The 9 Rules of Social Media engagement (Part I)

Turn your audience into advocates, and promote as naturally as breathing

Social media can either be the biggest waste of your energy and time, or one of the most rewarding experiences. And all of this depends on how you approach it. Here are some of our learnings from years of social engagement which we hope will help you set off on the right footing.

1. Be brand-centric, with serious business objectives

Whenever you are communicating online, you must be doing this through the lens of your company or the brand that you’re attempting to promote. By that I don’t mean you need to be robotic or engage solely in corporate speak, but simply that when you are developing your social media strategy, you need to be thinking about the messages you want to convey and, naturally enough, you want to think about what you are trying to achieve here.

Is it to drive traffic and leads to your website? Or is it to increase your profile and influence and to promote your brand to a wider audience? Or is it to counter some negative PR and address a reputational threat to your business?

All of these scenarios will result in very different approaches so this part of the planning stage needs to be thought through very carefully.

2. What does your audience want? Why not try listening?

“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.”
Wilson Mizner

Social media listening engagement

Another important factor (which should be one of your first considerations) is your target audience. What do you know of them? What are their broad demographic characteristics, their likes and dislikes, their motivations, their influencers, peers and adversaries.

So before you start to engage them, you better know more about them. And what better way than to spend some time listening to them? Online: within the channels you are planning on engaging with them in!

Consider organising a social management dashboard to gather all of your social media threads in the one place, like Hootsuite or Sprout Social. That way you can set up search filters on each channel (particularly useful for the fast moving channels like twitter which is akin to a stream of consciousness – or unconsciousness sometimes!).

Once you know what your target audience is looking for, and you understand a little of how you communicate with this audience appropriately, this will give you confidence when you start to engage with them.

3. The rule of thirds: revolutionise your social thinking

Most business owners treat social media like a loud hailer – one way and repetitive. This is the perfect strategy to alienate your customers and advocates. How you communicate is almost as important as what you communicate.

You need to be guided by the rule of thirds:

  • A third of your communication should be about sharing –  offering advice and help and tips, industry news etc from experts and influencers
  • A third of your communication should be conversing and interacting with others. So it’s about listening first and responding. It should also be possible to promote your brand/service if an opportunity presents itself but this should not be overt in any way. It needs to be subtle.
  • And a third of your communication can be active promotion of your brand or service. This doesn’t mean a free for all. The more fitting the promotion is (tonally, subject matter, useful and informative) the more likely your audience is likely to be persuaded by what you are saying.  

Which leads me to the next point:

4. Talk like… well, conversationally, as if you’re a real bona-fide person

Dialogue and conversations work best when they’re natural and free flowing yet many people engaging in social media forget to be sociable and sound like a robot.

So, be natural and treat your audience for what they are individuals and a human! Not a radical thought but an important one.

Be real

In the next blog we’ll take a look at the the remaining 5 factors from this series. Thanks for reading.



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