Social media malpractice: driving one way on a two-way street

May 31, 2016
Social media malpractice: driving one way on a two-way street

Why are we born with two ears and one mouth? Because we should listen twice as much as we talk.

This centuries-old saying could have been written as a call-to-action for today’s crowded social media world.

The explosion of social media over the past decade has been nothing short of breathtaking. Today the flood gates are wide open, giving us an endless flow of digital tools to tell our stories. That’s the good news.  

Missing the Mark

But so many of us - organizations, brands and individuals - miss the mark in unlocking the powerful engine that social media offers for driving two-way engagement, relationships and influence.

This powerful medium is so often used – or misused – solely for blasting one-way messages, a practice that can generate widespread disengagement in an era that craves authenticity

Awesome Content Isn’t Enough

It doesn’t help that most social media commentary today zeros in on one topic: content quality. Conspicuously absent is rigorous discussion about the power of two-way engagement.

Of course content is crucial. But most social media champs – whether corporations, brands, celebrities, politicians, or not-for-profits - are figuring out that social media is the great relationship builder of the modern era.

They are using it to transform passive customers into loyal advocates, angry publics into friends, sceptics into fans, and idle users into donors. But sadly these social media champs are the minority.

The Social Media Driver’s Manual

Here are four things social media champs are doing right to drive influence:

1. Respond, Respond & Respond

Consumers and publics are talking directly to brands via Twitter, Facebook and a host of other channels in vast and growing numbers. These publics expect responses almost immediately, something social media champs understand.

Failure to respond can go bad very quickly and very publicly. See this recent study: Shunning Your Customers on Social published by Sprout Social.  

Then there’s the viral threat. Being alert and prepared to inject yourself into viral conversations about your brand can make the difference between a reputation disaster that spreads like wildfire and a relationship-building opportunity.

2. Be selective about your channels

There are hundreds of mainstream platforms in use across the social media ecosystem. Fifteen or so have emerged as standard universal channels, with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube leading the pack.

This flurry of channels triggers a temptation to rush on to numerous social media platforms to tell your story as widely as possible. This can be a mistake.

Social media champs analyze where their audiences are gathering, how they like to engage, and then master the mechanics of engaging on those channels.

3. Be your own spam buster

The prevailing trend of one-way social media blasting has helped transform us into an intensely spam-averse society. Successful users understand there is no bigger dis-engager than spam – or even perceived spam. They act as their own spam filter before posting content on any channels.

4. Dedicate resources to social media engagement

Ouch; this is the big challenge. Social media needs a dedicated resource to leverage the medium as an influential two-way channel. This is not easy in a corporate world averse to adding any untested resources. Wise players are biting the bullet, relentlessly showing the business value of social media and convincing their C-Suites to buy in.

Social media was designed to be a two-way street, not a one-way highway. For the leading organizations of tomorrow, social media will prove itself as the great relationship builder of the 21st century.

Andrew Pelletier, APR, ABC, is a public relations advisor, professor and blogger based in Toronto, Canada. He holds 25 years of senior executive communications experience across the corporate, government, consulting, academic and multinational sectors. He hosts the public relations blog.

Photo: Two-direction arrow via Shutterstock

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