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From Fans to Friends

Connecting with your Social Media Audience

How well do you know your audience? I’m not just talking about “liking” someone’s Facebook post or “retweeting” a comedic tweet on Twitter (wow, that was a mouthful!) I’m talking about intimately knowing your audience’s motives, interests, likes, dislikes, and opinions. If you haven’t been properly introduced to your audience, it’s about high time you do so – before your competitor does.

In social media, it’s been said that human relationships can be broken out into three categories (taken from the Ben McAllister and Kate Canales talk at SXSW:

  1. Authority relationships: Relationships where one individual has clear power over the other. One gives instructions; the other fulfills them. For example, employer-employee.
  2. Exchange relationships: Relationships where there is an equal give and take. These relationships are sustained only as long as both parties continue to offer incentives to remain together. Leaving a comment praising someone on Facebook after they’ve “liked” your status is a great example of an exchange relationship.
  3. Communal relationships: Relationships where there is a deep bond of mutual trust between both parties. The relationship does not depend on bribes or incentives to survive; it is propelled along by deep-rooted goodwill and shared common ground. This is the type of relationship we share with our friends.

What kind of relationship do you want with your audience? One where they feel coaxed into performing actions because you bribed them? Or one they feel compelled to champion because you legitimately care about their thoughts and opinions? If you picked option number two, continue reading.

If you want people to connect with you, you’ve got to know who you are as a brand. It’s impossible to ask people to identify with you when you’re not able to identify yourself. Take time to discuss this with your team and write down how you want your business to be represented. Are you casual with a dash of cool feminine flair? Is your business techie with brazen energy? Whatever your company’s qualities are, bring them to life on social media. Don’t hide behind logos and stock photos. Instead, bring your staff to the forefront and humanize your brand.

Is there any better way to get to know someone than to tell them your story? Taking a cue from our previous suggestion, stories humanize your brand and make you stand out with a distinct voice and passion. Sharing your story gives your audience something to grasp onto, to care about, to feel. It also establishes trust. Doing this is easier than you might think: simply share a story about your brand or a cause you care about, and ask your audience to share their own experiences and stories to make it a conversation.

The most elementary rule about social media is one that is most often forgotten: make it entertaining. We don’t get on social media to be bored; we get on social media for the excitement and the interesting updates we subscribe to. You’re more likely to pay attention to a funny Buzzfeed video than a boring business preaching about their company motto. So go ahead, have fun, loosen the reigns – you’re much more likely to go viral that way.

There’s just something special about reminiscing on childhood brands like Disney, Mattel, Tyco, and Legos. You remember the way it felt to hold those toys in your hand, and how excited you got when a new truck or doll got released. People tend to look back at these products fondly, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to evoke those same feelings in your customers. How, you might ask? Easy. Participle in the ever-popular “Throwback Thursday” and “Flashback Friday” hashtags, post pictures of your team members from their childhood, and create lists of nostalgia-filled photographs and sentiments that are blasts from the past.

Stop selling and start sharing. It may seem like an easy concept, but step back and take a look at the way you’re talking to your audience on social media platforms. Are you strictly promoting yourself? Brand awareness is great, but it’s also important to share relevant content on your industry with fans. For example, let’s say you’re a local musician trying to make it in your area. Rather than just speak of your new LP over and over again, share a top 20 year-end list from a music blog and ask people for their opinions. Not only will you engage people, but you’re giving them the opportunity to ask questions and start a conversation.

Now that you’ve learned how to connect with your audience, you’ll start to notice people transform from fans to friends. Not only is this going to help your business, but it’s going to help you better understand where you fit into the community. Remember, people aren’t numbers – they’re humans, and they deserve to be engaged.

Do you have a creative way you’ve engaged with your social audience in the past? Let us know!