Many people seem to think if they have a big ‘ol following on their favorite social media networks they’ve attained a level of social media success. While it may get you some search engine love and people may click on the links you send out, if you’re not actually engaging other users in conversation it’s a pretty damn shallow relationship don’t you think? You might as well be sending out direct mail messages. “Spray and pray” is just as effective in social media as it is in snail mail. Sure, you’ll get your message in front of a lot of eyeballs but do they read it or chuck it in the bin? Broadcasting is not engaging. That may work for information services like the BBC and CNN and fan updates like @mikeroweWORKS but it really doesn’t fly when you are trying to actually have a conversation with potential customers now does it?
On the other hand if you’ve actually had a chat with someone or met them face to face they are much more likely to at least read your carefully worded prose and take action on it. An engaged customer is going to participate, feel ownership and loyalty that just another name on a list doesn’t.
As far as social media goes I’d like to point out that re-tweeting other peoples messages without reading them, “me too” posts or sharing information without direct references is still broadcasting. If you want to support a recent blog post by one of your connections try something like this: ” Hey @DaveFleet I liked your review of Trust Agents. But I think there’s a big need for basic SM info too. That’s why I wrote Social Media Success!” (Personally I love Dave Fleet and he’s really got a handle on social media, but I think those of us who do this for a living forget that there’s a large part of the world’s population that’s totally confused by social media and how to get started. That really is why I wrote my book too.)
The idea with social media is to be social. Reach out to other people and engage them in conversation. Hopefully luring some new voices into the discussion as well and engaging them too. Ask people what they think. Challenge politely and add data to back up your argument. Recommend people to your network, whether it’s reading their blog post or hiring them to solve a problem. If someone in your network posts a question try to answer it for them. Even if you’ve got to Google for the answer. If you’ve got a blog ask connections to guest post their thoughts on a particular topic.
Ask questions. People love to help, especially if they can easily answer you. Ask a question that you’re pretty sure your network can answer. Then thank people for their help. Make a note to repay them sometime with an answer to one of their questions, a comment on a blog post or share a link to their posts or services. Reciprocity is what makes social media work.