Villing & Company

How to Succeed in Social Media Without Really Trying

My favorite quote from the great former basketball coach (and native Hoosier) John Wooden is, “Never mistake activity for achievement.” It’s sage advice that can apply to any endeavor in life or business, including social media efforts.

Too many take the term “social media” and focus on the “media,” foregoing the “social.” As a result, they’re infatuated with the newest Facebook and Twitter apps. They link their various accounts and push updates to all of them at once because they can, not because they should. They post indiscriminately and randomly, vacillating between news feed bombardment and news feed trickle. They talk about the same thing over and over again (usually themselves), and yet somehow, seem to be talking about nothing at all.

These social media accounts are the digital equivalent of the people you meet at a cocktail party and with whom you can’t break off the conversation fast enough. They’re trying too hard. What follows is a brief checklist to make sure your social media efforts are emphasizing the “social.”

  1. Listen. I know I’m not the first person to say this. And I hope I’m not the last, because this really does form the basis for any success you have in the space. In the social media context, listening does not mean simply limiting the number of times you post updates to convey a false image of meekness. This still puts the focus on the “media” in social media in that it deals with your frequency of usage of the technology.

    Active listening means monitoring the posts of people in the online community to identify their needs, concerns, and desires. In this form of listening you’re still using the technology, but the technology is not the focus; it’s the people using it.

  2. Help. This can only be done if you’ve effectively listened. Helping does not mean jumping into a conversation for the sole purpose of pushing your company’s product as a solution. The best way to engage with people in the social media space is to cleanse your content from marketing messages that instantly turn people off.

    This is easier for some brands to do than others. But if you’re actively listening and monitoring social media, you’ll probably notice that the content and accounts that go viral are usually the ones that are resolving a conflict in some form or another. They’re helping people in a given area of life. It sounds rather Zen-like, but the best way to promote yourself is to give others a hand up.

    Again, think of the cocktail party. To whom are you more likely to gravitate: the person talking about him or herself, or the person wanting to hear from you and solve your problem?

  3. Prepare for feedback. Several weeks ago, a local television station cut into programming to deliver coverage about imminent severe weather, and in the process denied viewers a chance to see an historic piece of sports television. Viewers rushed to their Facebook page to voice their outrage, but the only response from the station amid the profanity-laced tirades of their viewers…was more updates on the weather.

    The lessons here are many (for instance, this would have been an excellent scenario in which to move the conversation to your own website, rather than this much more visible forum), but the main takeaway is this: Be prepared to respond in-kind with your commenters. Hopefully you’ve decided ahead of time why your brand or organization is doing the things they’re doing. (You have decided that, haven’t you?) Refer back to those policies and directives to give direct answers to people when they need them.

    Back to the cocktail party, you wouldn’t waste your time with someone who couldn’t stay on-topic in a conversation. Similarly, social media accounts are quickly unfollowed when a relevant response is slow, if it comes at all.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but the main point is clear: don’t forget about the “social” in social media. As marketers and PR professionals, we’re used to the common rules of social interaction at networking functions and other social gatherings. In fact, they’re like second nature to us. If we can translate those principles to the world of social media, there will be no mistaking the achievement from our activity.

Filed Under: social media

Villing & Company

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South Bend IN 46601

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