What's the best strategy to adopt to market on social media? I have been asked this question a million times, but my basic answer has not changed over time: listen, help and be your potential client best friend.
Photo credit: Crowded bar by Shutterstock
Social media have been designed and created to break down the communication barriers, the rigidity imposed by traditional media, and the excessive formality and ego-centric approach that most brands have kept using in their gradual passage from mass media to digital.
But the heritage, habit and convictions developed and reinforced over decades of pervasive mass communications, have developed deep roots and for however easy it is to embrace this social sharing and communication idea, most have a very hard time of letting go of the old practices and in fully understanding which are the new ones to pick up.
Approach: Old vs. New - Why We SocializeMost, have in fact bent the social sharing idea to conform to their original mass communication imprint, so that when they share news they are sharing only their company news and when they try to socialize they do it only and always in reference to their organization products and offers. But that's exactly the opposite of what they should be doing as socializing implies less broadcasting and more listening, less focus on me and more on you, more exchanging of good things found than sustained promotion of the stuff you create. To be social, you really need to change strategy, attitude and actions in a deep, tangible way. To be a successful brand today, you first need to be a true friend, an open and listening ear to your fans and potential clients. Social media networks are an open playground where communication is bi-directional, where listeners count as much or more than speakers and where the key objective for being there is not to persuade, to convince or to sell anything to anyone. The main goal of a social venue, platform or network is to socialize. That is, to "... interact, converse, be sociable, mix, mingle, get together, meet, fraternize, consort..." with others. To relate. To create relationships with other people. Why? Because if you get rid of all the stereotypes and the general belief that you are here exclusively to create a business and make money, you will find that we are essentially social beings interested in learning and discovering new things from each other. We like to learn and exchange with others. We like to hear other people stories and experiences and we like to learn new things from them. Finally, we socialize to find answers, solutions, suggestions and alternative routes that we can adopt to solve our pressing problems and pains. We socialize to get help or to ask for advice. We seek alternative info and differing viewpoints. We gladly listen to those who we deem trustworthy and reputable on how they went about solving a problem, and we happily take note of the tools and people that they have found helpful in the process. The difference between corporate, marketing communications and social media communications is the same difference that exists between the type of communication that you would see at a large conference or event, and the one you would have inside a Roman bar (I live in Italy, and the corner bar, is in many places a very relevant social aggregator and meeting point). One is rather formal, rigid and highly concerned about making a positive impression, the other is decidedly uninformal, spontaneous, unconcerned with external judgement and driven by a truly genuine social interest in sharing, listening and learning from others.
Relationship-BuildingI am based in Rome, Italy, and as you probably know, Italy has a very "social" culture. People may not say "hi" to unknowns on the street or may not exchange abundant smiles with people they have not met before, as they do in other parts of the world, but they have developed strong social habits and, at least in some parts of the country, these are clearly visible inside "coffee bars". The typical working owner of a bar in Rome, often a family, loves to treat and cultivate his customers like kings and queens, by:
- Welcoming each one by calling their name outloud as they come in.
- Asking individual customers how they are doing, feeling and how their day is going.
- Talking to them about their immediate, pressing issues and pains. Weather and traffic for example.
- Making the printed daily and sport newspapers freely available for them to check out while sipping their coffee.
- Sharing stories that other customers have just reported. Have you heard about it? Talking, asking and listening around viral, gossipy or unheard news of the day.
- Exchanging social formalities, greetings and good wishes.
- Introducing people to each other.
- Organizing a contest with prizes, a "riffa", happy hour or appetizer time.
- Making irony, fun and jokes of everything and anyone.
- Inspiring, comforting, and encouraging their customers with wise advice.
