I’m a bit of a hard-core social media user and I’ve been doing web and content development for many years now. Because I have been online for a very long time (pre-graphical Web), I am pretty attuned to what constitutes authentic and cooperative behavior online. There are things that set apart the altruistic contributor (check out this cool thing!), for instance, from the self-serving ones (buy my stuff!).
If you do nothing else this year, consider shifting your social media strategy to encompass increasingly pro-social guidelines. The more you give, the more the community will give back, but it needs to be done with a sensitive hand. Think of communities as gardens to be cultivated, and your social media activities then have structure, focus and value. Without a doubt, value is the currency on the Web, and the more value you create, the more people will flock to you.
Here are ten ways to create maximum info value with social media:
Make your social media less about them and more about you.
This is a very counter-intuitive principle, but it’s an important one. You can opt to use social media as tools for yourself, your organizations and your followers – to enhance communication, meme sharing, bonding, etc. It is okay to promote yourself and the things you love, but do it sensitively and with thought to the value you are creating for your community. If they are a community of gut-busting punners, then by all means, pun all day. But if it’s a professional community, it’s best to be very judicious. I frequently lurk for a while to get the vibe before I start making contributions myself.
I use Twitter and Pinterest primarily as social bookmarking tools. This goes back to my love affair with Delicious, an early social bookmarking and meta-tagging app.
I’m an info slinger, so managing info is a big issue for me. Twitter’s hash tags are super easy and allow me to expand the potential relevance of a find to much broader groups of people. Twitter is also great for creating transparency around internal organizational dialogue (the positive and potentially public bits) regarding project themes, methods, etc. It’s also great for demonstrating how well you know the space you occupy, just by virtue of knowing who’s who and what’s what. This lets you leverage other people’s contributions and that promotes them and saves you work. I have one or two Twitter presences that I really only use to retweet as a way of archiving and sharing.
I love Pinterest because I can unite a bunch of interests in a visually pleasing way. Exactly like those scrapbooks of pretty papers, pressed flowers and ephemera that the ladies used to make and share. I used to use Google Notebook a lot, but it had nowhere near the level of visual appeal that Pinterest does. Just the sheer uniformity and quality of images on Pinterest sets it apart from nearly every other user generated content spaces I have encountered. Remember those early MySpace pages and the love affair with animated GIFs? The Web was formerly a pretty ugly place. Pinterest applies order to chaos with elegant results.
When you think about your social media strategy, think of yourself establishing orbits around things you love and creating magnetism (good contributions) for others to orbit you. Document your finds and your learning journey into primers for the uninitiated. I have infiltrated a couple of communities by using that strategy. The Web quickly rewards people who create value and fresh perspectives. Leaving comments in blogs, tweeting, sharing, etc. are all pretty low effort ways to establish yourself. It’s important to use a consistent identity, though, and avoid the flame fests at all costs.
Something we humans have been doing for a very lone time. Online it translates into share, share, share, and share some more. But make sure that what you’re sharing is relevant to your audience.
Your childhood friends (Facebook, most likely) care about adorable videos of your children – your Linked In colleagues? Not so much. But Linked In can be a great vehicle for establishing cred quickly in a space. You can ask questions or answer them, post useful updates, comment in groups, etc.
There are a couple of best kept secrets in the social media verse and Quora is one of them. It’s certainly not everyone’s bag, but for generalists it’s Nirvana. The quality of contributions tends to be very good, there is a “Be Nice” policy, and a real names only policy, and moderators who occasionally step on toes. But something about it seems to work, in the creating-order-from-chaos kind of way.
Information chaos is one of our biggest challenges and having a place where you know the cream rises can be very handy. It’s also the place where you can ask literally ANY question and expect a reasonable response from VERY knowledgeable people.
Internet people crave opportunities to engage.
Everyone loves rewards. We should be thinking more about how to reward people for their contributions online, both tangibly and intangibly. Pinterest contests get people pinning your content. A $40 gift card can go a LONG way in motivating semi-volunteer content developers and community managers. And it goes a long way towards letting them know how much you appreciate them.
Think about how to inter-connect your social media outlets and efforts. Facebook, Twitter and Linked In all offer easy integration with each other, and there are many widgets available such as widget box, that allow you to embed your real-time streams into other locations.
This is great because it keeps your content fresh, without having to do a bunch more work.
If you are one of those people or organizations who is heavy into social media, there are a whole crop of tools that make stream management so much easier. About.me lets you aggregate your streams in one place for easy viewing (by you or others). Some are focused more on publishing (TweetDeck), others on analytics and other influence/reach metrics:
More Reading: Social Media Management Tools
It’s pretty likely we have no idea what the Facebook-equivalent social media site will be in say, 2020. Our excitement these last few years is that many of the tools have also allowed a range of social phenomena we have really never seen before.
One of the lovely things about humans is that we will adapt a new tool to many anticipated and unanticipated outcomes. Early movers (celebrity tweet auctions, etc.) can sometimes find a massive advantage with one clever idea. Things occasionally go viral and enchant millions. This is a level of reach and connectedness we have never known. Obama sends me emails and Lady Gaga posts Facebook messages telling me what TV she is watching.
What’s incredible about social media is what they enable in our culture, not whether it’s called Facebook or Twitter. Just because you have a hammer, it doesn’t make everything else nails and thinking it does will limit you from acting nimbly on new opportunities.
Certain industries really benefit from social media and are natural innovators as a result. If you’re looking for ideas, check out sectors like food & beverage, travel and video games – anything with a passionate following that can be leveraged into a vibrant and self-sustaining community.
More Reading: 7 cool social media trends in the travel industry
Social media networks are your front line to your most wired communities. Getting to know those people via comprehensive observation can help you find opportunities to engage and enchant, in ways you’ve probably never thought of. But those people can also be your biggest advocates and informants, even the grouchy ones. Listening and converting (by responding to questions, requests and concerns) are incredibly powerful tools in building a community that is enthusiastic about you. But there are also many practical benefits, like the ability to provide quicker/better support, educate potential customers, promote causes and efforts that are meaningful to you. These are magic tools in the right hands, but their mastery requires a lot of trial and error. In this case, the best way to learn is to jump in. Social media coordinators are great, but even better if you are the CEO or someone working on potential products/services.
Many real life empires rest on social media these days. But try thinking about the people whose info needs you serve, and win by serving them better and better, a bit every day.
Guest Author: Lisa Galarneau is a freelance anthropologist who specializes in digital and social media.