For consumers, one advantage of social media over email is that social media is permission-based. Whereas to send an email one only needs the address, a network like Facebook or LinkedIn requires that the person gives the other party permission to connect.
Marketers still get overly excited about the sharing part -- the part that happens after the connection -- and completely forget about the elegant role the permission part plays. To these marketers, permission is an obstacle to overcome.
Permission is the honor of being able to communicate with another person whenever you like. It is a privilege that can be taken away, and if you abuse it you’re going to lose it.
A follow is a favor
When people Like your page or follow your Twitter account, they are doing you a favor. Treat it as such, and ask what you can do in return. When a stranger follows my account, the most effective thing I’ve done is thank them, and ask what I can do to stay interesting and thus continue to be followed. Those who respond are the ones I know are truly engaged. The same can be applied to a Like, although I find Facebook is less reliable for connecting that way.
Make every message count
Assume that everyone who’s given you permission to communicate has a lot of people in their network who are sending them a steady stream of information. To avoid information overload, it means they’re going to have to cull the least worthwhile updates. So make sure your posts are always worth their while. “Worthwhile” means valuable to the other person. Not something you want them to hear, but something they want to hear. Special deals and secret techniques are OK, announcing a contest or Website redesign is not. (A “chance” to win is the same as saying, “You will probably not get anything but hey why not try anyway just in case.”)
Make it about them
The best way to get people to talk about things that matter to you is to make it all about them. I do a little work for a small restaurant local to me, called Los Comales. I realized that if I offered people coupons or discounts then I would be encouraging a mercenary relationship and they would expect it every time. Instead, I created a program where I would reward any kindness shown to Los Comales by picking people to be “Customer of the Week.” I put their avatar on a coupon, their favorite dish becomes the special of the week, and they are invited to get a complimentary dessert. In order to get love, I show love first. This is easily scalable (and perhaps more effective) for a larger, more recognized brand to make it truly engaging -- it’s just a matter of logistics.
Getting followers on social media is just the beginning. You need to also keep them, and that can be tricky. What are your best techniques for keeping your followers engaged on social media? Let us know on the message board below.
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Scott Kinoshita was originally a computer programmer, who retrained to marketing after realizing his big dream was to make online marketing that didn't stink.