Load More Posts

We recently surveyed 347 Social Media Today members online, and interviewed four key individuals who self-identify as social change agents. Whether leading a large corporate brand outside its walls, or driving enterprise-wide social collaboration from a cubicle within, these innovative, very public professionals whom we studied are catapulting career opportunities far into the future.

There's no shortage of proof that social is beneficial for business—and it’s here to stay. Now we have evidence that it’s influencing long-term career growth for social change agents, too, and we’re announcing it at The Social Shake-Up 2014.

We recently surveyed 347 Social Media Today members online, and interviewed four key individuals who self-identify as social change agents. Whether leading a large corporate brand outside its walls, or driving enterprise-wide social collaboration from a cubicle within, these innovative, very public professionals whom we studied are catapulting career opportunities far into the future. The study focused on the impact a social skill set has on individual career performance and options. These skills include collaborative and network technologies, storytelling, crowd-sourcing across geographies and companies, as well as personal values placed on transparency and authenticity.

While we conducted the survey, it was Susan Scrupski’s pioneering work that motivated us. Her efforts started in 2009 with The 2.0 Adoption Council, which led to the founding of Change Agents Worldwide, a network of forward-thinking social champions around the world.

Professionals in advertising, marketing, PR, and any discipline that requires a thorough understanding of social media will find the results mostly positive and, at times, probably surprising, like we did.

Survey Highlights

  • The majority of survey respondents are passionate about the values of social. It’s not just a job for many. Many survey respondents shared their personal stories on how they took career risks to stand up for their convictions.
  • By an overwhelming majority, survey respondents see the social career occupation as positive, leading to greater visibility and opportunities internally and externally.
  • Those who indicated that they saw themselves as Change Agents were more likely to be the face of their brand, found Social to be a career boosting asset, and reported they are part of a team dedicated to social initiatives.

When Social Media Today conducted the 2014 Social Change Agent web survey from July 17 to 28, 2014, we were pleasantly amazed by the investment and risks social change agents have taken to stand up for their beliefs about social.

First of all, we couldn’t be more proud of the 57 percent of respondents who self-identify as Social Change Agents. In addition, an overwhelming 71 percent of respondents reported they definitely had been in a situation or situations where they had to defend the values of social with colleagues. Similarly, 62 percent reported they had to defend the values of social to a superior. What shocked us is the 20 percent who answered yes to, “Has there ever been a time that you felt you’d be willing to lose your job rather than compromise your convictions about social?”

Taken together, what does it all mean? Clearly, social is not only for the CTO to lead anymore. The question that professionals in all industries should be asking themselves today is, “Do I want to lead my industry in embracing social business, or do I want to help them play catch-up with the competition?” From a strategic perspective the answer is straightforward: the first player in an industry to establish a comprehensive social business strategy gains advantages over their competitors.

From a practical perspective, people and organizations that are not on the social business boat have to make a commitment of time and resources to get on board. Not every company can allocate the needed resources to do so. Every business has to be smart about its own unique situation and set of challenges. That being said, the imperative to business leaders is to look for and reach out to the internal or external social change agents. They can help get the social business boat started.

Are you the captain of social business at your organization, or are you ready to get on board? See the full survey results below, and tweet with us at #socialshakeup to get in on the real-time Twitter conversation.

We've only been at The Social Shake Up 2014 for a little over 5 hours, but we're already learning valuable takeaways about content creation. Here are 5 tips for more effective content creation and what to watch for as we look to develop creative, engaging, and relevant content for our brands.
We've only been at The Social Shake Up 2014 for a little over 5 hours, but we're already learning valuable takeaways about content creation. Here are 5 tips for more effective content creation and what to watch for as we look to develop creative, engaging, and relevant content for our brands. 
 

1. Your Audience: Know 'em and have 'em know you

 
While you may have the resources to spew out content all day long, if it's content that your audience doesn't care about, then you're essentially wasting your resources. Be sure that if you're talking to Millennials, the look, feel, and tone fits them. It's probably not the same content that you'd serve up to Baby Boomers. The more often that your content is geared to the right audience, the more likely they'll notice you. You need to cut through the clutter, so audience understanding is at the heart of that. 
 
