So let’s say your business has got a social media presence – Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, YouTube account… whatever works for your business.
You’ll want to build your followers or Likes, of course. If you’re prudent, you will avoid schemes that promise to get you lot of followers fast, because there is no point getting lots of followers if those followers are not interested in what you have to offer.
Instead, you’ll seek to build your followers by posting good quality material about topics of interest to the people you want to reach, and making it easy to share that content – and you will also look to follow the sort of people whom you want to follow you back.
Unless you or your company are already famous, just posting a bunch of links is unlikely to do the job. Social media isn’t a one-way, broadcast-only process.* The cliché is true: social media is all about the conversation.
Conversations can be scary
The problem is, many organisations – notably many Government departments and agencies – are petrified by the thought of entering into a conversation with people on social media – and, although I think that is ultimately a self-defeating attitude, I can also see where they are coming from:
- A corporate communications department can have complete control over a broadcast-only channel. As soon as a conversation starts up between the agency and its users, that control is no longer total
- People can and probably will criticize the agency in such a conversation
- Other people will be able to see those criticisms and may add their own
- Whoever is carrying on the conversation on behalf of the agency may tweet something they shouldn’t: rude or angry responses, incorrect statements of Government policy, etc.
Those look like pretty convincing reasons for staying out of the conversation. But, as we’ve already seen, people will talk about you whether or not you talk with them, and there are risks in sending an email, too.
If the people who tweet for your business or agency maintain a calm, positive tone, if they give considered responses to legitimate criticisms – whether that’s a “we’ll make sure that’s fixed” or “sorry, we can’t change that, and here’s why”, and if they adhere to the online engagement/social media policies you have wisely created, then other users will see that your social media account is worthwhile, and they will step in to defend you from criticism.
But those are mostly negative reasons for getting involved in social media conversations, and in this situation, the positives are more important. Engage with your users, listen respectfully without feeling the need to agree with everything they say, and treat them well, and you will build their loyalty.
If you are a business, offer them social-media-only specials, the chance to review products, and other chances to benefit from their online engagement with you. That helps you retain existing customers and attract new ones.
*There are exceptions, of course. If you run a Twitter account for Civil Defence emergency warnings, I don’t want you to chat with me on Twitter using that account. I just want you to warn me as soon as I need to be warned.