Since Social Media became a major part of many industries, professionals have been saying that clients “need to be a part of the conversation.” Everyone agrees on this in theory, but too often theory doesn’t translate to practice. I’ve seen this problem personally in every city and country in which I’ve worked.
Companies who hire social media experts want to put together a working outline and then wash their hands of the entire thing. The goal is to maximize the output of the calculation
(X number of interactive responses) / (Y amount of posts + Z hours spent)
which is seen as a way to quantify successful social media campaigns.
In practice, however, social media is not a speech, but a conversation. Just as in a real conversation, you can’t talk to everyone in the same manner and about the same things. You feel them out, avoiding certain topics, waiting to let them speak, and not dragging it out once you’ve already gotten your point across. Unless they are actively participating, this can be hard for clients to understand.
Too many companies see Twitter, for instance, as a way to give a speech. While the end goal of social media is to attract attention, Tweets should be seen as a smooth way to turn a conversation back to oneself, rather than the ramblings of a drunk guy at a party yelling over every other conversation.
If you’re at a dinner party, you might overhear something interesting and want to chime in. This is a natural and desirable opportunity to get engaged with a wider audience. You can think outside of the box.
Just because your social media platform is intended to promote a local restaurant chain doesn’t mean that you can’t get digitally involved in conversations about current events, trending topics, politics or Bollywood.
On Facebook, it’s important to search around, find and “like” groups that are popular among your target audience. Like a new student on her first day of school, keep your ear in their conversations and find out what the trend setters like. Not everything has to be BUY MY PRODUCT, TRY MY SERVICE; rather, it can be more interactive.
The next time you look into hiring a social media professional, find someone with whom you’ll want to have these conversations, and who you’d want to be sparking these conversations with your target audience.
Stop thinking about payment in terms of cost-per-post, but rather about long-term value-adding. You’re not hiring someone to stand next to you at a cocktail party throwing out one-liners; you’re finding a diplomat to represent your interests in the semi-foreign country of the World Wide Web.
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