21 Feb 2014
Confessions of a social media insider

Confessions of a social media insider

As a self-confessed social media addicts, we are fortunate to be able to spend most of our day talking about social media and helping clients harness the amazing opportunities it presents. Ready for some hard hitting honesty?

Confession 1 – Social media is easy

You wouldn’t expect an insider to be telling you this when it’s what they do for a living, but social media is easy!  So where are people going wrong?

The problem is we tend to approach social media from a technological, scientific angle. We assume that, because social media is online, the rules must be digital: “If I use this analytics package here and create that tab there, the social media gods will shine down on me and I’ll magically grow my following and be the best business in the land of Facebook.”

But actually we’re sort of missing the point a bit when we look to the techies for answers (sorry  guys!). I see lots of people looking for easy tactics at the expense of a solid social media strategy that keeps this one truth at its core: social media is social, and that means it’s about people and conversations!

Now this isn’t to say that technologies aren’t important – we all love a good graph and we are the first in line to check out the latest analytics tool – but all too often people fail to reach their goals on social media because they try to talk at people (think: sitting it a lecture) and not to them (think: friends at a pub). We’ve been practicing for social media success our whole lives through our day to day interactions with other people, and as long as you remember that, social media becomes easy.

Confession 2 – You’re basically stalking people 

Yes, that’s right, social media is about stalking people.  We spend hours and hours looking through social media profiles of influencers, watching what’s being said, tracking conversations and generally watching whats going on. They call this ‘social listening’.

Open social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram give us a huge opportunity to find out where our target audience hang out, what they’re interested in, the way they talk to each other, when they interact and what content adds value to their lives. This is the kind of knowledge we need to be able to genuinely fit in – get a follow or a read – the permission for further conversation.

All that info makes really authentic conversation possible and helps companies develop a unique voice that appeals to their target audience. Knowing what non-product topics to bring up and which to avoid are exactly what’s needed to develop an effective strategy aimed at a specific group of people and makes social media what it is.

Confession 3 – We’re not in control

And neither are you. This might seem scary for businesses but again it goes back to the fact that social media is social – it’s a conversation, not a speech. You know those times when you plan how a conversation is going to go in your head and pretty much every time the plan goes out the window the second the conversation starts? Yeah, it’s like that.

While you might not be able to control the conversation, you can help steer it, if you have built up the social trust. People are more likely to listen to your side if you have proven that you aren’t just there to further your own agenda but are actually trying to add value to them through social.

Because we aren’t in control, things aren’t always going to go right, and will almost certainly go a bit wrong at some point. There will almost always be someone that won’t like what you’ve said so have a strategy. Map out a plan of action to manage the worst. Most of all, try and learn from it – look at why and figure out whether there is a potential opportunity to improve.

So what’s the takeaway? Be a nice person. Share things for unselfish reasons. Listen to what people say, especially the negative. Ultimately, get people to like you and you have a better chance of getting them to talk about what YOU want.

Confession 4 – Bigger is not necessarily better 

Now this is hard to accept in a world where most people see the size of your social media following as a sign of your success. But the truth is that with the exception of companies like McDonald’s, a massive following is almost always detrimental to your success. This is because again, social media is about creating authentic relationships which lead people to take a desired action.

You should look at social as a way of to getting deep inside your customers’ minds and finding out what makes them tick. And if you’re doing that right, and your content is aimed specifically to their motivations, interests and desires, it’s highly unlikely, depending on your product or service, that you’ll appeal to a million people, or even a hundred thousand.

But that’s ok, because instead you’ll get 500, 5,000 or even 50,000 people who truly believe in your product and your cause, and are more likely to become true advocates of your brand. What’s more, your social accounts don’t always have to be growing – sometimes it’s more important that you engage your existing followers better, rather than be working on adding more.

Confession 5 – We were forced to go on Twitter 

And finally, a confession that usually gets a laugh – the fact we were forced to go on Twitter.  We were dragged, kicking and screaming by an advisor to sign up and get involved. (Now, you’d have to drag us kicking and screaming to get off the thing!)

The reason we tell people about this is because many of our clients feel the same, and we think it’s important to know that it’s ok to feel that way. To an outsider, social media can feel like an exclusive club and no matter how much those people tell you its fun it’s always scary to walk into a room you don’t know and introduce yourself. But, believe me, it is well worth it.

So there you have it – our top five social media confessions!