Social Media Audience Engagement: Five Things You Need to Know

Twitter Bird with $100 Bill

I was recently reminded (by tweets from marketing expert @alansee) that if you’re doing marketing, particularly when it comes to social media marketing, you have to stop thinking like your company, and start thinking like your customer.

With the advent of focused social media channels, the marketing pendulum may have swung back to the days before BBDO, where word of mouth in a community was the best and most effective way to get your product noticed.

Before you get into social media audience engagement, you’re going to have to accept that not everything can be monetized. Interactions with other human beings are one of those things, and the people who try are annoying and obnoxious. Just ask anyone.

1. Twitter is NOT a sales platform. It’s not that kind of route to market. Stop thinking it is. Twitter is a tool for engaging with experts, customers, and advisers. It’s for taking the temperature of your audience, for figuring out what your current and potential customers are talking about.

2. So Twitter’s a market research tool? In a way, but probably not how you’re used to market research. Traditional market research is used for gathering information about your customers so you slice them into demographics and figure out which customer types will respond best to specific types of marketing. Market research on Twitter is about discovering attitudes and interests in a way that no questionnaire ever could. If market research is about finding a specific stimulus for an audience to respond to, social media audience engagement is about finding out why they respond to that stimulus. It’s the fishing net, not the fish.

3. You can’t just be a Twitter consumer. In any community you have to be a ¬†contributor. If you’re not participating you’ll be ignored; but if you participate in ways incongruous with community standards, you’ll be ostracized. Time is precious, so if you’re expecting people to visit your Web site, you need to give them a reason.

4. Follow Friday. If you have followers who give great advice and provide useful information, use Follow Friday hashtags (#FF or #FollowFriday) to let your network know they’re worth following. Sure, you may get a mention, but social engagement is a pay-it-forward business, so shout out for the little guy. If you expect celebrity and investor Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) to follow you and re-tweet your stuff to his almost 7 million followers, you’re going to be disappointed. If you want to make a difference, help other Twitter users grow their networks.

5. You are who you follow. If you decide to follow the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, people will see that. Who you follow is a reflection of whose opinions you value. If you follow the KKK, be prepared to lose a lot of followers. It’s like real life. Be yourself, but understand that not everyone is going to like who you are, or what you stand for.

For businesses genuinely interested in getting ahead, the way forward doesn’t lie in getting a customer. It can be found in creating advocates. In the social media world, customer service is about paying it forward. And that’s where a lot of businesses will fail: they’ll ask where the ROI can be found. And the truth is that goodwill and reputation don’t show up in any obvious way in your company accounts.

But if you consistently under-deliver, disappoint customers, or spend all your time online talking about your great new MLM opportunity, you can be sure that your bottom line will reflect those engagement failings.

Follow me on Twitter, you know you want to.

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