“We want people to talk about us on social media.”
Well, of course you do.
“We want to have a digital strategy for connecting with our community.”
Without a doubt.
“We’re doing a whole bunch of things in the real world, but we need to be on Facebook so we can go viral.”
Maybe -- or maybe not.
There are two facets to engaging via social media. One is through its “social” side: Facebook Groups and Pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards. The other is through its “market” side: Facebook ads and Sponsored Posts, YouTube paid campaigns.
It’s essential to make this distinction, because the two facets obey different norms. The market side follows market norms: Here, it’s OK to be overtly selling your product, talking about yourself, highlighting features and benefits.
The social side follows social norms. The ratio of how much you talk about yourself vs. how much you talk about others becomes one of skill and sensitivity.
The social side is where customer engagement happens. It is where relationships are built. It is where you listen to your customers and where communities grow. And the general topic of conversation is unlikely to be your product or service.
So why would anyone engage with your company socially if they’re not talking about your product or service?
They engage because of the way you reinforce their sense of identity. They engage because it allows them to connect with likeminded folks. They engage because of the experience they have with you.
And the experience is what they share. The story is what they share. The emotion is what they share.
A sale on Volkswagens doesn’t go viral. A story about a kid Darth Vadering a car does. On the downside, a story about United’s on-time percentage doesn’t go viral either -- but a song about them breaking guitars and not caring does.
The seminal question for a social strategy is not, “How can we get people to talk about us on social media?” It is, “What kind of experience can we provide that will be so interesting people are compelled to share it?”
And then, “How will this benefit our community?”
And only then, “How will it benefit our business?”
If you don’t have good answers to all three of those questions, there’s not much point in trying to engage socially with your customer base. Your options are varied: go back and reconsider your offering to see if you need to make it more experiential, recognize that you operate in a commodity business and that social is not a relevant channel for you, focus efforts on direct sales rather than customer engagement... Depending on your business and your industry, each of these is valid; each also requires insight into the type of relationship your customer wants and expects with you.
Connecting with communities using social norms on social media requires an ability to look not at the finger of the communications channel but at the moon of the experience. Social media is the place where pearls form; your mission is to provide the grains of sand.
Enjoy the experience.