For some businesses on social media, being proactively social can be fraught with organizational challenges.
In more traditional communication channels, business and brand messages are virtually always meticulously thought through.
When it comes to interacting and engaging with your audience on social media, this ability to be meticulous disappears to some extent. In most cases, you need to be fluid in your approach to interactions, jumping into conversations in real time, and responding to your consumers in short order.
There simply isn’t time to sweat every detail.
This makes some marketers uneasy.
What if something isn’t conveyed correctly? How will I know what’s going on in the social space? What is the legal department going to think about speaking to consumers without their blessing on what’s being said?
These are just a few of the realities that need to be faced when becoming increasingly social on social media, but like any barriers, they can be overcome;
Plan an approach
Planning your approach to being social is key. Set some ground rules, think of every possible disaster scenario and have a plan for how to address it (you’ll probably find that there aren’t many scenarios in which the world is going to end for your brand or business), determine who is going to be responsible for interacting with people, who is going to respond to certain types of questions, and when you need to hit pause and run comments by your legal team for approval.
These are just a few thought-starters, but the point is that the more planned out your approach to being social is, the more comfortable your organization will be with proactively initiating a dialogue with consumers. People tend to be nervous of the unknown; so the more you can do to shed light on what your plans are, the better.
Keep everyone informed
While having every comment, interaction, and response approved up and down the ladder will kill your ability to truly be social, you can keep your team and management in the know with regular interaction reports.
Choose a schedule that works for your organization (maybe weekly or monthly?) to report on your brand’s interactions. In your report, track good and the bad. If someone in your audience had something negative to say, report it, indicate how you managed to shift the negativity toward positivity, and plot out how you can work to avoid similar future negativity (view these moments of negativity as opportunities to make your business better).
Also, don’t forget to report on positivity as well. These are the success stories that will continue to earn you support of management and any naysayers about the power of social media. Reporting on positive interactions will also be helpful for determining who your key influencers are, and determining what it is about your business or brand that gets people geared up.
Ensure that management in on board
Get your management or senior leadership team on board. Simple as that (haha). If you have the consent and support of senior leadership, your ability to be social will be much more smoothly enacted.
Demonstrate to them the opportunity of being a truly social brand and help to make them see the light. If they’re on board, this will make your life one thousand percent easier. Barriers that used to be crippling will crumble, and you will have the support that you need to be successful.
If you gain the support of senior leadership, ensure that you don’t abuse it or take it for granted. Keep demonstrating the power of being social, and show them the positive effect it is having on their business. The more you can demonstrate the effect your interactions are having on their business, the more support they’ll give.
You’ve probably noticed this by now, but I’ll spell it out anyway; the real key here is actually being social yourself. Keeping lines of communication open is of paramount importance to keeping stakeholders in your organization comfortable with your grand plans of sociability. It’s what people don’t understand that makes them feel uncomfortable, and when things are happening that they don’t know about, it’s easy to understand why they’d be disapproving.
Have you ever encountered friction to being social on social media?
How did you overcome that?
Do you have a process in place for your social interactions?
Let’s chat about this more in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
This post builds upon content published previously. For related reading, please check out, Is Your Business Forgetting to be Social on Social Media?, and, Building Relationships by Proactively Initiating a Dialogue on Social Media.
Most businesses that invest heavily in social media tend to forget one key component to maximizing their success in developing direct relationships with their audience;
They forget to be social.
Much effort and attention is given to creating valuable content, publishing at just the right time to maximize impressions, determining what triggers to use to incite sharing, figuring out how to encourage comments and ‘likes’, and more.
All of this is great, but there isn’t anything social about publishing content and hoping for virality metrics to shoot through the roof. Even replying to comments left on blog content, Facebook updates, tweets and Google+ posts isn’t truly being social.
Think about it in the context of your life. You don’t go to a party, see some guy standing in the corner all by his lonesome, and think, ‘man, that guy is really putting himself out there!’. He’d probably answer a question if you asked him, but he’s not doing anything to garner attention, attract people to him, or develop new connections or relationships.
Except for very rare circumstances, businesses and brands simply cannot expect to develop meaningful relationships with consumers on social media without behaving socially.
The beautiful thing about social media is that it gives businesses the opportunity to proactively speak with their audience, including current and prospective consumers. That’s powerful stuff.
Initiate a dialogue.
