Growing up my parents instilled (forced) their kids into social situations to teach us how to interact with adults. I remember a lot of firm handshakes with eye contact. You could tell a lot about a person just from that brief moment.
The other day, reflecting on Gary Vaynerchuck's The Thank You Economy, I wondered how eye contact works in social media. Although I participate regularly in social networking, it feels less "solid", grounded, and personal than the good old handshake and look into the eyes.
So how do I adapt to this digital world? How can I be more genuine and warm in my social engagement?
Both as an individual using social media and as a brand, the following tips can help you be more personal and personable in your online interactions:
As a person
- Comment when your expertise is relevant; don’t pretend to know things when you don’t. Ask a question if you’re genuinely interested in learning more. Or, if you enjoyed an article or blog post but don’t have anything to add, you can leave a note starting with “great article”; but be specific about what you liked or learned so it doesn’t sound too generic.
- Don’t pitch. Oftentimes people will troll any website or post that is the least bit pertinent to what they’re selling. I’ve seen many comments like, “Interesting perspective. Visit mycompanywebsite.com for more info on vaguely-relevant-blog-topic.” This sounds spammy and robotic, and it will deter people from taking you seriously. Instead, build credibility by adding your own insight to the conversation; include your company info on your profile on whatever social or blogging network you’re using, so if people are interested in what you offer, they can find it.
- Share others’ content. Sharing is the highest form of flattery in social media. Even more than “favoriting” a post or leaving an encouraging comment, sharing says that you consider the content to be high enough quality to be valuable to others in your network. A few shares can lead to a mutualistic relationship of sharing and backlinking, the social media equivalent of talking someone up to other acquaintances.
As a brand
- Reply. Answer questions, thank people for positive comments or sharing a post. Whether you reply to all comments or a select many will depend on the size of your follower base and their level of engagement, but the more responsive you are the better. Including the commenter’s name in your response is an appreciated gesture. Don’t pitch a specific product, download, etc. in a reply unless you know it’s directly relevant to the comment, e.g. an accessory to supplement a product they recently bought and gave a positive review.
- Reward. From shoppers clubs to birthday coupons, people like to be recognized and rewarded for being a loyal fan of a brand. Some companies have taken this idea to the next level with social media; either by rewarding customers who tweeted or posted about the company, such as Four Seasons has done, or by using customer rewards to create a share-worthy content piece, such as Spanair and JetBlue have done. For companies with smaller budgets, social media blogger Aaron Lee offers a great list of 33 ways to reward customers that won’t break the bank.
- Space out promotional content. Again, avoid being spammy. Intersperse product announcements, calls to download, subscribe, etc. among healthy doses of industry-relevant articles, quotes, photos, and other more shareable items.
- Celebrate employees. A few different ways to do this:
- Feature employees on the company blog, such as an interview in Q&A format. Discuss their job, an article they had published, a class they are teaching, a new product or technique they are developing, etc.
- Showcase your staff’s wide range of expertise by having different people contribute blog posts, e.g. a how-to guide for using a product courtesy of a product expert. A post signed by a President or VP can more personally address a critical piece of company news or broader areas of concern.
- Retweet or reblog posts by individuals in the company who have their own blogs or social media profiles.
- Celebrate customers. Adapt steps 1 and 3, above.