It doesn’t matter whether you’re reaching out to Aunt Shirley or your customer, being social in the wrong way breaks what I call the ‘social contract’. The social contract is the tacit understanding of why people follow, subscribe, arrive at a site or click on a link. Break the contract and you will not be heard…even by your friends and family.
The social contract matters enormously because email is on the decline. Everyone but the CRM manager agrees that the effectiveness of sending unsolicited information and invitations to an overburdened inbox is dropping and that people’s eyes are leaving email as a collaboration tool…meaning they are leaving email as a communication tool as well.
Breaking the social contract out into its elements, we can focus on the things we’re doing wrong and turn around the the social ship before it hits the twin rocks of isolation and the echo chamber.
1. Provide something of value
There are thousands of schemes to improve your social effectiveness but most are very temporary in benefit. The only scheme that works is quite simple: Provide something of value. It can be humorous, informative or full of recommended resources, but it has to add value to the conversation.
Clever tactics matter but tactics alone will not work. Author Geoff Livingston talks about marketing specifically when he puts it this way:
When we rely on singular tactics or general tactical brilliance to win the day, we make the mistake of campaign centric marketing.
That means — assuming a good product — our company’s success rise and falls with the creative resonance of the tactic or the product itself.
Creativity trumps volume and tactics. Provide value in a social setting and you’ll rise above the noise. Lack value and you are the noise.
2. Don’t over-brand
People want to read great stories that promote everyone except you. Spend your social capital wisely promoting the things that inspire you. Stop talking about yourself and let others do the talking for you. If you’re using social to make a living, over-branding looks just like advertising.
Stories need to have context and content. Covering your customer’s success? It own’t matter to the reader if they can’t see the problem, the solution and the tangible value that was created. Telling a story to friends? Where did you make a mistake, recover and learn something? Genuine humility goes a long distance in a social media setting.
3. Cover your friends (and others)
Doug Evans wrote a great piece recently on the value of ‘covering’ your friends. He talked about it in a musician’s context, but the need to provide your own take on what’s being said is enormous. We’re not reporters covering the news on social media…we need to be giving it context and adding our own perspective.
- Don’t be afraid to disagree, either. People value an argument that can be defended in articulate ways.
- Don’t get into argumentative cat fights. Nobody wants to follow a spat of back-and-forth without new ideas or reasoning. Make your point and let it ride.
Covering your friends is one of the easiest ways to participate and build following and relationships. It is social media symbiosis and its value can’t be overstated.
4. Be a two-way street
The biggest mistake you can make in social media is to be a one-way street of information. If someone takes the time to ‘show you love’ and retweet, like or comment, the least you can do is thank them. A thoughtful reply with a follow-up question is even better. Engage people. If you don’t, you’re abusing the channel and potentially offending your audience.
Social media is in constant evolution and using it successfully isn’t a formula. That doesn’t mean you can’t focus on these four areas to significantly improve your successful use it. Your friends, customers and future followers will thank you.
The 2013 Marketing Predictions: Content Marketing and Social Business, Michael Brenner, Forbes