Effective social media use has many similarities to ‘real life’ networking. The kinds of techniques that many of us use to make new connections and win people over can very easily be applied to the digital sphere – which is perhaps unsurprising as there is a human on the end of every social media account after all. We are taking a look at a few of the ideas that many of us use to foster connections and influence in the real world and seeing how they might be applied to make social media work better for business.

Negativity is damaging

Whether you’re interacting face to face or trying to win followers and gain attention via social media, if what you’re putting out is simply criticism, complaint or any other negative voice then people are going to start switching off. Using social media to criticise customers, to complain or to make damning statements will just create resentment, defensiveness and a desire to unfollow at the earliest possible moment.

Positivity is powerful

Just as the power of a smile can be uplifting and encouraging when you’re face to face – or even on the phone – so the expression of positive emotion in social media use can be similarly useful in making connections. Try using emoticons and emojis to give your content some personality that connects directly in this way. If you’re ‘smiling’ then you’re more likely to get smiles back and this kind of fun content can be much more effective than just words alone.

Personalise responses

Remembering – and using – people’s names instantly makes you seem more genuine and interested in real life and this is the same online. If you’re responding via social media, try to use that person’s name – be careful not to misspell it or use the wrong name as that can cause them to instantly switch off.

Be interested

A genuine interest in your social media followers will translate in the same way as being genuinely interested in colleagues and clients in your business environment. Create content that they will actually want to read or interact with, reply to comments directed at your business, use social media listening to find conversations about your business or sector and join them. Proactively demonstrating interest in someone – and what they are saying – is a very powerful tool in any context.

Appreciate your following

None of us likes to be taken for granted and a little appreciation can go a long way. Use your social media to show – and tell – your customers that you appreciate them. As long as this is honest, sincere and specific (i.e. in terms of how they have helped and supported your business) it should generate connection and loyalty.

Create a desire

Think about the ‘wants’ of the person on the other end of that Twitter account and then tie in your social media content to trigger that ‘want’ for your products or services. This is the whole point of social media after all – to demonstrate why customers should choose your business services or products – so if you’re not creating this desire then you’re not using social media to its full potential.

Use other interests to draw focus to you

Obviously your social media content needs to be largely relevant to your products and services and to your industry. However, using popular news content, trending stories or other slightly ‘off topic’ subjects that you think might be of interest to your fans and followers is an easy way to keep people engaged. Just make sure you clearly indicate the link to your own business, as complete non-sequiturs can sometimes confuse.

Create careful questions

Social media content has to be much more carefully thought through these days – previously you could post just about anything and you would get a response. When you’re looking to pose a question that will get responses, think carefully about it first. Once you start to get responses then ‘listen’ i.e. look at what people are saying and continue the discussion with more relevant questions based on those responses.

Don’t pick fights

Just as in real life, where there is never any benefit to engaging in an argument in a business context, doing this on social media is a big ‘no’ too. Avoid being drawn into hostility, even if it is specifically directed at you and your business, and don’t fall into the trap of criticising the competition. It’s a much better approach to put your energy into creating positive content rather than anything that is likely to make people want to attack your social media profile.

Own up to mistakes

We’ve all been caught out making a mistake – to err is human after all. If you make a mistake in a business context then use social media to admit this, to apologise for it and to set out how you’re going to go about fixing it. People are much more likely to forgive and remain loyal customers if you do this and you can avoid being hounded by trolls and angry customers too.

Encourage engagement

This tip is based on the same principle as making someone feel like an idea they are acting on was their own. Try using social media to ask for feedback, ideas for new product features or designs, or improvements to services. When you roll out the idea that your customers and fans had a part in creating, that sense of ownership will make them much more likely to engage with it, creating ongoing brand loyalty.

Causes are powerful

We all like to do something for a nobler cause, as well as our more selfish reasons. You can use this in your social media strategy by incorporating a cause that customers can support. Whether this relates to your sector, or business in general, it’s another way to create a bond between you and your customer base.

Make your customers feel valuable

If your customers already feel like they are valuable to your business they are more likely to behave like valuable customers do. So, if you want word of mouth recommendations, positive reviews and continued loyalty, create that expectation by giving your customers the reputation of loving your products and services and proudly endorsing them.

Keep it interesting

Social media content is often wasted when it has no flair. Although you should always avoid untruths, there is a lot to be said for emphasising the more interesting or important aspects to introduce an element of drama and generate interest and desire.

Find out more about creating a social media strategy that will work for your business by giving me a call on 020 7100 0726.