Success for businesses in today’s marketplace comes with the necessity for a robust and efficient online presence. With the dozens of social media platforms available, and nearly 2.5 billion people using them (a number expected to grow to 3.02 billion by 2021), there really is no excuse for a business to not be engaging with its audience.
But social media is more than building cleverly disguised self-promotional campaigns. It’s about genuinely connecting with the people who pay for your products and services in a way that is valuable to them – whether for informational or entertainment purposes.
Consumers are fickle. Their wants and needs can change on a daily, or sometimes, hourly basis depending on what’s going on in the world around them. The internet has leveled the playing field and made it possible for companies to but their brand in front of international audiences with a simple click of the mouse. Such a powerful tool, however, comes with the burden of posting responsibly so as not to offend or ostracize any one group of people, which could have a detrimental impact on your business’s reputation. Here are some things to keep in mind when engaging your audience.
Fact-checking is non-negotiable
Morgan Freeman, Dead at age 80. October 5, 2017, was a sad day on social media feeds around the world. On that day people woke up to the spreading news that one of our most favorite actors had passed away. Except, Morgan Freeman isn’t dead.
While his is just one of many in a long line of celebrity death hoaxes, today’s world is one filled with misinformation (false information spread UNINTENTIONALLY) and disinformation (false information spread INTENTIONALLY). Both of which, however, can easily be curbed by simple fact-checking measures and ensuring the credibility of cited sources.
You might have the best intentions when sharing news stories as a public service announcement (PSA), but you absolutely must be sure that what you’re sharing is accurate. Websites such as Snopes were specifically built to combat the spread of false information, no matter the reasons behind it.
Further, social media also makes it possible to search out whether the source of information is legitimate. Just look them up and see what other information or user comments have been left. As a last resort, you can always “Google it” to see what other media outlets are reporting regarding the story you wish to share with your followers. It costs only a few minutes of your time up front, but failing to check the facts could ultimately cost you your reputation in the end.
Politics, Religion, and Humor
Politics and religion are two of history’s most polarizing topics and have fueled intense debate for millennia. A recent poll found that for various reasons, one in three Americans dreads discussing politics at Thanksgiving. It seems, though, as if anything and everything is fair game on social media. That is, unless you’re a business looking to keep your customers happy.
No matter what side of any divide you stand on (and therefore, your business), if you publicly “choose sides” via your online presence, you’re sure to exclude major segments of society. Want to wish your followers a Merry Christmas? What about the Jewish community celebrating Hanukkah, or those who celebrate Kwanzaa? Maybe it would be better to celebrate everyone and their faiths by sending out a big collective “Happy Holidays” message.
The same goes for humor. What Americans think is funny doesn’t fly in the UK where humor is a bit drier. And for some cultures, what is perceived as humorous by one can be regarded as utterly offensive by another. Sometimes, humor can be a useful tool for having your content shared to increase brand awareness, but knowing what is appropriate fodder for comedy is a must.
Enriching content over ill-planned attention grabbers (aka “click bait”)
Way back in a 2007 blog post, author, Brian Solis quipped, “Social Media Is About Sociology Not Technology.” As a species, we humans prefer to be hooked by engaging stories that share the experiences that make us, well, human.
And when we find a good source for those kinds of stories, we tend to revisit it. Unlike the sites that lure us in with enticing titles, only to assault us with the need to click through 20 pages of ad-laden tripe to get to the one thing we wanted to read.
When companies attempt to engage an audience, their campaigns must take into account the psychological dynamic. Merely creating a well-manufactured campaign with the intent of going viral won’t work. Think about which articles from your own social media feeds you click on and read? Are they stories of human triumph against the odds, or articles that appeal to your personal belief system and values?
Your social media followers are clicking on stories, articles, and ads for the same reasons. They want their lives to be enhanced by whatever content they are consuming. Give them life-enriching value when you deliver content and leave the smarmy attempts at capturing audience attention with click bait titles for your competition.