Community Is About Engagement, Not Size
Back in March, 2012 when I wrote and first published this post and was doing some informal social media consulting, buying Twitter and Facebook fans was a big trend. I’m out of the social media world nowadays, but I assume it still happens.
One of the most common mistakes made in internet marketing is to obsess about size. The idea that you’re company needs 1,000,000 followers on Twitter and another 1,000,000 Facebook Fans in order to make their social media efforts worth it is utterly absurd. Here’s the way I look at it:
1. Create a Great Product
If you really offer an excellent product or service, people will talk about it. Since most people are connected to at least one social network, it’s almost certain that the communication channels are already open.
2. Monitor Discussion
Yes, set up your Facebook and Twitter pages, but don’t worry too much about how many people “Like” or “Follow” you. Pay attention to what people are saying about your brand publicly. Don’t worry, this isn’t as time-consuming as it sounds. In fact there are many free tools available to help you do it here.
3. Harness Engagement
Okay, you’ve been watching the airways and posting occasionally for a few weeks, and BAM! Someone finally talked about you on their blog! Whether their mention was positive or negative, you need to respond. If they voiced a complaint about your product, then refer their complaint to customer service and open a ticket for them. Don’t wait for them to report it; be proactive! If they spoke well of your product, then thank them. If they’re really advocating your brand and they have a big following, offer to give them a free limited time upgrade or a discount off their next purchase. I’ve been offered dozens of free books, products, and discounts just because I engage on Twitter and Google+. Did I speak well of those companies later? You bet your ass I did! I became one of their biggest fans, and I think most people would be grateful for rewards like this.
4. Start Saying Something
Spend 6-8 months scouting the social media landscape, responding to mentions, and learning the ropes before saying a single thing about your product. Yep, I know how extreme that sounds, but it is the best way to build an honest following. These people are your core. You know they’ll stick with you and help push your message out to their networks, but it’s super important that you don’t spam them. Dedicate a single post every week to your company. The rest of your posts should highlight partners, customers, industry news, and everything else going on in the world. I know, it’s tough to keep your mouth shut, but you have to. Learn to appreciate listening more than talking.
5. Experiment and Track
The final step in developing a strategy based on engagement not numbers is to measure your performance. Try posting and replying to many different people at different times of day. Try posting photos. Post a picture of your cat. See which methods get the most reaction from your audience, and focus on the methods that work. Don’t waste time posting things on social media that your audience doesn’t like or respond to. Listen to them and do your best to serve them and foster the community.