Imagine you invite a potential business partner to your home for dinner. You don’t know the guest well, but you don’t attempt to create conversation. Instead, you sit quietly through the meal, listening to one another chew. When your guest asks you a question, you just keep eating, as if you don’t hear her. When she asks for a drink of water, you tell her all about how you have the finest, coldest water on earth, but then don’t offer her a glass. When the meal finally ends, the guest asks you the best way to get home from your house. You just shrug and wish her luck. Oh, and you keep her coat.
The above scenario is so ridiculously rude that you probably can’t imagine it actually happening. However, it describes how many brands interact with their audiences. The consumer invites the brand into their social media homes, only to be ignored and fed messages about the brand’s superiority with no offer of proof or any sign of credibility. Of course, the brand will take anything it can get from the consumers (personal information, for example), but the relationships often is one-sided.
It’s no wonder then that people dislike friending, following or liking most brands on social media. They don’t get anything from those relationships except noise in their feeds.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Brands should seek to represent these four principles of successful social media:
Brands need to participate on social media. This means engaging with their audience, not just bombarding them with one-way sales-type messages. Brands can interact with their online communities by answering questions and thanking those who respond to questions they post.
Authenticity is one of those difficult things to describe. You know it when you see it. You recognize even more so when it’s missing. Being authentic online may be described as engaging without forced or false attitudes. This doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t be thoughtful in choosing the content of their professional messages, but they also should be honest, sincere and personable.
We follow brands because of what we think they can do for us or because of what they already do for us. Basically, we like them or we think we could if we knew more. Brands should take this motivation into consideration when engaging with their audience. Being an information resource for the audience helps earn trust and garner attention. What brand wouldn’t want to be the “go to” source for information in their industry?
Being resourceful can result in the brand becoming a thought leader in the industry. This means the brand must be a credible source of information, building a reputation of being knowledgable. The brand also must be trustworthy to maintain credibility. Trustworthiness is built through being an expert resource, but also by being transparent in sharing information and explaining decisions that impact the audience.
You wouldn’t invite a potential business partner to dinner only to ignore her and take her property. If you did, you certainly shouldn’t expect your professional relationship to continue. Why is it then that so many brands think they can create social media accounts and people will run to their computers to expose themselves to their constant sales pitches? It just doesn’t work that way.