Watchout: While it may feel right to jump on the latest trending conversations, it might not be anything your audience is talking about. Don't always feel compelled to just "join in" because everyone else is. Join in the conversations relevant to your audience, your social media team, budget, and resources will thank you. 
 

2. Update Your Brand Book: social media needs a chapter

 
In the days of traditional advertising and marketing, imagery, logo usage, colors, brand voice, and vision were all mandatories in your brand book. Today, in our digital world, social media standards need a chapter of their own. 
 
When you clearly define your social media standards and how you want to come across in the digital world, like the social appropriate voice, the campaign goals, the standard visuals, etc it can help speed up the content creation process since you have a guide in place. It allows you to limit the number of approvals needed to publish content since you've already identified and agreed upon the standards in the brand book. Setting up a solid foundation for your social media just like any other branding attributes will set you in the right direction. 
 
Watchout: make sure your guidelines don't limit the creative process. While you want guidelines for consistency you don't want monotony. Ensure you create guidelines with some flexibility to allow your creativity to still shine. 
 

3. Be Organic: don't force everything, let it happen on its own

 
"The best moments are unplanned", according to Andrea Harrison, Head of Platform Strategy for RebelHouse. Andrea emphasized that it's important to let some things happen on their own. One of the examples is instead of just creating custom branded hashtags to interject into the social space, maybe it's better to listen and jump on the hashtags that are already part of conversations. Sometimes reinventing the wheel isn't how you'll get skin in the game. Talk about what others are talking about so you are part of what's already happening. 
 
Watchout: make sure that you can cut through the clutter. When you jump on the bandwagon you're competing with everyone else on it too. When you have compelling and innovative content it will help you standout amongst the crowd.
 

4. Creative Content Sandbox: have a place for creative minds to generate ideas

 
If you don't create a space, the time, or group of people to get social media content created then you'll go nowhere. Remember, you need resources and talent to get things done. We live in a world where people are actively wanting new things all the time. It's the advent of we will not wait for it. So if you don't have people and resources at your company coming up with content, then some teenager in their bedroom and/or a YouTube sensation will be doing it on their own time, potentially taking away your audience's eyes and time to their content. Invest in a team so you have a quality social presence.
 
Watchout: don't bite off more than you can chew. The last thing you want to do is not keep up on your content if you start publishing. It will deter your audience from continuing to engage. To help combat this, developing a well defined social media calendar will help you stay on track. It will hold your company accountable as well as setting up a publishing pace that's appropriate for the time and resources that you realistically have. 
 

5. Consistency Leads to Discovery: importance of unified naming conventions 

 
In the sea of users and companies on social media, getting noticed can be a problem in and of itself. Do yourself one favor and start by unifying your naming conventions. If you have your Twitter handle named a certain way, use that same name in Instagram, Facebook, etc. It can already be hard enought to get your audience to find you once, let alone as differing entities. The more consistent you are with your naming the more you can heighten your discoverability across channels. 
 
Watchout: try to find a name that works across as many networks as possible. One way to check and find the best name is through the website http://knowem.com. Knowem scans hundreds of social networks and shows you which networks have your name available. Quick, down and dirty way to checking your name all in one place. 
 
Be sure to join the conversation and add your own tips and learnings on Twitter with #socialshakeup.
Social media training is a balancing act between teaching employees the risks of social media and how to be active on social for business benefits and closer customer relationships. There are ten steps to consider when launching a social media training program across your organization. Read on to find a recap of these insights, presented at the first Employee Advocacy Summit in Atlanta (#EASummit14).

Social Media Training is challenging.  It is a balancing act between teaching employees the risks of social media and activating employees to be more effective in their roles.  

