One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional media is the inability to respond. However, one advantage of social media is that it is a two-way street through which your customers, potential customers, fans and critics can all interact with you. Social media allows people to talk to you about whatever information you decide to publish. It also lets you respond to your customers by telling them what you are doing to improve your product or service so that they will believe in you and trust you.
By becoming a participant in social media, you become a contributor to the conversation. Your entire audience can see each and every one of your posts and comments that you publish. Your followers may take something away that is either positive or something that they may believe is rubbish. The point is you’ve engaged them in some way at some level.
You may move them and inspire them, disappoint them or send them to sleep, but at least you’ve provoked a response – and are now in a better position to modify or capitalize on your original message – rather than continue on blindly. At a very basic level, if they aren’t engaging in conversation with you at all, despite the means that social media provides, then something may be very wrong with your message or even approach!
Everyone wants to know if there is a secret to using social media effectively. The real answer is that it is a process which requires hard work and effort – not quite what you were expecting to hear. You need to start your social media strategy with a clear purpose, a well thought out plan and good design. Start with understanding what you want to achieve.
Social media is a powerful means to enable word of mouth. It allows your message to go further, faster and to a greater number of people. The goal is word-of-mouth, but the tool is social media. If your customers like you and like your message, that will encourage them to talk to their friends (and their followers) about you: to ‘spread the word’.
Shared interests – the goal of attraction
Your ability to attract people is based upon your expertise, your ideas, what you have learned, your knowledge on a certain subject, even your sense of humour. The foundation stone of your social media strategy should be built on the conversations you are already having offline with your existing and potential customers.
Happy people are some of your greatest advertisers. Excite them. Create an amazing experience for them and provide excellent service. Go the extra mile to make the experience remarkable in some way. Make the messages you write and the things you do get people energised, excited and eager to tell their friends. When people like you they’ll naturally want to tell their friends. They will want to help you and support your business, they’ll want their friends to enjoy the same experience they had and enjoy what you have to offer and what you were able to do for them.
Telling the story – the goal of engagement (not selling)
A common mistake that many people make when launching and promoting their business social media pages and accounts to their customers is they try to use the same old fashioned advertising messages on their social media profiles.
One of the most important things to understand about starting or participating in a conversation using social media is that you are not there to sell or promote: you are there to engage – to help people relate to you and what you stand for.
People (i.e. your existing and potential customers) come to their social networks looking for fun, information, to connect with others and to share with others. They are sick of being sold to – they get enough of that sort of advertising from listening to the radio or switching on the TV or sifting through the junk mail that has arrived in their letterboxes.
If you thought social media conversations were all about money and sales then your motives are in the wrong place. Keep that in mind with the messages you post. There are other places where selling directly to your potential customer is more appropriate – and that may even include paid advertisements on the same social media channel – but we are talking about the ‘conversation’ here. Instead, I suggest you write a simple message and help people to engage with it through sharing or commenting. It could be an amusing anecdote or uplifting quote – something that is relatable.
In an online world, the emphasis needs to be on human interaction and trust which you establish through genuine and helpful engagement, not a polished sales pitch. Nobody talks about or promotes a company they don’t like or trust (unless they are one of your critics) so make yourself worthy of mentioning. Make people happy to share your message and to talk about the experience they had with you.
If you have attracted people carefully and engaged them mentally then and only then will they connect with you. You can attract and engage but if your message isn’t ‘right’ then they will disengage and leave your page or post without connecting with you.
Connections are the basis of your success and cornerstone to your growth. You want people to eagerly anticipate your next message and remain attracted to and engaged by each message you post. Share your passion and enthusiasm by telling people a story that they can relate to and like.
Spreading the word – the goal of word-of-mouth
Give people a reason to talk about you. Think about what you want the call to action to be from your followers and how you want them to respond to what you publish. Try answering these questions before you start writing and certainly before you publish to any of your social media platforms:
- Who will want to read what I have written (is that person in your target demographic)?
- Is it compelling?
- Does my content/thought/post provide any ‘value’ to them?
- How do I want the person who reads this to act as a result of what I have written (e.g. like, comment)?
- Will they tell others about it (e.g. share with their own personal or business networks)
- Will the reader want to read more of this?
By posting consistent and original content, your messages become searchable and relevant in your subject of expertise and your desire to communicate useful information to your audience of followers becomes valuable. Don’t post another message unless you think it is truly worth talking about. Be interesting and engaging and people will respond to you. More importantly – be you! Oscar Wilde said it best when he said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.