Part of the fun of being a communication professional today is the variety of platforms available to share information. Social media in particular offers a delicious menu of choices. But having and posting to a Facebook account, Twitter profile, or YouTube page isn’t enough. These popular services should be viewed as tools. All tools should be properly used for best results.
Those who use these tools daily hear over and over that social media is a conversation. It is no longer acceptable to talk at your audience members. You must talk with them and listen closely. To have meaningful, lasting conversations, you must also know your audience. Communicating without knowing who is on the other side of the screen can result in missed connections. Furthermore, maintaining positive relationships will serve your organization well in the long run.
Define your audience
You probably already use social media tools regularly. But have you identified your audiences and the most appropriate ways to communicate with them? Have you conducted research to determine who is already connecting with you online?
There are methods in place to help you get started. Facebook offers insights about your fans you can already access on your profile. If you’re using social media to send people to your web site, Google Analytics can be a powerful, free way to track visitors. Sometimes, though, you have to get in the dirt and check out the profiles of your followers to learn more about them.
Keep in mind that nearly every organization has more than one audience. Each needs to be individually defined and understood.
Determine your audience’s motivation
People become involved with organizations online for many reasons. Do you know why people have become your followers? If not, go to the source. Explore how they are already communicating with you.
Over the past couple months, Einstein Brothers has used Facebook to promote at least two separate weeks of free bagels. Over 600,000 fans later, it’s safe to say the campaigns were well-received. One day during a promotion, the offers tab wasn’t directing fans to a coupon. It was giving an error message. Was this understandable? Of course. Technology hits bumps from time to time. Did Einstein get a wall full of comments? You bet. Their audience was motivated by a desire for free bagels. When they couldn’t get the coupon, they let the company know.
This isn’t to say every audience needs free products. Often, people simply want to be heard. Audience members are happy to reveal their motivations. They’ve become your followers for a reason. Check out how they’re interacting. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Establish goals for each tool
Social media tools should be used to work toward goals. These goals must be defined and shared with your entire team for best results. The key is to ensure each goal is in line with the audience’s motivation. Goals should be unique for each social media platform. You may find you have different audiences for different accounts, and should use that knowledge to determine what is most appropriate to promote to each.
Once you’ve established your goals, make sure they’re measurable. However, don’t focus only on that which can be counted. The great thing about social media is that an initial goal can be simply getting your followers to start talking—with you and among themselves.
Make sure you revisit your goals periodically and allow them to evolve with your organization.
Join the conversation
Social media should always be used to facilitate conversations that are beneficial for you and your audience. These conversations can fuel best practices and determine the actions that will be well-received by supporters. In turn, those supporters will feel valued by you and will be more likely to help you succeed.
Ashley Bunk lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she works in nonprofit communications and as a freelance writer. She is an active runner, traveler, reader, and skier. Ashley co-authors the inspiration-focused web site www.365inspirations.com. You can connect with her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ashbunk.