Marketing That's Easier Than the Texas Two-Step

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You're Doing It Wrong!

Still struggling with the best way to flow seamlessly into the social crowd, to guide it, and to get as much out of social media as you're putting in? Social media's a tricky dance, but mastering it is easier than you think. Consider the imperative so many brands give to their audiences: “Join the conversation.” Don't force, browbeat, or cajole. Join.

Think of social media like a never-ending cocktail party filled with people you do and don't know. When you walk into a party like that, do you stumble into any conversation you can find? If you don't like the topic, do you loudly insist it be changed?

Of course not. The social media dance requires a little more finesse, a little more give-and-take than more traditional avenues of marketing. Here are three quick steps to get you into the flow of conversation. Master them, and you'll be dancing like a pro in no time.

1. Learn how to be a friend (not a brand). When a consumer allows a brand to come into their social space by liking or following them, the last thing you as a brand marketer want to do is make them feel marketed to. As a marketer, you can't simply just adapt your direct selling techniques to a new channel. No one wants to talk to the person who only ever talks about themselves.

Think about it like this: by liking or following you, your fans have already signaled an interest in who you are. They've made the first move. Now it's on you to return the favor and subscribe to them. What are your fans passionate about? What are they posting about? Where are they posting? Who are they talking to?

Take a moment to consider who and what you really are. For instance, an airline company shouldn't just talk like an airline company. They should talk like someone who loves the joy of travel so much they've dedicated their life to it. That's authentic, and an audience will always respond to authenticity.

Once you figure out what your true hook is—your real passion—you can take part in the social media dance like a real person, not a brand.

2. Listen, join, and create conversations. Spend some time learning how to listen to the social space. Don't just key in on people talking about your brand, specifically. Vanity searching is like any other guilty pleasure: everyone does it, but they have the good sense not to bring it up in polite company.

Go deeper. If you're McDonald's, don't just keep an eye on what people are saying about you. See what people are saying about hamburgers. Find out what propels conversations around the broader sphere of what you do. Look for what people are saying about all the logical extensions and categories of your brand. Listen. Learn. Then feel free to engage either as a brand or as an individual seeking information.

As with that cocktail party, remain authentic. People can smell a phony a mile off, and nothing cools the room like the windup of a sales pitch. Just as with any new friends, keep the conversations lightweight (sociable, not too taxing for either party) before you jump to the heavyweight requests.

3. Ignite action and inspire collaboration. You've earned both friends and trust by being authentic and involved with your followers. You've built real relationships between your brand and the people who have a stake in it. Now it's time to ignite action.

Not just any action will do. What you're requesting people to do should be something they actually want to do; so if you want them to share an image or watch your video, make sure that image or video has appeal beyond advertising. Make it funny, smart, thought-provoking, or just plain cool. Think of the sorts of things you share on your personal social media accounts. Then do that.

The endgame here is to be able to step out of the way and let your fans and supporters take over. By building a relationship with them, you've given them some ownership in how your brand is received in the world—and as with any friend, they'll want to support you in what you do. Especially if you produce cool content.

By being authentic, by building relationships and sharing in the interests of your followers, you'll turn passive consumers into active advocates for your brand.

Be a friend, learn to listen, ignite action by inviting people to join in on something exciting. As complex and ever-changing as social media can be, those three guidelines provide the basic framework for organically growing your follower base and enriching every interaction you have with fans. Get ready to fill out that dance card.

Matt Whitaker is vice president of strategy at Agencies of Change.

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