A few years back in a previous corporate role, I recall taking a compliance training course and being informed not to leave candles burning on my desk.  I was surprised to be told this, as it seemed like a no-brainer, but then realized there must have been a prior incident for this message to be shared  broadly across the organization. Social media risk management training is like the candle in this example: we have to inform our employees that there are risks, and there can be damage for the employee and the brand. But on the flip side, candles provide light and warmth, and can be very powerful.  Social media, too, is a powerful tool that can bring us closer to the customer, make our business more effective, and help us become better listeners.

In the first Employee Advocacy Summit of its kind, I was provided the opportunity to present ten steps to consider when building out a social media training program, teaching employees how to use social media effectively without burning the building down.  

One of my favorite steps is going back to the old marketing creative brief.  Remember answering the question of what you want your customers to think, feel and do?  It is the same for our employees.  What do we want employees to think, feel and do with social media?  I've recommended this exercise to numerous customers, encouraging them to write the actual answers down.  This will help inform the training content, plus activation plans.

Another favorite tip: get employees to understand a two-page legal document (insert your social media policy here).  The reality is that none of your employees are going to read the social media policy.  This is the foundation of risk management, and you need to think creatively about how to message this content to your employees.  Also, use your Executives: employees tend to listen and follow their input. 

You can find the remaining eight steps in the SlideShare presentation below:
 
 
Here's the reality: the role of the employee is changing.  It is our duty to protect our employees, as well as inspire them to build their personal online brands, while listening and meet our customers in this new era. I believe a strategic social media training program has the power to protect and inspire action.  
Back in the early 2000s, there were visionaries who saw the promise of social and what it could be, and it didn’t have anything to do with technology. One of those visionaries is Brian Solis, the principal analyst with Altimeter Group, which helps companies adjust to technology disruption. He's also an author and in-demand speaker on the startup circuit. He opened the first morning of the The Social Shake-Up 2014 on Tuesday, Sept. 16, with Social Media Today’s co-founder and CEO, Robin Carey. Read on to figure out how you'll strike back at technology with human-to-human connection.

Back in the early 2000s, there were visionaries who saw the promise of social and what it could be, and it didn’t have anything to do with technology. One of those visionaries is Brian Solis, the principal analyst with Altimeter Group, which helps companies adjust to technology disruption. He's also an author and in-demand speaker on the startup circuit. He opened the first morning of the The Social Shake-Up 2014 on Tuesday, Sept. 16, with Social Media Today’s co-founder and CEO, Robin Carey.

“Business has never been human,” Solis said. “There is nothing about relationships in CRM. We could be more human. Some of us are still fighting the same thing today as we were in early 2000. Just because you come out on social doesn’t make you social. You really have to try to be transparent, to connect with someone. That’s the core of what makes business social. A lot of us lost sight of that.”

Carey put Solis on the spot right from the start, asking him his opinion about Scott Monty’s departure from Ford Motors as its social media pioneer. She asked specifically, “Has marketing taken over social business?” Solis was taken back, responding that the coffee is still digesting. Of course, the audience laughed with them. And then Solis said Scott never lost sight of the human side of social. Ford became more human under his lead. But he reassured Robin and the audience that just because such a high-profile social leader left a large corporate brand, it’s not the end of social—we just have to figure out what we want to do with social. Do we stay or leave? We’re at a crossroad.

“We got comfortable with what social should be but never got it to where it could be,” he said. “It’s mired in politics—who does what, who funds what?"

At the end of the day, is your energy spent better elsewhere, as in Scott’s case? Well, let’s compare Monty’s exit from Ford Motors to when Luke left the planet Hoth to go the planet Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda. While Luke was training, Darth Vader captured Luke’s friends, so he had to decide whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save his comrades. Perhaps Ford Motors was Monty’s Hoth and Shift Communications is Dagobah. Have we been captured by Darth Vader, which, in this case, is technology? Will Monty save us from technology, continuing to be our Jedi Master of social media and reminding us of the human side of it?

