Lately, when reading articles published by social media marketers about how to improve their social media presence, how to raise the profile of their business, or market their product or brand, I have wondered why there is so little talk about properly managing the key function of social media, which is to share and engage. Social media are about people and relationships.
One will often see the word “engagement” in articles by social media marketing experts. It is the key word. A business “engages” in social media. They don’t do it or buy it, assign it or catalogue it, file it or lease it out.
Social media are an “engagement” and a commitment to that engagement. Social media marketers, or anyone interested in the subject, will discuss how they can get more engagement with their brand or product through their social media strategy, without seeing that the answer is within the question. Engagement by definition requires both parties. This is social media.
A prime goal of a social media presence might simply be to raise awareness with the understanding that this will bring longer term benefits somewhere down the track. Philanthropic concerns may want to raise funds through charity drives, or raise awareness about a particular issue. In this information technology and social media platform era that would make social media their core business, and they are probably already engaging in a social way.
I think these are largely exceptions to the rule. The vast bulk of social media marketing strategies are to increase market share and product throughput, and to do this by attracting new clients, and keeping existing clients from being lured away by the chatty Twitter guru, or the savvy and amusing Facebook page manager from a rival company. It is not simply about reach. It is about reach and grasp. How do you grasp? You grasp by being better than the other guy, by being engaging, by making people like you.
Social media for dummies
As a social media user, I know that I am most attracted by entrepreneurs, authors, businesses or brands, who show there’s a human on the other end of the account, and not one who is totally narcissistic. In other words, they share, engage, and reciprocate. Wouldn’t that always translate into an improved benefit to the business? That, to me, is the result of true engagement.
But that is not what happens. This is what seems to happen:
Step 1: Get followers, or fans, or “likes”.
Step 2: As soon as they click that follow button hit them with a DM directing them to “like” your Facebook page or follow yet another account. (But of course you don’t have to “like” their “stuff” in return. Why would you?)
Step 3: Do lots of analysis to identify how to maximise the potential of each tweet taking into account the number of people it will reach, and identify the correct tweet pause, the time between each tweet to get maximum effect for minimum effort.
Step 4: When step 2 doesn’t yield results, add a sweetener in the form of some kind of free offering, perhaps a free YouTube video, or an article or something else.
Step 5: Keep pumping out links and product information. Sooner or later someone will pick up that your product or business is the best thing since sliced bread.
Step 6: Repeat steps 1 to 5.
Step 7: After multiple repeats of steps 1 to 5 when things still aren’t working, get together as a group and lobby Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites to have your product or brand forced on the cringing social media user by means of promoted tweets or unwanted Facebook ads inserted in user timelines.
I’m running a business, I don’t have time to engage
If businesses have time to set up automated tweets they can also spare an extra five minutes a week thanking followers, sharing some non-business related matter or retweeting others – otherwise known as “showing the love”. Showing they are willing to engage and reciprocate and get involved in other people’s interests would, I think, pay huge dividends.
I raised an eyebrow or two one day when a new follower sent me a DM asking me to like his Facebook page. It wasn’t in my line but you never really know when you’re going to need fishing tips, so I liked it. I sent a message back, telling him I had done as requested, then I asked him to like my Facebook page also. He did not, and as I had no views that day either, he did not even grant me the courtesy of a look.
So this man wants from others what he is not willing to give. Is his time more valuable than mine? Is he the only one with something to offer? No. He’s a seller, and not interested in anything else at this time. But how does that work? If everyone was like him he would have zero likes and an unpromoted product. Familiar story? I un-liked that page within a week or two to get his stuff out of my timeline and stop the eye twitch that had developed. One day I might like his product, but I’ll look elsewhere because I didn’t like his approach. So without that reciprocity, he loses potential business.
The head or representative of a business in the social media arena is the attraction. They are factor X, and if they can’t engage and sell themselves and their business or product or brand, then they are not maximizing the potential of social media.
The human touch
Social media users are increasingly being bombarded with hundreds of businesses all trying to attract their custom. There is often nothing to distinguish them. Only if someone happens to be looking for that particular product might an ad net a contact. In Twitter promoted tweets have been active for a few years now. In Facebook on a given day you are likely to see more ads in your timeline than you care to, and less of the posts from the people you are following or are friends with.
From a consumer’s perspective, and the perspective of a social media user, while I may sometimes see something interesting in a promoted tweet or timeline hogging Facebook ad, it is rare. Worse, I’ve seen a lot of offensive stuff in promoted tweets, even when my account was protected.
By and large, promoted tweets, Facebook ads forced into my timeline (as if the ads on the side panels weren’t enough) and other “bludgeon” forms of promotion, turn me off completely, and they have the added offence of taking away my freedom of choice about what confronts my eyes in social media.
On the other hand, someone representing a business, their own or someone else’s, who engages and reciprocates, that person has me won over.
Copyright © Faith White 2015