Don’t Make Social Media Your Company’s Mouth — Make It Your Eyes And Ears
I’ve heard social media described as a company’s mouthpiece, and to an extent, that’s an accurate depiction. With all your current and prospective customers subscribing to your brand’s posts, it’s a perfect platform to make announcements, distribute information, and otherwise stay in contact with your customers. These are all well and good, but if you only focus on the “mouthpiece” function of social media, you’ll be missing out on some of the most valuable opportunities social media has to offer your brand.
Making Social Media Your Eyes and Ears
What do I mean by making social media your eyes and ears? Well, when you use it as a mouthpiece, you’re distributing information into a rich pool of communication and data. In contrast, the “eyes and ears” approach seeks to draw information out of this pool of communication and data. The end goal is not an action, but rather an insight. Take these scenarios as examples of what I’m talking about:
· Monitor customer reactions. Customer reactions tell you much about the quality of your content, the direction of your social campaign, and the general moods and interests of your target demographics. For example if you notice a lack of users engaging with your content, it’s a sign that your content strategy may be headed in the wrong direction. The reason can be hard to pin down, since there could be many variables responsible for the lack of engagement (was it the topic? The angle? The format? The timing?), but if you collect this data over time, you’ll be able to pinpoint some clear trends that let you shape the rest of your content and social strategy.
· Learn more about your target demographics. Reactions aren’t the only way to learn more about your target demographics. You can also plug in and see what they’re talking about on their own. Use social listening software to keep track of the trends your target demographics are engaging with, and get a feel for what they’re posting about on a regular basis. You can also segment your followers based on their demographic profiles, and use random sampling to uncover the same data. Your goal here should be to find out not only what your potential customers are interested in, but also who they are as people. Think of this as another type of market research.
· Keep tabs on your competitors. You aren’t the only business in your industry currently involved in the social media game. Most days, you might resent the fact that you have to deal with competition, but they can actually work in your favor if you know what to look for. Keep a list of all the social media profiles of your top competitors, and keep a close eye on them (as well as their followers). You’ll be able to learn what types of content and engagement strategies they’re using, and gather significant data on how effective those strategies ultimately were. You may even be able to attract some of their followers by either mimicking those strategies or finding a complementary approach.
· Stay abreast of industry news. Instead of distributing news and information, use this opportunity to acquire news and information. Plug into the major influencers and news sources in your industry, and keep watch for interesting topics your demographics might find useful. This requires a certain level of diligence in most industries — you stand to gain most if you’re one of the earliest competitors to jump on the story, so you need to react quickly.
These are a few specific ways you can glean more information from your social channels, but ultimately, any of these tactics can be grouped into one of three main categories.
Observations require no direct interaction from you. Instead, you’ll be gathering data from posts and exchanges that already exist in the social media sphere. Social listening software is arguably the best way to approach this, since otherwise you’ll be forced to scour an endless sea of white noise to find tiny nuggets of meaningful information. Know what questions you want to ask before digging in here.
Experiments do require direct interaction. You’ll actually be measuring the reactions of your audience based on the types of content and posts you publish. Again, the key here is to know what you’re looking for going in; use the scientific method to first form a hypothesis of how you think a user would react, perform the experiment by making the post, and then evaluate to see whether or not your hypothesis was true.
Opportunism is a form of observation, but instead of looking for insights and takeaways, you’ll be looking for opportunities that can be taken advantage of. There’s some degree of luck involved here, since you never know what will come down the pipeline. But it pays to stay vigilant, and the more you can automate this with social listening and blog readers, the better.
The Bottom Line
I’m not saying that you should neglect the communicative side of social media — in fact, you can’t make use of social media’s observational power without it. Instead, I want to point out that in many cases, you’ll stand to gain more from simply learning about your followers than you will preaching to them. It’s the digital equivalent of the advice that you should always listen more than you speak. Otherwise, you’ll never learn anything.