You may have missed it, but on February 4th, Facebook turned 12. Yes, the platform that once allowed you to throw sheep at your friends, poke them and even speak like a pirate has lasted 12 years in what has turned out to be the highly competitive space of social media. Today, in fact, there are a plethora (too many to count) of social media platforms all vying for your activity and engagement.
Strangely however, despite social media marketing being common parlance in business today, I find it surprising when I speak with companies who see social media engagement as “being on Twitter and Facebook” and in having a cache of content ready to share. They see it as a way to disperse information still, not as a way to engage their audience.
The Social Media/Party metaphor
I want to assert something, a way to break it down. Successful social media strategy is akin to the principles of hosting a successful party.
No I (do not think I) have not lost my marbles, as the rationale for this statement is based on a simple notion. A successful party can be gauged on how much people enjoy it, what they get out of it and how much they talk about it for years to come.
But good parties do not happen by chance, they are a combination of a number of factors:
- Ensuring your guests are in an environment they feel comfortable (cue a good location, music, entertainment, alcohol, refreshments)
- Gathering like-minded individuals who mingle, move around and interact as they want
- Things happen, and you let them. You do not try to rein people in and make them see what you see. Let people know you enjoy them being there without being uptight about everything going on.
- You – as host – do not impose yourself on everyone. Rather, you move around the party, talk to everyone, listen to what they have to say, comment, and be yourself. Of course, as with all ‘good rules’ there are a few exceptions. A birthday party for example may see you wanting to give a contextual speech which everyone listens to. It is usually short and sharp and on point, as after all you are not there to pontificate.
Before and once it is done, everyone is pretty free to do as they want and to talk as they wish without “having” to do anything.
So OK, what does this have to do with social media interaction you are probably thinking. In short, I am saying if you want your social media efforts to be successful and prompt people to talk positively about your brand, then you need to draw on the above principles:
- Choose the right environment (platform) to engage with your audience on their terms
- Curate content (your own or on-share) which entices people to continue the conversation in their own circles
- If conversation starts to veer down a path you think could adversely affect your brand, don’t panic and kill the conversation, shut your account or similar. In the same way you would not stand up and turn your back on someone if you were both in person, you should not do it online either.
Rather, use the opportunity to learn about their concerns and take steps to remedy them.
- Don’t make yourself the centre of attention. Make the reason people are following you the centre of attention and discuss with them what they want to discuss. Engage the audience, listen to what they say, respond accordingly; throw in the occasional information about things they may be interested in, just don’t overpower the conversation.
Getting it right – a few things to note
You wouldn’t host a party without a good premise for doing so would you (Birthday, long weekend, “it’s 35 degrees, come for a swim” etc.)? People want to calculate the opportunity cost of why they would choose you over something else and want to know you’re going to make it worth their while. When it comes to social media, the same applies; do you have something which will entice them, enrich them and so forth?
A few things to keep in mind which can help you:
- Do not become pre-occupied with one group of people at the expense of everyone else. Sure you may be engaging and lovely to this one group, but if you ignore the others, then the party will quickly fizzle. Social media is about growing your presence and connecting with all sorts of people/customers/prospective customers. You are there to grow your awareness after all
- Work out what you want from the ‘party’. What way will you measure the returns?
- You do not need to partake in every aspect of a conversation, but similarly, you do not want to ignore what is happening around you. In the same way that if you spent all your time away from the party – perhaps talking a corner to a close group of friends – and the party raged around you, people may not remember you as part of that positive experience. Facilitate and partake, do not just observe
- Remember, you can shape the flow of conversation, but never try to control it. Same as you may want to lower the volume to stop things getting out of hand, you may need to control the conversation at times, just do so in a respectful way and in a way which adds value
- Take on criticism and use it as a platform to make the next engagement that much better. Turn the tide through action, not through words. Similarly, learn from what people say. In your conversations, listen to others, make notes and do everything you can to make sure they get a positive outcome from their conversation.
If you do this, people will talk to others about how good the party was and others will come to the party next time. That’s word of mouth, it’s online gold, and isn’t this what you are looking to achieve?
But enough from me, I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts on social, and how you approach it. Similarly, if you need an ‘event’ organiser, I am sure we can help, just reach out.
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