Want true social engagement? The reasons why your social media program is probably wrong and you’re a long way from it

Considering social media is so widely adopted today, it’s amazing to see how quickly it’s grown. Once upon a time people had to write letters to one another, heaven forbid *I jest*… But while Facebook has taken much of the glory for the proliferation of social media, many credit the invention of the medium to sites that launched 10 years earlier, in 1997. At this time the web had one million sites, whereas today the indexed web contains at least one billion. At social media’s inception, SixDegrees.com let users create profiles and list friends, AOL Instant Messenger let users chat live, and Blackboard was created as an online course management system for the education community. So with the knowledge we’ve had 20 years to get our head around social, why on earth do so many people still get it wrong?

Seriously, I’d like to know? There’s a comments section at the bottom of this Blog – I would love your thoughts. Social, and by that I mean social media, is still often as awkward as watching a first date in a restaurant – stilted conversation with enquiring glances. Often it seems to me that the thinking follows on from infamous pyramid selling scams – the logic seemingly, get rich quick… must mean get followers quick… but in reality it simply means losing engagement even quicker!

In one of my earlier Blog posts I wrote about what engagement is. To quickly recap, to engage is to occupy, attract, or involve someone’s interest or attention. There is one word that stands out here – INVOLVE! We are not simply in the business of attracting someone’s interest – that’s what flashing lights do. We are fundamentally about influencing.

That said, here are four things to avoid if you want true social engagement:

Call a spade a spade, or don’t call it at all! Pet peeve of mine – people persisting on sending Linkedin endorsements for skills and expertise that they’re in no position to give. This ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ model is social media at its worst. If you’ve never worked with the person to see it firsthand, or worse still have never even met the person (yes you know who you are – I’m talking to you guys sending random requests to bump up your connection numbers), DON’T endorse people. You’ll get more followers and engagement by building credibility, and this cheap trick is the antithesis of that.

Know you’re audience! It seems ridiculous to have to flag this, as it’s comms 101, but people still seem to forget it. Random ‘@ASCommsTweeter’ tweets from people that aren’t sharing anything with you (except potentially a computer virus) with the vein hope you’ll follow them, are missing the point. It’s for the same reason Facebook’s “poke” feature is redundant! If you are going to @ someone – do it because you know they should see it. Random @s are like unsolicited email – UNSUBSCRIBE!

Being active doesn’t mean being social! I rate systems that allow you to automate and schedule posts, because it does allow you to scale in ways you otherwise couldn’t, but you can’t rely on them. It’s a fine line between using them to become more efficient and losing touch. Social media is about interaction. It’s live. It’s real. And to be honest there is something a little off about posts from people that imply they never sleep. There are more than a few examples of organisations that have been caught out with this as well, when they’ve failed to review scheduled posts based on current events. You should be active on social, yes, but don’t overdo it. Organisations pay huge sums to humanise their brands – don’t forget, that’s the point. You need to be relatable, not mechanical.

Do your research! Acclaimed social luminary Ted Rubin has been quoted as saying “I believe Twitter is a tool that leads to other forms of social sharing. I consider Twitter a place to lay the groundwork where other people pick up things. Twitter is a seeding medium and a place to build engagement and interaction. It is not a broadcast medium (although can be used that way at times). It is not about the quantity of people listening at once, but the ability to lay it out there for those whose attention are drawn to what you have to say at any given moment.” If you want to seed content strategically, you need to place it intentionally. You might have great material, but it needs to be indexed. Don’t use a # just because you think it’s cute or funny. Know which #s people you want to speak with are using. This means doing a bit of legwork before you begin! It’s common sense, right?

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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