This Is the Crossroad

We have to answer these questions with other questions first. Do you see the future of your company as more responsive and listening more to customers? That’s what social brings to the party. If your company isn’t responsive, and if it doesn’t listen, what are you going to do? Our Social Change Agent survey shows many of you are willing to push for social and stand up for it to colleagues and superiors despite the risks. Some of you are even willing to lose your job versus compromise your social beliefs.

“If you ask a CEO what keeps them up at night, their typical response is technology," said Solis. "If you ask a CMO, they say we don’t know our customers as well as we’d like to know them. But we know them. There’s a gap between us and the C-suite. Although none of them would say, ‘We don’t care about our customers,’ if they were truly customer-centric, CEOs and CMOs would put people first.”

Solis’ research, in fact, found 88 percent of CEOs said their companies are undergoing digital transformation; yet only 25 percent studied the digital customer. “The problem with any executive is that I honestly don’t believe they think they’re selling to humans. I don’t think we appreciate when we talk to someone else, the opportunity to talk to someone else. I have your attention and you have mine. Now what are we going to do with it? What happens next? What’s different about this? We don’t know. We have so much structure, etc., it doesn’t allow the natural progression of an embrace.”

The “embrace” Solis spoke of isn’t the typical hug, of course. It’s the “gift of empathy” on social. We’re measured by transactions, he said, which come after the embrace. So don’t just tweet back to solve a problem. Get to the root of the problem. Practically share the bad experience to counter all of the other stuff, Solis suggested. “People don’t share good experiences as much as they share bad experiences, but we have to inspire behavior we want to see, and stop reacting and start cultivating this community.”

None of us have come out and said, “It’s not about me, it’s about community,” he continued. “It’s not about technology, it’s about real problems that we’re trying to solve in the real world,” Carey added. “It’s really about taking this collaborative global thing and plugging into solutions.” 

But Solis said you actually have to care. Mediumilism is a term he came up with to explain how we jump on everything, such as infographics as the new press release. “Every content piece you’re going to create, whether it’s an infographic or tweet, you’re faced with what do I want to do next, how do I want people to use it?’

Content is a means, Solis explained, and social is a means. But what do you want to have happen from it, he asked? It’s not just that you want to feel good, but you want someone on the other end to feel good. Imagine a world in terms of content where we all truly cared about the person on the other end of the infographic or tweet. That’s the core of social business. And Solis believes that’s what will convince the C-suite.

Although Monty moved on from Ford Motors, he continues to guide us in social media marketing. And as you probably know, Luke left his training with Yoda to save his friends. What are you going to do? As long as you have the person on the other end of the content in mind, no matter your business goals, social strategy, or audience, the empire will surely strike back. The best possible case is that human connection will collaborate with technology. Reminds you of when Darth Vader saves Luke in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, doesn't it?

Day one of the second Social Shake-Up is over! If you weren't one of the 600 attendees in Atlanta, not to worry: we've recapped it here for you, from Brian Solis to fried chicken to the afternoon keynote.

Day one of the second Social Shake-Up is over! If you weren't one of the 600 attendees in Atlanta, not to worry: we've recapped it here for you.

The day began, as it did last year, with a conversation between Brian Solis and Robin Carey about the state of social business. Wendy Lea then gathered a panel of CEOs to discuss the challenges and benefits of transitioning into (or starting up) a social business. The morning breakout sessions covered everything from wearables by Ralph Lauren to data privacy tips from one of our top notch bloggers, Tamara Dull. The afternoon breakout sessions featured a knockout panel on how to incorporate social into the shopping experience with representatives from Whole Foods, The Home Depot, and Arby's (causing one tweeter to claim that Natanya Anderson of Whole Foods basically pulled a "#micdrop"). We ended the day with MasterCard debating whether or not marketing and communications departments should merge; a keynote featuring Renee Ducre, Jeff Dachis, and Vanessa DiMauro, with a cameo by SMT Best Thinker Randy Milanovic; and, of course, a cocktail hour.