In the same way, if your goal is to utilize social media to build a deeper relationship with your readers and customers, and to offer a social venue where a community of people sharing a common interest can meet and exchange, then your attitude and approach should be quite different than the one you may have been using on your official web site, or when you speak at a conference or event. The communication goal on social media is not really the one to provide uniquely valuable information, resources and services as you do on your web site or when you speak at events, but as the very name of "social media" implies, to socialize and to build long-lasting human relationships. To build long-lasting relationships, good communication, understanding and sharing of common goals is fundamental for any business. Countless studies and research show that given equal benefits and price, consumers sharply prefer to buy from a brand or a shop that they are already familiar with, from whom they have bought before, and from whom they have remained satisfied. Best of all they prefer to buy, invest and support those companies, merchants and consultants with whom they have built a positive social relationship. People prefer to go to, refer to, ask to and buy from those people that they already know and trust. That's why successful bar owners are first of all attentive psychologists and customer experience master chefs.
Social LanguageThis social affinity with one's own real and potential customers, which needs to be built rapidly, during the short moments of an office or lunch break, needs to have a viable ground on which to move. That viable ground is the everyday simple, direct street language shed of formalities, rigidity and of that smelly artificial kindness typical of workplace, corporate and institutional language. Appropriate language and terminology is therefore essential to cultivate social relationships inside a social setting. So if you ask me what kind of language is ideal to use on social media, the answer is rather easy. Simple, straightforward, easy to understand.
a. Don't talk about yourself. Talk always about them (and through them, about you, when needed). b. Don't judge. Provide a viewpoint, an opinion, a suggestion. c. Don't use the language of mass media: "...we...., and you guys...". It's all about "me" and "you". d. Acknowledge the other, give him a stage.
What To Share - Social FlagsBut how do you get people to fall in love with the content you publish, to the point that they want to share it publicly with their friends and contacts? To be able to produce high-value content that gets shared, liked and reposted by many of your fans, the best way is the one of touching your fans emotions. I explain myself better. Assuming, and this is a critical point, that you have built a community of fans around a very specific goal, interest, problem or need, the best way to get many of your community fans to like and share what you publish, is to create content that closely reflects their very fears and enemies, their dreams, their ideal models as well as their most heartfelt needs. That's why this is much easier to realize when your focus, direction, niche and community are clearly defined and much harder when you or your organization have a much broader focus and are trying to communicate to a very diversified type of audience with many different goals and interests. It's like going to a baseball, basketball or soccer game. Fans love to show who they side for by wearing their favorite team cap, scarfs or by waving their team official colors and flag. They pride themselves of letting everyone know who and what they stand for. But what are the corresponding content items to a fan favorite team cap, scarf or flag? "Social Flags" as I call them, are the perfect solution. By "Social Flags" I mean, what other would call "digital posters", "inspirational flashcards" or "visual quotes". These visuals are made up by carefully selected images, that are accompanied by an inspiring phrase, a famous proverb, or an inspiring citation that deeply matches one of the key emotions, fears, desires or expectations of your community. Sharing images with quotes, or using them for your Facebook or Google+ cover has become an effective method to provide fans with a visual symbol that they can identify with and that represents one of their ideals. Something that they can deeply connect with and that they want to carry and wave to others as their own "flag". The consequence of this is that appropriately selected images and texts, that truly represent the "spirit" of your social community, receive much more "likes" and are instinctively shared by a much higher percentage of fans compared to other types of social status updates.
- Why Inspirational Posters Are So Popular on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram
- How to Swaggerjack the Power of Visual Memes - Whiteboard Friday
How To Create Social Flags, Visual Posters and Inspirational QuotesHere a brief list of good sources that you can consult to get a basic idea on how to go about creating your visual posters easily:
- 5 Ways to Make Shareable Images That Drive Traffic
- Here's a good tutorial and set of basic templates: Get more fans to share your content with these 17 customizable templates
- and here the downloadable original version from Hubspot: Visual Social Media Updates (you need to leave your name and email)
Where To Find Great Inspiring Content and IdeasHere is my selection of what I consider some of the best online resources to find appropriate and inspiring content and ideas:
- Pinterest Great resource for imagery, visuals, posters, photography, art and design.
