Over a recent lunch with my coworkers, the subject of social media came up. Since we’re all young enough to be classified as digital natives, I was surprised to find they were somewhat disillusioned with social media. “Most of it feels like someone sat down, wrote a bunch of stuff, fired it off, and hoped someone would ‘Like’ it,” one coworker said.
I know what he means. In this world of likes and followers, it’s easy to focus your efforts on numbers. You can measure network growth and plot it neatly in a spreadsheet. Sure, gaining fans and followers is validating. “Look, they like us!” But before you grab your megaphone and starting broadcasting marketing copy (nicely packaged in 140 characters), consider this: what is the value of your social network? If you have 5,000 Facebook fans or 500 Twitter followers, but they remain largely unengaged (they only liked you for that free pizza deal anyway), your social success is over-valued.
Scrolling through my personal Twitter stream a few days ago, I stumbled across this little gem from the always-smart Seth Simonds:
He reminded me what makes social media magical. It’s not the fact that it’s free, or that it’s “easy” (hah), or that it’s a fantastic tool for reaching a lot of people in real-time. Social media is powerful because it’s interactive. It moves brands from monologue to conversation. New Economy Consumers—especially members of the Millennial generation—expect brands to be authentic. So stop churning out marketing copy. Brands are like people, complete with individual personalities, voice, and habits of expression. Give your audience a chance to get to know you by getting to know them.
You don’t develop real life relationships by rattling off a rote stream of information about yourself. You strengthen your connection over time, through a steady exchange of ideas. When you’re building relationships with people, you pay attention to them. You ask them questions. You talk to them about things they find interesting or meaningful. You listen. You make yourself available. This is the definition of a great social strategy.
Bowers & Wilkins, maker of quality home theater, hi-fi, and personal audio products, recently jumped into the deep blue waters of Twitter as @BWNorthAmerica. To build their network, they’re currently running a giveaway, requiring Twitter users to respond to a question and include “@BWNorthAmerica” in their tweet. This is a pretty standard strategy for launching a social network, but here’s what makes them different and delightful: They’re asking people “What are you listening to right now?”, and when they get a response, they follow up with another question, a personalized recommendation, or a thoughtful remark. They’re communicating authentic interest in the people who are talking to them. You can check out the conversation over here.
Back to those 5,000 pizza-lovin’ Facebook fans. What is their favorite kind of pizza? Maybe you should ask them. And then tell them yours.