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December 30, 2014

Make Your Business a Social Media Butterfly

Ruth Hill

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Last week, I received a text message from a friend I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. He told me he was about to visit my old school, in the town where I grew up. I was amazed - and thrilled!

There’s something about the overlapping ripples in peoples' lives that I find immensely satisfying. Perhaps it’s because it makes the world feels smaller, more familiar and less threatening, or maybe it’s the sense of shared experience that it creates.

I believe that the need to find commonality, to make a connection with others, is hardwired within us. Small wonder, then, that social media has become such a phenomenon. It magnifies our ability to share our experiences with each other, extending and amplifying the reach of those overlapping ripples in our lives.

As individuals, we seem to understand intuitively how to connect with other users on social media, but, for businesses, the approach doesn’t seem so clear. In the drive to create that elusive “viral” content, all sorts of rules have emerged, some obvious, some almost mystical (to me at least), but perhaps we’re overthinking it? Maybe the key to "cracking" social media is to look at the things that make people connect so intuitively, and build on that.

So, with the holiday season upon us, here are my four party-inspired tips for turning your business into a social media butterfly (and to becoming more popular at parties, too):

#1 Make Them Feel Good

If you want to be the heart and soul of the party, you need plenty of Charisma, and the same applies to your social media strategy. Charismatic individuals have a certain 'je ne sais quoi' that makes them exceptionally engaging, likeable, trustworthy, inspiring and warm - and they do this, not by being preoccupied with themselves, but by making other people feel special.

If we look at what appeals to the most tech-savvy element of society, the Millennials, we learn that the most popular brands are those that speak their language, that make them look good and feel good. According to Norty Cohen, the founder of Moosylvania, the company that did the research, this means companies that “listen to them, are open and honest, remember their names, and stay true to who they are.” In other words, companies with charisma.

#2 Say Something They Can Relate to

According to Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that people love to share information about themselves. But how can we, as businesses, persuade them to share our ideas?

It’s one thing to write a catchy headline that will encourage readers to click through to your articles, and another to create something that will hold their attention all the way to the end. But, according to Buzzfeed, if you want to make content that people will share, it has to say something about them.

Remember, 2014 was the year that “Selfie” became part of the public lexicon. And what does the selfie do? It says, “Here I am, this is what I am doing, this is a little piece of me that I want you to see.” Likewise, if you want people to share your content, it needs to be something that aligns with people’s values and ideals – something they can identify with, and are happy for others to associate them with.

#3 Listen More and Plan Less

Nobody wants to be trapped at the office party by Flora the borer, who spends the entire conversation waiting for you to stop talking, so that she can say her piece. Or what about Dan the fan, who only wants to talk about one subject, ad nauseam?

These types of people might be having a great time talking about themselves, but their self-obsessed narrative quickly makes them unpopular. The same applies to your social media strategy.

Naturally, you want to use social media to share your company’s perspectives and ideas, but, instead of pushing your content out there and then putting all your energies into planning your next campaign, use it as an opportunity to find out what your customers value - what’s going on in their hearts and minds - and tailor your next communication accordingly.

Think about your social media strategy in terms of a conversation. “Act like a person, not an entity” say digital marketing advisors Convince & Convert, but not just any person - not Dan or Flora!

#4 Invite Active Participation

Which brings me onto my final tip. The whole point of any party is participation. Sure, some people prefer to stay on the sidelines, but that’s what party games were invented for - to get everyone to join in with the fun.

If you want people to come to your party - and bring their friends, too - you’ve got to let them participate. According to YouTube’s trends manager, Kevin Allorca, one of the biggest characteristics of social media is that it changes the way we relate to the content. We are no longer passive consumers. In Allorca’s words, “We don’t just enjoy, we participate.”

This stands in complete contrast with the “transmission” mode of communication we’ve become so accomplished at in the past. Many businesses still think in terms of “tell and sell,” which is great for communicating what your brand is about, but not so effective in social media, where you rely on your audience to define your popularity.

At MindTools, we’ve been experimenting with this for some time, with calls to action, discussion forums and #MindToolsTips, but I feel there’s more to be learned in this respect.

Anyone up for a game of charades?

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