Stay tuned for our recap of the second and final day tomorrow, and follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #SocialShakeUp! 
 
From my keynote address this morning at The Social Shake-Up in Atlanta: How can big companies benefit from crowd-based business models in the Maker Movement, Crowdfunding, and Sharing Economy? We call this the Collaborative Economy, and big companies can participate, too.

From my keynote address this morning at The Social Shake-Up in Atlanta: What role do corporations play if people get what they need from each other? How can big companies benefit from crowd-based business models in the Maker Movement, Crowdfunding, and Sharing Economy? We call this the Collaborative Economy, an economic model in which creation, ownership, and access are shared between people and corporations. See the SlideShare below to see how it all comes together.

Bonus: Attendee Mei Lin Fung took detailed notes and posted them for the public. Truly social. Click here to access them!

Top image via Ludic Creatives

At the Social Shake-Up, Mike Federle, the COO of Forbes; Carl Lavin, the homepage editor of CNN Digital; and Mary Ellen Egan, the Senior Content Director at Social Media Today, tackled how journalism and publishing are evolving in a panel titled “When Your Customers Become Your Contributors: Brand Journalism Meets Traditional.” To kick off the panel, Simon asked, “In the social age where anyone can publish anything, anywhere, any time, what is a media brand? Is it a platform, is it a publisher?”

At the Social Shake-Up, Mike Federle, the COO of Forbes; Carl Lavin, the homepage editor of CNN Digital; and Mary Ellen Egan, the Senior Content Director at Social Media Today, tackled how journalism and publishing are evolving in a panel titled “When Your Customers Become Your Contributors: Brand Journalism Meets Traditional.” Simon Pearce of Fabric Branding moderated.

To kick off the panel, Simon asked, “In the social age where anyone can publish anything, anywhere, any time, what is a media brand? Is it a platform, is it a publisher?”

Mike noted that Forbes is maintaining their traditional publication while quickly growing their digital platform: “The publishing side remains the front door of the brand, because the Forbes brand is so well known around the world. But the digital is 60-65% on the revenue side.” They are accomplishing this by maintaining and growing a huge contributor network, consisting of “1400 writers who have been vetted by our senior editors, who are each in charge of a particular channel.” Essentially, the editorial happens with the contributor selection, after which contributors can publish directly to the platform with no editorial oversight.

Mary Ellen spoke to how things have changed for her, as someone who started off as a “traditional” journalist but lived through the shift to digital and blogging. When the shift was first beginning, she noted, “The print people were always like, ‘Oh those digital hacks!’” Meanwhile, the bloggers “thought we were scotch-drinking, cigar-smoking” stereotypes of journalists who produced one paltry article a day. Since those early years, she’s come to realize that “blogs allow us to engage with so many more people. Contributors become commenters themselves,” extending the story beyond the original piece.

Simon wondered if the constant reality of getting scooped by Twitter and Facebook was making traditional outlets, burdened with fact-checking, start to fear irrelevancy.

Not at all, Carl stated, noting, “It’s only true if I see it on CNN: [people who say that] are the people who are valuable to us.” Mary Ellen agreed, noting that she found out about Joan Rivers’s death through Twitter but immediately turned to the New York Times for verification, context, and additional information. “As we’ve learned,” she said, “the internet has changed how we consume information, and we have to be more skeptical now."

The panelists then waded into the murkier waters of brand journalism and whether it’s playing nicely with publishers. Everyone agreed that sponsored content had to be marked as such, whether through clear labeling or obvious font and stylistic differences. “If you step on a line,” said Mary Ellen, “the crowd’s going to let you know.”

When it comes to brand journalism, “content is content, on the web,” Mike said, “ and marketers have just as much of a right to be talking about it as anyone else,” as long as they're not trying to pull something over on the audience. And there are standards, of course: for instance, if a company wants to put out sponsored content claiming vaccines are deadly or that there's a home-made vaccine replacement that’s safer, that content certainly wouldn’t make it onto CNN. “If it’s not true, and we can prove it’s not true, we won’t accept it,” Carl said simply.

