade on, the behavioural changes I outlined in my book are still relevant and, if anything, even more mainstream. I’ve converted them into six practical social media tips for 2015.

Here they are…

1. Go forth and co-create!

The DIY and customisation trend is only getting bigger. Why only the other week The Guardian Guide ran a special on it. Creative Commons licensed photos are increasingly used on websites as an alternative to stock photography and just last July Google added a usage rights function to its image search. The web is overflowing with free, re-usable material – don’t be afraid to experiment. Set up a playlist on Spotify or Soundcloud. Start your own WordPress or Tumblog and share anything that takes your fancy. Find inspiration by curating some Pinterest boards. Join a #tag conversation on Twitter and realise that sharing and responding to other people’s ideas is just as enjoyable as broadcasting your own. Instragram and Vine stuff you see around you. Free your inner creative genius.

2. Be passionate

2014 was the year sustainable business went mainstream. From events like Meaning and Sustain to the proliferation in consultancies and books telling you how to find your true purpose, giving something back became more than just CSR. The idea of being in business purely to make a lot of money went down with Lehman Brothers in 2008. Add a good dollop of social good to your business model. Look at Barclays UK Retail Bank, who’d been trying to get their staff excited about using new digital technologies at work – nothing happened until Age UK and Young Rewired State got involved. Fuelled by new mission and purpose, Barclays staff embraced new tech.

3. Keep learning

Big data was a big theme of 2014, but we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg in terms of using it properly. Be tidy with your data – tag it, archive it and make it useable and accessible to others where desired (eg, work projects): use Google Drive rather than emailing document versions to each other. Use Slack or Hipchat rather than email for casual conversation. Try using Tumblr for updates rather than an email newsletter. In fact, the less you can use email all around, the better. That’ll help everyone’s inboxes in 2015 🙂

4. Be open and truthful

As sustainability and social good gain traction, the businesses that are open and transparent in 2015 will continue to have the edge. But as a corollary to this, reserve the right to your own personal privacy – ensure your privacy settings are up to date on social networks and keep questioning corporate use of data.

5. Listen

Like “collaboration” and “engagement”, “listening” was a word that was over-used in business in 2014 – but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Just remember that listening does not mean sending out a Surveymonkey survey and forgetting to pay any attention to the results. Listening means hearing truths that might be uncomfortable for you, but could massively improve your business in the long run. It’s no surprise that Net Promoter Score was one of 2014’s favourite topics – NPS is all about listening to your customers – we’ll hear a lot more about it in 2015.

6. Be generous

Thanks to Facebook’s emotional manipulation experiment, we know that optimistic, positive behaviour begets optimistic, positive emotions. 2014 may have been the year of trolls and haters, but it was also the year we began to learn to deal with it. Social networks are doing their part with little nudges (the comments box on Vine now urges us to “say something nice”). Being nice is good and creates warm, fuzzy feelings. At Claremont we’re currently creating an online public resource paid for by a client, but not promoting the client’s products or services in any way.

Will 2015 be the year of increased privacy erosion, data leaks, and further teenage dystopia movies – or will it be the year of positive social change, responsible data use by business and a renewed consumer faith in technology? Probably a bit of both. But follow these six tips and at least you’ll be doing your bit towards the latter – happy new year!

Photo: Timo Newton-Syms

A version of this post originally appeared on the Claremont Social Communications blog.

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