Don’t Leave the “Social” Out of Social Media

This is a guest post by Peter Pollock. He is originally from England but now resides in California. He owns his own web-hosting business (Heavenly Hosts), is a stay-at-home dad, a missionary, and a pastor in Hands and Feet. He is an avid blogger and is active on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I am constantly shocked and amazed at how badly some people and organizations understand and use Social Media. Some, it seems, believe that Social Media sites are places to advertise and nothing else, but surely that defeats the purpose of these sites being “social.”

Photo courtesy of ©, Image #189738

Photo courtesy of ©

One dictionary defines the word social as:

1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club. 2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.”

If “social” refers to enjoying companionship then there has to be some form of shared experience, of openness and two-way communication.

People or organizations who use social media for nothing more than advertising their latest product or promoting their latest post or article are missing the point of these new social networks. Subsequently they are likely to fail to increase their followers and may even find that their approach is detrimental to their “brand image.”

I see three different strategies for using social media sites such as Twitter which seem to be effective, productive and accepted by the social media community:

  1. Engagement. This, my personally preferred strategy, is defined not only by an openness in sharing personal experiences but also by a willingness to respond to friends and followers. Great examples of this strategy are Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) and Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano). Both are busy, fairly high-profile individuals yet both take the time to respond to questions and share links to articles and sites they find interesting. They have both mastered the art of creating ‘companionship’ with a group of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people.
  2. Openness. If you don’t have the time to engage with your customers on a personal level, sharing what’s happening in your life on a quite personal level is an effective way to help people connect with you. Dan Cathy (@DanCathy), President and COO of Chick-Fil-A uses this strategy to good effect. As far as I am aware, Mr. Cathy doesn’t often respond directly to people on social media sites but he does show his human side through his updates. I was quite amused when the man whose company has the advertising slogan “Eat Mor Chikin” tweeted about buying a Big Mac at McDonalds!
  3. Flattery. Everyone wants their five minutes of fame and companies who retweet messages from their customers give them just that. Air New Zealand (@FlyAirNZ) use twitter to offer some customer support, advertise their latest deals and give their customers an ego boost when they tweet something positive about the airline. It’s not the best strategy but somehow it makes you feel part of a community who have shared experiences.

Optimally though, Engagement is always the best strategy. There is no better method to truly connect with your customers or audience than to respond to them personally, at least occasionally. You can do this by:

  • Regularly responding to tweets, especially Direct Messages.
  • Making your email address freely available and responding to emails.
  • Responding to some or all comments on your blog posts.
  • Checking the comments on your Facebook status updates and responding occasionally.
  • Re-tweeting links to great content you have read. A re-tweet (RT) says as much, if not more than a comment praising the article.

It doesn’t take much time to engage with your followers, but the benefits both to your brand image and the success of your social media strategy are huge.

Social Media is a new way of connecting with and growing your customer base and so there are new rules about how to manage those relationships. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can bring old strategies into these new opportunities, it’s time for personal connection and engagement—or your strategy will ultimately fail.

Question: How are you personally making social media “social”? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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