And the publishers’ own brands aren’t becoming less important as a result of the internet, Mike said. In fact, “the brand becomes more important: the reason we’re able to attract 1400 contributors is because they want to write for a reputable brand that’s going to bring them recognition as well.” 

Carl envisioned the new structure of publishing as a pyramid: “At the widest point, the base, people can comment on stories [and become a part of the story itself]. But as you go further up, there’s more and more vetting [of contributors] until you get to the very top. Brands can participate at any level – except the very top.”

“Digital allows everyone to join the conversation,” Carl said. “The publishing part stays true to the old-style values of journalism – clarity, accuracy, urgency and context – but the audience is part of this too. The journalist is no longer preaching to a sleepy congregation.”

In other words, the congregation itself is waking up and clamoring to be a part of the story, and it’s a crowd that includes brands, companies, and marketers along with regular readers. Publishing is going to have to keep evolving to accommodate it.

In this video, hear what people are saying about The Social Shake-Up this year.

The Social Shake-Up started off with a bang at the W-Midtown Atlanta, where leaders of big-picture social and technology have gathered to speak about the rapidly changing way we work. Attendees, from high-level executives to freelance practitioners, rub elbows and learn from panelists on the front lines of social business. In this video, see some of the conversations we've been having about new ways to connect with customers, employees, managers and leaders.

 

This year’s Social Shake-Up conference in Atlanta is bringing together an impressive breadth of brands, industries and marketing professionals from around the globe. From the world’s most recognizable brands like—Coke, IBM, Facebook, Walmart, UPS, to name just a few—to leading universities like Emory and the University of Rochester, to the world’s top public health research organizations.

“Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

This year’s Social Shake-Up conference in Atlanta is bringing together an impressive breadth of brands, industries and marketing professionals from around the globe. From the world’s most recognizable brands like—Coke, IBM, Facebook, Walmart, UPS, to name just a few—to leading universities like Emory and the University of Rochester, to the world’s top public health research organization—the Center for Disease Control—the conference has brought the best and the brightest to converse and brainstorm about the impact and the future of social marketing. 

Here’s a profile of the 600+ attendees, starting with attendees by industry.

[[{"fid":"167136","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_caption[und][0][format]":"filtered_html","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Type","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Type"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Type","title":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Type","height":"579","width":"799","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

And although the Fortune 500 is well represented, attendees came in large numbers from start-ups and high growth mid-sized companies as well.

[[{"fid":"167151","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_caption[und][0][format]":"filtered_html","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Size","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Size"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Size","title":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Organizational Size","height":"579","width":"799","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

Reflecting the makeup of our visitors to SocialMediaToday.com, the Social Shake-Up attendees are heavily geared towards decision makers and influencers within their organizations.

[[{"fid":"167171","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_caption[und][0][format]":"filtered_html","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Job Function","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Job Function"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Job Function","title":"Social Shake-Up Attendees by Job Function","height":"580","width":"800","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

Social conversations with a real substance seem to be on the verge of extinction. Some of the most popular blogs have a few comments, but reflect very little interaction between writers and readers.

These days, social media interactions leave little room to imagination. All attempts to communicate begin with a fervent desire to introduce, promote or sell a certain product in a more or less predictable manner. While the targeted audience may change, the mechanism of social interactions remains pretty much the same: companies start rambling about the uniqueness of their products and services, instead of focusing on the real needs and demands of their potential buyers.

Perhaps this is why their act is not rewarded with a big round of applause. Savvy readers are bored of sales pitches. They want exciting, fresh, original, newsworthy facts delivered in a unique manner. Some of them are nostalgic and still think that social media should involve more than a semi-polite exchange of information. Whatever happened to those great chats that we used to have, which went beyond someone’s selfish, mercantile goals?

Should You Settle for Feedback, When All You Need Is a Good Old-Fashioned Conversation?