- Recommend.ly Gathers, suggest and organizes in neat categories appealing visual content, quotes, design, photography to share on social media.
- TinyTorch Finds and suggests relevant content to share on your social media channels.
- Context.ly Gathers and suggests hot content that is fit to be of interest to your specific community.
- Swayy Specify what topics you are interested in and Swayy will suggest and prepare for you great stories, news and resources that are ready to be shared.
- Scoop.it A crowd-curated content hub offering a large variety of interesting news and resources curated by thousands of individual curators.
- Prismatic A high quality news discovery service that works for just about any topic you throw at it.
- Smartbrief Curated niche vertical industry newsletters highlighting the most interesting and relevant news.
- Feedly The best web service to monitor all of the web sites and RSS feeds you are interested in on just one page.
- Content Discovery Tools Directory My updated directory of the best content discovery tools and services available online.
See also: 8 Places Where to Find Great Content to Tweet
Tools and Web Apps To Create Inspiring Visual ContentHere a shortlist of the tools I suggest to use to create effective visual posters to share on your social media channels.
- MS Powerpoint / Apple Keynote / OpenOffice Impress The classic presentation trio of downloadable software from Microsoft, Apple and Open Office works excellently to create visual inspiration cards that you can fully customize to your needs. If you are familiar with one of these tools you may put to good work you already learned skills.
- Google Presentations Good for basic layouts and visual cards. Doesn't support text shadows or transparency.
- Shareasimage A wonderful little browser extension that allows you to create professional-looking elegant and ready-to-be-published visual quotes in a matter of seconds.
- Fotor Web-based + cross-platform free downloadable image editor, that can be utilized to find, adjust, edit, add visual effects and text titles to any image.
- PicMonkey Web-based easy-to-use image editor for non-technical people, makes it easy to edit any image and to add text and simple visual effects.
- Placeit.net Web service to create professional-looking promotional images featuring any of your products or services.
- Wordle Web-based app to create custom tag-clouds.
ConclusionsWhen utilizing a Facebook Page to promote and support your communication objectives, it is best to think of it not as a promotional venue but as a socializing meeting hub. While the classic brand communication approach is one of broadcasting, showing off, repeating and stating the unique value of its offering, relentlessly, on the other hand, the keen characteristics of the social media universe, are based on completely opposite traits. The picture of a social bar, where people meet not just to drink their coffee but also to chat, exchange, make fun and learn from each other about the latest news and gossip is the perfect metaphor that should be adopted to obtain tangible results on social media. It is far more interesting and enjoyable to spend time at a bar where you are always warmly greeted and where just by stopping and listening to what others are saying you can learn about new things, than entering one where the barman is just there to pitch his new sandwiches and drinks. Who'd spend time there? To engage and develop long-lasting relationships with our prospects and potential customers the best route to follow is to create and nurture social spaces where it is easy and welcomed to listen to, share and exchange matters and issues that are close to them. Better yet, the understanding of their desires, pains and interests, creates the opportunity for online publishers managing a Facebook page to create visual posters, inspirational quotes and so called "social flags" which social media fans love to take and re-share to their network of friends. The good route to socially engage your fans is therefore one of listening, understanding and creating visual content that matches their most heartfelt dreams, desires and fears, while naturally developing a social bond not based on commercial interests but on deeper shared values.
Originally written and curated by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia on Tuesday March 25th 2014 as Relationship Building: Facebook As A Social Bar.
Photo credits: Approach: Old vs. New - Why We Socialize - Old vs new by Shutterstock Relationship Building - Friends having coffee by Shutterstock Social Language - Speech bubbles by Shutterstock What To Share - Social Flags - Robin Good How To Create Social Flags, Visual Posters and Inspirational Quotes - Motivational quotes by Shutterstock Where To Find Great Inspiring Content and Ideas - Robin Good Tools and Web Apps To Create Inspiring Visual Content - Concept for brainstorming by Shutterstock