The theory behind social media is that it’s a transparent open form of communication that all can participate in. We can operate within the rules of social media and be extremely effective, but we have to play by the rules and get creative to get results. This means content needs to stay positive. We should use our assets (e.g. experts, content creators, and communications and tech. staff), prepare our messaging and strategy in advance, and embrace transparency and criticism remembering this – Do you want to say it first and craft the narrative or have others tell you who you are?
Below is Some Advice and Tricks of the Trade:
- Let’s Talk Risk – We live in a transparent world and the social media conversation is happening with or without you. If you are not actively out there making your argument, telling your story, or giving face time to your brand, your competitors and your opposition are. With all the information flying around the digital world it is important that you are delivering your message directly to folks and not leaving it up to others who can spin their own interpretation. So as much risk as you may feel there is in engaging in social media, there is also risk in not using your social media voiceBy not participating you are allowing others to reach the influencers you’re not, craft your narrative for you, characterize an issue, brand your organization for you, or simply allow them to gain market share through these tools, strategies and platforms.
- Show, don’t tell – It’s not enough to talk at people you have to use the suite of multi-media content and platforms available to you to get peoples’ attention. This means YouTube videos, posting and tweeting pictures, utilizing Tumblr, asking your audience questions, sharing facts, infographics, blogging, offering expert advice on Linkedin from a thought leader, holding an educational Hangout on Google+. Think of everything you do as a headline. You have to grab folk’s attention, keep it and show them something new and interesting so they stay tuned or take action.
- Brand/Thought Leader – You can either be branded as a trustworthy voice or a spin doctor. When you’re a thought leader, you educate and inform folks and you gain trust and involvement by speaking with people, not at them. This means that you have to accept putting yourself out there. Sure there will be criticism, but you stay sound by keeping it clean and if need be, you fight back with facts and advocates. If you lose credibility, you will have no effect with these tools. This means that you have to tell your story with facts; you have to be honest knowing that “they will find out”. Additionally, these platforms are not vehicles for just shooting out wonky white papers and press releases. These platforms are conversation generators, which mean that if a message comes from an individual, not just a brand, it will resonate better. It means that you have to tell a story, put out thoughtful content that follows a strategy. If you can’t carry the message yourself or are not the best voice, utilize sound ambassadors or advocates to share your content on your behalf and be your champions (This could be a third-party grassroots group or a trade association, or employees or consumers that you can bring on as advocates).
- Content - CONTENT IS KING in this world. People are no longer just along for the ride when it comes to content consumption. They are an active partner, and they want to be informed and they want to help and act. If they are sheep, then you are the shepherd leading them and the way you do that is through solid, fresh, informative content in every form of medium you can think of and every creative way you’ve got. Listen and see what resonates before you push out your content. Build credibility through expertise, not through cramming beliefs down people’s throats. You have to persuade, and make a good argument. And remember, any content you put out there can come back to bite you, the internet is written in ink. So, I recommend always communicating information in a positive way.
- Timing/Strategy – Don’t speak for the sake of speaking. If you are sending out the occasional press release on Twitter and Facebook, posting a random picture, promoting an event and that’s it, you’ve already lost people. You have to think like a journalist and a press secretary. Your content has to have a purpose, it has to be well timed not only with what you are doing but with what’s going on in the world and it has to be part of a larger strategy and forwarding your organizational priorities.
- Tools - Don’t go for all the bells and whistles. Go where your audience is and know your tools and technology well, so that you can get the most out of them. If your members or consumers are on Twitter, then be on Twitter, if they are on LinkedIn, be on LinkedIn. If they are not on Pinterest, then don’t waste your time. Expend your resources where it makes sense.
- Empower - You need active social media participants to see your content, share it, act on it, engage with their friends and followers, endorse you, respond to you, and stay with you. That means you have to empower, educate and motivate your “audience”, not lecture at it.
- Followers - Creating an organic following takes time but it is worth it when those folks listen to your message, support your efforts and spread your content! Seek out those you want to engage with, partners you are working with, as well as those who are like-minded. Find influencers (Reporters, Economists, Issue experts, Pundits, Organizations) who can carry your message to their followers. Additionally, you can use targeted digital advertising to give you a boost in growing this following if you are just getting started. Remember: It’s about quality, not quantity of followers. Your influence or “Klout” matters more than how many followers you have.
- Share the Love – One of the greatest things about social media is that it is inclusive, not exclusive, and it is viral. It’s about all of us tapping in to our communities, sharing a strong message in a variety of ways and not only pushing out our messages, but promoting and supporting others so together we become a vast network and a force to be reckoned with. So make sure to share other’s content, like their posts, and promote their brand and they will return the favor.