Social conversations with a real substance seem to be on the verge of extinction. Some of the most popular blogs have a few comments, but reflect very little interaction between writers and readers. Some bloggers write back, others are just too busy measuring their own level of awesomeness. Some individuals leave a comment just to bring their own links in the public eye. This is not even proper feedback, let alone a meaningful conversation that could lead to a deeper relationship with your audience.

So how could you get people to reply to your social content? What’s the secret formula for success that you need to steal and apply to get them to share, like, favorite or re-tweet your ideas? Most importantly, can you use social content to bond with your readers without being perceived as a money-hungry stalker? Let’s find out.

6 Ways to Start and Maintain a Dialogue with Your Audience via Your Social Content

A great dialog with your readers should be founded on a well-balanced mix that includes premium content, common sense, empathetic thinking, politeness and a strong desire to stay relevant, engaging and helpful. Here are 6 ways in which you can convince your virtual friends to join the conversation without being cataloged as pushy or desperate.

1.     Set Realistic Goals: If you’re still in the initial phase in which you’re making a name for yourself while building credibility and trust, don’t expect to get millions of likes and shares in a split second, even if your content is truly amazing. According to Jay Baer from Convince & Convert, you should expect less without settling for less.  Accept the fact that online conversations will never be perfect substitutes for face-to-face interactions and try to bond with your readers by upgrading your content and making it more palatable.

2.     Humanize Your Content: If your social content makes your readers think that you are as lifeless as a mannequin from a Fifth Avenue store, now may be a good time to follow a different approach. Let the veil down and create personalized content that enables users to discover who you are, what you stand for, and most importantly, what you can do for them. Introduce yourself just like you would during a face-to-face interaction (minus the awkward gestures and long pauses). Write freely, express your enthusiasm and present your goals, brand and product features and benefits in a more spontaneous manner.  

3.     Be Helpful and Engaging: All your readers are wondering: what’s in it for me? Aside from the fact that you let them contemplate your beautiful pictures and read the story of your life, what else are you willing to bring to the table? The key is to provide real value to your readers, before trying to convert them into buyers. If you’re a blogger and you let your blog visitors admire your outfit of the day (#ootd on Instagram, in case you didn’t know), tell them where they could find the products that you’re flaunting with such great pride. Provide timely answers to their questions. Offer additional details to keep the conversation going. As long as you know everything about your audience and your own field of activity, you should never run out of things to say. Be witty, be friendly, but most importantly, be yourself, since everybody else is already taken.

4.     Let Your Readers Hop on Board: Let your readers take control. Ask your clients, prospects and collaborators to share their ideas with you. You should create the context and come up with adequate commentary for the input that they’ve sent you. According to Heidi Cohen, this type of web content that resembles a collage may enable you to lift old barriers in content creation and profit from the expertise (and the level of popularity) of your favorite contributors.

5.     Invest Time and Energy in Curated Content: Use interesting, trending third party web writing to make a statement. Add your comments to the original article and present it from your perspective. Don’t forget to include changes in images, headline, tone and also context. Here’s an extra tip: leverage the incredible power of seduction of amazing photos that are relevant to your topic and write magnetic, attention-grabbing headlines to make your visitors read the rest of the article and interact with you. According to Moz, content curation lets you organize and collect some of the most existing things that may be floating around the Internet without a lifejacket and share them for the greater good. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to curate content and prove that you are a true connoisseur.

6.     Use Comments as User-Oriented Social Content: Stay active on social media platforms. Share and tweet like there’s no tomorrow. Monitor your readers’ reaction to your messages. Feel free to extract some of the most interesting and relevant comments posted by your readers (on your blog, website or social media profiles) and include them in your next piece to prove a point. This action will reflect the fact that you care about your readers and put a high price on their opinion.

By reaching the contributor status, you followers will feel valued and stimulated to maintain a more meaningful conversation with you in the long run. At the end of the day, your mission is to dump the unnecessary baggage and make more room for your readers and their needs, desires and opinions in your own web writing.