Valentine's Day. At the 'most romantic time of the year', our thoughts turn to love and devotion - nurturing those special connections. And when it comes to managing an online community, a proper relationship beats a fling any day. So why do so many brands and marketers still treat social media as a numbers game?
Be honest. Do you get around the block? Are you the sort of social media user that likes to post, tweet, reply, re-tweet, re-pin and share left, right and centre?
Do you get butterflies in your stomach when you see that your 'number' (of contacts) has leapt up over the weekend? Do you frequently find yourself in brief, exciting conversations with connections you've never spoken to before, only for it to go nowhere in the long term?
What's your number?
Let's face it: some of us just don't like to be tied down. And is it any wonder? The social media phenomenon has opened up a world of possibilities. So many people, so little time. It's tempting to get busy with as many connections as possible. Don't get me wrong; social media is all about interaction, and talking to strangers is to be encouraged. But it's not just about following; it should be about following through. Social media users who are all about racking up the numbers should take heed. Adding notches to your virtual bedpost is all very well, but you have to consider quality as well as quantity. It's very likely you've encountered business, or personal accounts with improbably high levels of following on Twitter or Facebook. We're all aware, of course, of the paid follower economy, that dark trade in which connections are bought and sold. But there's no need to pay for attentions. Avoiding shortcuts and using high-quality content and conversation to build a real community is the only way.
Businesses often adopt a friendly-but-arm's-length approach when it comes to social media. But don't be afraid to have personal conversations with members of your community. After you share a piece of content - perhaps an article, a picture or a link - you will hopefully receive some responses. While engagement metrics are important, don't get bogged down in how many people retweet or share. Instead reply to someone who has responded. Ask their opinion. Start a dialogue. It might seem time-consuming and inefficient to concentrate on a few, when you could be out sowing your wild oats. But a wide net is not always the right approach. Social media helps you identify the people who are really engaged with your brand - don't ignore them, get in a relationship with them.
These are your brand advocates and influencers
Take the time to nurture your relationships and you'll reap the results. Next time you launch a viral video, these are the people who will share it. When you need to publicise a new product, these are the people who will help spread the word. And if, as you should always be, you're looking for customer feedback, these are the ones who will give it to you. So learn to love them!