It’s funny how powerful the thoughts of individuals have become. A reasonably popular blog can post an item on a new product and outrank the company that made it in the all-important first page of Google results. Corporate blogs, Twitter accounts, social networking sites, and the rest have sprung up everywhere, all trying to fight it out with “just plain folks” for “social media” mindshare. But most corporate shills fail miserably and are forced to resort to extraordinary means to make their content “go viral.” This is ironic because the secret to getting people to share your tweets, blog posts, videos, updates, etc is really quite simple!
Why Are You Here?
Most real people get into “social networking” because they enjoy networking in a social environment. They want to chat, gossip, laugh, cry, and do all those normal social things. And sites like Twitter and Facebook enable this kind of socializing like nothing we’ve ever seen before. They’re like a mind-bogglingly massive coffee shop where everyone has a favorite table full of friends.
Corporate marketing folks see social networking entirely differently. They see it as a way to influence public perception and drive purchasing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just what corporations do. And it’s not a new thing either; companies have been buying billboards and sponsoring events as long as there have been companies.
What Are You Doing?
Societies develop social norms to smooth all sorts of interactions. We are taught from youth to avoid interrupting the conversations of others, intruding on their space, or shouting inappropriate comments.
People are happy to discuss deeply personal topics with total strangers in the right setting. And they’re happy to share the thoughts and aspirations (and even product recommendations) of others if they find them compelling. But people are instantly turned off when these social actions are directed or demanded by outsiders.
Interacting As People Not Corporations
I always shudder when I hear a corporation saying they want to “join the online conversation.” My reaction is not because I want corporations to stay away but that they so often fumble these interactions.
A failure to be human is the main error made in online corporate communications efforts. Companies are full of passionate, committed individuals who are genuinely interested in tires, snack foods, or computers, but too often fail to let these folks be themselves online. Instead, they compose bland, self-interested marketing pablum and wonder why the world doesn’t care to read it.
My “secrets” to online communications aren’t really all that difficult. But it seems like many of us need constant reminding of what we already know when it comes to personal interaction:
- Say something interesting if you want to get your blog post shared, your video “liked”, or generate some retweets. It’s as simple as that. Have some personality, focus on the reader rather than corporate messaging, and watch what happens.
- Be genuine when writing, sharing, and tweeting. My rule for blogging is to write about things I care about. This helps me generate content ideas but also automatically filters out marketing nonsense.
- Don’t barge in where you’re not wanted. Don’t expect people to react kindly to obvious advertising. Would an auto garage owner interrupt a conversation about ski vacations to promote snow tires?
- Be transparent when talking about work-related topics. Don’t worry – disclosing your employer will make you seem more genuine and personable, and failure to do so will backfire in spectacular fashion.
- Have patience and humility and wait for things to “click.” You can’t force people to pay attention to you without seeming like a fool. Be real and give it time.
So write some corporate blog posts and tweet from the corporate account. But do it in a way that shows the human being behind the keyboard. Your efforts to be you will be well rewarded! And if you want me to retweet, reshare, or “like” your corporate posts, you had better keep the sales-speak in check!
Image credit: The Birds by edu_fon