If you are hoping to develop real relationships with your consumers, attract them to participate in the discussions that are occurring on your social media properties, and encourage them to be social, I strongly encourage you to initiate a dialogue with them in the places that they are naturally spending their time online.
By initiating conversations, you are greatly enhancing the probability that you will not only receive a reply, but also achieve reciprocated dialogue. When you create a dialogue with your consumers, you’re going to be better able to understand them, know what they want, fully comprehend their needs, and figure out how to provide tremendous value with your products, services and content.
Develop direct relationships with your consumers.
You are also going to greatly increase the value of the interactions you have with your consumers if there is some give-take. Nobody wants to be involved in a relationship in which they are simply broadcast to. That’s not a relationship at all. People want want to be part of a discussion, and have influence over its course.
This can be unnerving to businesses and brands that are used to retaining control of their communications, but it is also extremely exciting if you can adapt, learn, and be nimble enough to take advantage of the tremendous value that the direct relationships you cultivate with your consumers will yield.
If there is one thing to take away from this post, it is to find ways for your business to be more proactively social on social media. You don’t sit on your hands waiting for consumers to learn about your business or brand in the offline world. You market, advertise, write press releases, work to generate word of mouth, and develop and build relationships. All of this is proactive and action oriented.
On social media you should really be doing the same. Try to avoid turning social media into a broadcast channel for your content, and get involved with your consumers where they are interacting and engaging on the social web.
How do you proactively engage socially with your consumers online?
In future posts I’ll get into details about how you can initiate a dialogue with consumers on social media, as well as how you can overcome organizational barriers to being more social.
In the meantime, it would be great to chat with you about your thoughts on this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Despite the inherent purpose of social media, there are times when community involvement and interactions dwindle. Even if you are producing amazing content, there are reasons for why comments, re-tweets, replies, +1’s, ‘likes’, and pins can dwindle. To overcome this, there are many strategies and tactics that community managers can employ to incent and encourage social behaviour.
FOLLOWING ARE 5 STRATEGIES FOR ENCOURAGING SOCIABILITY:
1. ASK FOR IT
This is pretty straight forward, but sometimes you simply need to ask, or tell, your community to be social. Tell them to re-tweet something if they like it, or ask them to ‘like’ a post if they agree with a point you’ve made. You’ll be surprised how well this works, particularly for communities of scale.
2. REWARD SOCIABILITY
Utilize virtual or real rewards to incent and encourage sociability. Virtual rewards can include re-tweeting comments or endorsements made by your community, responding to a particularly valuable comment, or +1 or ‘liking’ the type of social activity you’re hoping to promote. Giving chosen community members a few minutes in the spotlight in your community can be a powerful motivator of future sociability.
Alternatively, you can reward socialbility using real incentives such as discounts, samples, free product, or prizes. An example of how to employ this tactic would be to tell your Twitter following that if 50 people re-tweet one of your updates that you’ll offer a 20% discount that day. Not only will you experience more re-tweets, but you will be encouraging your community to work together to achieve this goal, which is inherently social.
3. DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS
If members of your community feel they have a direct relationship with the brand or the person/people managing your community, they will be more likely to be social. Mirroring real life, if people were to show up to a party and not know anyone, they would be much less likely to be outgoing and interact with others; the same applies online. Get to know your community and they’ll feel more comfortable and confident contributing socially.
4. SEED INTERACTION
Nobody likes to be the first one to a party. This holds true in social media as well. When someone arrives on your page or feed and there are no comments or signs of social activity, the perception is that there is nobody there which mitigages the value of contributing. To overcome this, encourage people in your organization to actively participate in your social communities and to be the first individuals to ‘like’, comment, @ reply, re-tweet, +1, or pin. When others arrive, they’ll sense the momentum behind your most recent content and be more inclined to engage with it as well.
5. REACH OUT
Sometimes you need to employ tactics that require you to venture from the comfort of your own social communities to engage in conversations elsewhere. Target communities that are related or complimentary to your own and get involved. If executed correctly, you will be able to draw people back to your community to continue the conversation.
How do you encourage and cultivate engagement, interaction and sociability with your social community? It would be great to hear from you in the comments.
As always, if you have any questions or anything you’d like to chat about, feel free to touch-base.
Photo credits: Photoshopped using Connections (mideastposts.com) & Unknown