Social media matters. In 2011, 80 percent of large companies are spending money and time on at least one social site to connect with audiences and build brand awareness.
But more is becoming less. Every day there are more than 140 million tweets and more than 30 billion Facebook shares. Trying to get noticed just by sharing a link is like trying to get attention by whispering at a rock concert.
So what makes people respond, and what just gets lost in the noise? Building an authentic relationship is a great place to start. The best messages are personal. They need to come from a real person, in plain language with an uncluttered message asking for a response. The best marketers are those who focus on responsiveness and speed rather than fixate on brand conformity. With that in mind, here are some of the most common issues we've observed, and some suggestions on how to tune up your social media campaign.
Failing to make personal connections
If you saw a piece of paper on the ground that read: Go see "The Hangover Part II," it's awesome, how would you respond (or would you even respond at all)? How would your response differ if a friend sent it to you? Same message but from a trusted sender. In social media, logos and faceless messages do not have the same influence as friends. To connect in social media, you need to both humanize the brand and introduce humans into your messages.
This is one place where the quality of friends and followers matters. Inside your collection of fans (however big or small) is a group of people that will be advocates for your content. In its simplest form, they will "like" you. But can you find a way to invite them directly into your messages? Can you attach their real-world endorsement to your product, promotion, or service?
Speaking like a marketer
The process that is involved in modern copywriting can be a devastating tool. The field has advanced to such a degree that writing is nearing an engineering-type precision, which works fine -- except in social conversations.
When you are conversing, you are not debating, you are not pitching or promoting. You are responding. In order to do that tactfully, it requires you to listen and pay attention. Your tone, rhythm, and word choices are effective only when they fit with those of your partner. Clever marketing wordplay can be delightful, but would you ever speak to someone on the street in the same manner?
By encouraging personalization and trusting your users with ownership of your brand, you may be able to build a strong base for future conversations.
Cramming too much into a single message
Messages that can be consumed simply are what get shared these days. Take a look at an Instagram picture, a tweet, a Facebook post, a text message, or a YouTube embed. One asset. One sender. One conversation. It's simple, clear, and easy to digest.
But people are pinballing back and forth among these media centers, only dedicating a few seconds before moving onto the next. In order to capture the attention of a user, you must present your message in a very basic and to-the-point manner, while eliminating the possibility of confusion. This is essential to the success of any one campaign. So create a single object of desire -- a picture, a video, a map, a story -- and make it the center of attention. Make your audience look at it.
Failing to ask for it
Individuals are exposed to hundreds of marketing messages every day. So much so that it has become second nature to turn a blind eye in order to get past the clutter and find genuine conversations. Some online outlets are producing thousands of unique pieces of content a day.
But what seems to lead to connection is asking outright for interaction.
No one wants to read marketing messages; people want to share, participate, and converse. Ask for the "like," the tweet, the share, the recommendation, even the purchase. When you ask for something, the consumer gets the opportunity to engage to complete the experience.
Too slow on the draw
Let's return to the conversation metaphor. If you and I were in a room talking, we would each adapt to each other during the conversation. We might change speed, topics, language, body language, and expressions in response. If we care about each other, we would relate and connect.
Not shockingly, online conversations behave the same way. The more quickly you can publish content and responses, the more likely you are to be welcomed as part of the conversation. In social media channels, you have to be able to act and react in real-time.
If you're not able to make meaningful adjustments and provide quick responses on the fly, you'll lose the relatedness that makes you one with your audience. Do you need to wait days for a development team every time you make a change to your site or need a new landing page? Do you have to run tweets through a cumbersome approval process before hitting send? If internal processes are causing deathly slow response times, it may be time to reevaluate your approach and look for tools that can help you interact with your audience in real-time.
Be yourself, listen, speak clearly, be direct, be on time. You've probably heard that all before -- a "how to behave yourself in social situations" briefing from your teacher. Although these observations and recommendations may not sound like rocket science, they are rarely followed, even by the largest brand marketers. The only thing I ask of you is to mind your instructor and try these tips when conversing in social media, and I bet you'll become one of the most popular kids in class.
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