Today I want to talk about how you engage with our audience. Too often we are Broadcasting what we want to say rather than considering what people want to hear. This is a major bugbear for me, which probably won’t surprise many people who know me well. I have worked in the areas of participation for several years. My experience is all the effort focuses on the launch or start of something when you need to also direct resource on sustaining what you want to do. Time and time again effort is wasted.
Last week I spent most of my time thinking, talking and discussing the impact of social media. I know for many social media is simply a nuisance. Efforts wasted. A fad for the young or something they simply don’t have time to engage with. I am not surprised people feel this way. I feel for you.
With others, they know they need to do it but not sure how or what to do first. It’s too confusing. Advising clients on the basics of social media as well as the strategies to use it well is definitely on my agenda. It’s what I am here for.
Using the right social media channel is the first step and I will save this for a blog on another day but using your social media well is too often overlooked. Social media is so much more than a broadcast tool – you need to engage with your audience. In fact, you need to listen, converse with them more than listen to them. You also need to hear what they are saying, feeling and thinking. If you want social media tools to work for you then sharing what you are up to is not sufficient. Your content needs to take a participative, almost facilitative approach.
Very few of us can have an impact from simply sharing what we are doing, eating or seeing. This strategy might work for a few celebrities and the famous but the rest of us we need to interact with our audience. We need acknowledge them, encourage them and motivate them. This is why engagement on social media is an essential part of the mix and not for the faint hearted. It’s hard work. We all hear stories of the pin or Instagram that went viral. I am sure it’s all true but I suspect there was a lot of work behind the scenes before that one image or tweet took off.
Facilitating an online conversation takes time. Lots of time. You need to observe, listen to your audience, get to know them, understand their interests. With social media, similar to behaviour on email, this is a communication tool that you might easily misread a comment or make assumptions as to original intentions. Being alert, diplomatic and sensitive is vital as a social media manager. You need to set aside time and effort to make sure your audience is understanding you and listening to you.
You also need to do it consistently and constantly. Taking a break now and then for a digital detox is fine but walk away from your online profile for a few weeks or months and it will show. The social media audience is fickle and they can tell when you are being quiet.
I like to use the Pareto rule for social media (well, to be honest, I like to use the Pareto principle for everything in life). Assume that 20% of what you do on social media whatever the channel should be about you. This means that the remaining 80% should be about what else is happening on your channel – that means sharing, retweeting, liking or commenting on other people’s activity. This is engagement looks like.
But why you ask should we do this? Because it makes you seem genuine, it makes you authentic. People will see the real you, they will want to engage with you. Not just some social bot who is automatically undertaking these tasks. Yes, I know its awful marketing jargony speak but it’s true. It’s also the main reason why I think automatic responses or Direct Messages on Twitter don’t work. Because we know when it’s not genuine, we know it’s just an automatic message you have set up. So please don’t do it. It’s lazy and counterproductive for what you are trying to achieve.
It’s ironic really that in a world that is so networked, so connected, so globally online small that we crave, almost demand the genuine to stand out. Food for thought indeed.
Awareness is another reason to put the effort in. Simply seeing your active online, consistent about what you comment on, what you share all adds up to your online footprint, or your digital DNA. Long-term your audience will trust you and like what you do, what you stand for and therefore they will want to work with you. And remember don’t say anything online you might regret.
But it can be worth it. When it works, it works brilliantly. Having a bad day? Look to social media there is always a phrase or image that will lift your spirits. Always someone else experiencing how you feel and ready to lift your spirits.
I am sure I haven’t convinced everyone and I know there is a lot of noise on social media. You probably find most of it is not useful so use your participation online to find what is useful for you. Set aside some time to curate your digital content. Find that keyword or hashtag that works for you. Start there with your comments, your sharing and liking. This simple task will help you navigate a space that works for you and help you connect with worthwhile commentary online.
Regardless, let’s stay connected.