How to Have Killer Social Media Engagements

Oh, great, you’re probably thinking, more advice on social media for business.

I understand your feelings. But the problem with most articles about social media is that they’re based on best practices for marketing or public relations.

This column is different. I’m going to tell you about the third way to engage in social media—a way that involves neither marketing nor PR. I’ll explain how to base your approach to social media on the context of the audience, not the company or industry.

Here are my best practices for a killer social media engagement.

1. Be yourself.

The ultimate objective of marketing is to sell things. The ultimate objective of PR is to manage information about the company, brand or product.

The third approach is to participate in social media as a way to make a direct human connection with customers and others. It requires going beyond selling and pitching and, instead, forming lasting personal relationships with people on social media sites.

This approach is challenging, but it’s also more authentic and effective. By definition, being yourself is not, for the most part, something that’s a product of group decision-making or policy.

Of course, because you’re representing your company, product or brand, there are constraints or limitations. But within that container, the biggest opportunity—and by far the biggest challenge—is to just be yourself.

One way to look at this approach is to think about the many ways an engaging personal Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest user differs from a business one. A personal approach is to share first-person experiences and photos, off-the-cuff observations, links to stories or videos—whatever the poster wants to share or talk about.

Now imagine taking this personal approach and applying it to business.

Be as open and transparent as the context allows. Share personal experiences, photos and thoughts. Give a glimpse behind the curtain. Show your customers what goes on behind the scenes and introduce them to some of the people who make your product or service happen.

As a story teller, reveal more of that goes on where it really happens. Everyone loves learning about what happens behind the scenes, and that’s a natural way to develop the human connection, which fosters customer loyalty.

It’s equally important to avoid marketing and PR communications. Don’t sell. Don’t spin. Just educate. Tell your company’s story from your point of view, share your insights and learn from your customers.

2. Start with the audience mindset.

Whenever you’re active on social media, you’ll encounter all levels of awareness about your company or product—ranging from total ignorance to true familiarity. But most of the people you encounter aren’t going to know much at all about your business, even if they’re customers.

So, always take the time to explain things in a way that assumes that everyone knows nothing about your company and product. And expect some negativity. On social media sites, you’ll always encounter angry or counter-constructive people. In these cases, understanding the audience mindset is critically important.

Negative social media posts about companies—especially by people who’ve had a bad customer experience—can be baffling. It often makes you wonder why anyone would go on the attack so aggressively over such a minor issue.

Vitriol aimed at you, your company, or its service or product inspires little more than confusion and a desire to either write off the person as a lost cause or attack back in kind.

Ultra-angry social media comments are usually fueled by the assumption that your company is a faceless corporation that isn’t listening. They also believe that some low-level, outsourced worker with a script will be copying and pasting responses.

That’s why social media is such a great opportunity. It provides a platform that enables you to tear down the walls that frustrate customers and lead them to badmouth your company to everyone they know.

The magic happens on the first encounter. Let’s say someone posts on social media something really over the top, making outrageous claims and profanely ascribing attributes to the people behind your company. Example: “These idiot #@!holes hate their customers and make $#@! products they know will break.”

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