So you've uploaded a snappy profile picture, crafted a swanky bio and officially launched your social presence on Twitter, Facebook and the works. You start to get a few fans and followers, but now what? You keep hearing that it's important to engage in conversations, but where do you begin? Perhaps you've made a few attempts to connect, but without much success. Have no fear - with the small exception of spiders, absolutely hate them - here are a few quick and easy tips to move you toward a dialogue with your peeps.
1. Listen To What's Being Said
Remember that if people are liking or following you it's because you're doing something right or creating something that they feel they can connect with. Do a little bit of reconnaissance work and check out what your audience is saying with your competitors. Look at the topics they're discussing and pay attention to the language and words that they're using. This can give you some good insight into what they want to discuss, as well as the tone and style that they're more likely to respond to. Try to emulate a similar approach in your own interactions to get the ball moving and then tailor it to your own brand.
2. Be Open Minded
Depending on what your brand, product or service is all about some of your fans may share some extreme perspectives or questionable notions regarding it. Before you shy away or shut down the opportunity for a conversation, make an attempt to learn more from them. Great ideas can be found in unlikely places and some folks might have a tough time conveying their purpose in 140 characters or less. As challenging as it might seem try to be receptive and make an honest effort to interact with them.
3. Keep It Real
Be sincere and genuine when you take part in an online conversation. When someone has a gripe or a problem with your brand then it's up to you to address it. Put your excuses in a box, lock them up and throw away the key. Instead, opt for an honest to goodness exchange that reflects your personality in a friendly way. Just remember that with online conversations you can't see one another or hear one another and sometimes intention can get lost in translation. Consider what you want to say before you say it and think about how it will be interpreted on the receiving end too.
4. Show Some Gratitude
It's unfortunate that negatives seem to garner more attention than positives in our society. So, when people tell you that they love your latest blog post or when they share an experience that your recent article reminded them about, use it as an opportunity to thank them. If you receive a thumbs up or get a pat on the back don't hesitate to show your appreciation. Reciprocation is a super conversation starter.
5. Stay Positive
No one likes a Debbie-downer. People are more likely and more willing to connect with someone who is optimistic. All of us experience bad days and we've all had an occasional rough patch, but letting those low-points trickle into your conversation is a big no-no. Put on a smile, swallow your happy pill and give your online conversations a positive angle. In case you need reminding, don't forget what happened between Nestle and Greenpeace when negativity consumed the online dialogue via Facebook.
When you break it down, having a conversation through social media, commenting or other online outlet, isn't really that much different from engaging in a face-to-face chit-chat. Politeness, empathy and lightheartedness will not only help you begin a conversation, but they'll also help you sustain them moving forward.