We've been led to believe that social media is, well, social. That it's this place where we can all hang out online and bond over mutual interests. And when you are running your own business and doing your own social media it can feel disheartening when you don't get the interaction you expect. That's because we've also been told what a great marketing tool social media is, but the problem is when you start treating it more like a marketing tool instead of way to connect with people, you're doing it wrong as they say.
Think of It Like a Party
By now, you may have noticed that I like thinking about social media as though it were a party or other "IRL" (in real life) social situations. Largely because we too often get behind a computer and lose our manners... in lots of ways. And when it comes to business this gets lost even more.
If someone were to throw you a big party for an important event in your life (think marriage, graduation, retirement, moving away, etc) you would expect all of your good friends, friends from your past that you occasionally keep in touch with, some acquaintances and the randoms who always wind up at these things to be there. Now at this party, not everyone is friends with everyone, let alone knows everyone. So, you will probably find yourself going from group to group to socialize. You wouldn't stand at the front of the room at this party and just blurt out questions, or even worse, just start sharing random facts about yourself.
At these big parties, speeches are often given by the guest of honor, but it's not usually the first thing they do when they walk through the door. They have worked the room a bit. They've said hi to people, thanked people for coming and asked people how THEY are doing.
From this analogy we learn three things:
- You should be interacting with people where they are at on social media and not just posting stuff to your account and hoping for interaction.
- Think of pieces of content you publish as stuff that will not always resonate with everyone but will resonate very highly with certain groups. Don't get bummed out if not every piece of content is a hit. Just like in "real life" people don't love every joke you make or story you tell, the same happens on social media.
- Don't make things all about you. Being social is a two-way street.
People are Braver in Numbers
I find that this is true in two ways. The first is that there seems to be a critical mass with every account before people will start to comment. This varies on the type of followers you have and also depends on the network you are using, but often if you have less than 1000 followers and you ask a question, your responses will be hit and miss. This largely has to do with the laws of probability regarding if someone will see your post, then from there the small percentage of people who typically comment anyway. That doesn't mean you should try with lower follower counts, but just set your expectations accordingly.
The second way numbers matter is that people often HATE to be the first one to comment on something (let's ignore the anomaly that is the comments on news stories on Facebook and the randoms who comment "First"... those aren't usually real customers). They will do it if other people are doing it, but for whatever reason it will feel odd to be the first. This goes back into the critical mass of followers. You need to statistically have enough "brave" people in your follower base, as well, to bring in more comments. Though, even with a larger following, you can still hear crickets. Which brings us to the next point...
Keep at It
Along with being braver in numbers, people also respond to consistency. If they follow your account, would they expect you to ask them to interact? Are you asking a lot of questions? Posting content that solicits responses? It might not work the first few times or even every time, but if people see that you are making a genuine effort to engage them, they will eventually respond.
That said, in the beginning you might have to experiment a bit. See what works. And just know that there is certain content you will put out there that is more of an advertising nature that will often get less engagement. But as we mentioned, that shouldn't be your predominant content.
Stop Comparing Your Account to Others
Finally, stop looking at other accounts as a measure of how successful you are with engagement. While it's true that I always advocate for you to know where your business stands in comparison to your competition, don't think that their social strengths mean you have a weakness. Observing other brands is great to see how other strategies and tactics can be translated for your business, but that doesn't mean it will look exactly the same.
I just listed a bunch of variables as to why your account could be different (size of audience, expectations, content, etc.) and I didn't even talk about a big one-- personality. Your brand and your customers might just have more low-key personalities that tend to observe and then engage. If your brand and your customers aren't chatty extroverted social butterflies don't fret. Know what good engagement looks like for you and compare yourself to that.
How have you engaged your customers on social media? What works and what doesn't? Let us know in the comments below!