In the race for building an online presence, the automation of tasks, overt pitching and selling, and hiding behind a tightly crafted brand presence is harming a lot of businesses. They want to use all the new flashing tools and targeting available, but many are loosing brand personality in doing it. So this week we dive into the notion of personal engagement and building relationships online and how social media is simply a tool to facilitate building community. Being real will be so important in the era we are shifting towards, dominated by real time content, video and images online, and one-on-one messaging.
Here are some observations on trends, and the shifts that will be needed to “be real” and continue to build community.
TREND#1: Live video is now huge. As I mentioned last week, Facebook has changed their algorithm to favour video, and live video in particular. There is also a huge shift to video across other platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and of course Youtube and Periscope. Not all businesses are comfortable with the unedited nature of live video, but that’s what makes it real. When something unexpected happens in the middle of a broadcast, viewers become endeared to the people involved. Mistakes happen, and we’ve all been there. Just take the recent BBC viral video of a professor being interviewed as his toddlers burst into the office in the background. Link here if you somehow missed that one. It’s classic!
HOW TO BE MORE REAL IN LIGHT OF THIS TREND? Video is where it’s at, and if you’re not on board, you need to start doing it. It is the wave of the future for getting noticed on social media. In fact estimates are that over 80% of content online by 2018 will be video. Provided you’re still driving viewers back to owned content on your website and for permission based email collection, it will have strategic value in addition to being personable. Being authentic might mean the video doesn’t need heavy editing. Keeping it a little raw, provided the audio is still good, is a way to be more real. It’s easier for smaller companies to put a face on the business by featuring employees or the founder. Video also lends itself to storytelling, which is at the heart of good communication. Honestly, inviting engagement comes from being given brief windows into the personality of the brand. Letting employees talk is the way to do that.
Going live and using video isn’t easy. I made numerous bad attempts trying to do something that I will use on Facebook Monday to promote this blog post. I decided to grab an outtake and make it into a GIF here for fun. Want to learn how to do that? Check out Giphy as a tool to search existing Gifs, or create one of your own. Gif’s can be a way to have some fun, be personable, and stand out in a crowded social media feed to channel people back to your content!
Now here’s where I’m going to rub a few people the wrong way. Have you noticed an increasing number of videos in your feed pitching and selling, when frankly there is no relationship? I find it a real turn off, but it’s the result of Facebook algorithms feeding content based on interest, not necessarily relationship. I may be a lone wolf in all this but I think video, like any other content, should be used to engage and build community, and then link back to an owned platform where, once the relationship based on great content is developed, there may be an opportunity to sell. In my mind the selling should happen further down the funnel on your own platform. I think live video should be fun and personable. Let people get to know, like and trust you. I’d love to get your feedback on this. Be sure to leave a comment below. In particular I am interested in your response to people selling through video without an established relationship.
I also think putting a face on your Facebook Page is important. People interact with other people, not brand logos. It’s one of the reasons I switched up the head shot icon on my Fiveminutemarketing Facebook Page. I figure if I am going to be doing more video, people will be more inclined to interact with a person, rather then a brand. I’m also experimenting with live video from both my Facebook Page and Facebook personal account, and monitoring back end analytics. Since my solopreneur model has seen me build followers on both platforms, this remains an option, although the page is the place to be creating pixel based audiences, so I will likely gravitate more there over time. I’d love to hear how you’re approaching this, if your business crosses both platform applications.
TREND #2: Automation is gaining traction, but use it with discretion. Whether it’s through apps, bots, dashboard management systems or the ability to scheduled content, because social media is time intense there has been great demand for ways to make it easier. But while automation saves time, it also de-personalizes the experience.
HOW TO BE MORE REAL IN LIGHT OF THIS TREND? There is data now that supports doing less is actually more effective. It used to be the way to get noticed on Twitter for example was to have a steady stream of content, best facilitated by scheduled content. The theory was that people dipped in and out of the platform, and you needed a constant presence to be seen. Since Twitter is one of the only platforms where everyone has an opportunity to see everything (ie: there is no algorithm to curate content for viewing) it is still a great way to have broad reach. But to continue making it effective there needs to be engagement. Facebook too is running out places to fit content in feeds. Current research shows you’ll actually have a better chance of showing up with less, not more content. Ditto for Instagram, as it too gets flooded with content. I think turning off auto responders and Tweeting in real time, and responding in real time is the way to show up as authentic and engaged on those platforms. Tell me I’m not the only one who finds it a turn off to get a seemingly personable response on Twitter from someone I just followed, while I’m actually watching them in real time doing something completely different. And when that response comes with a pitch for what they can sell me? In my mind they just seem superficial and forward at that point. What do you think? I’d love to hear your experience with auto responders – leave a comment below. Slow, steady growth, and being personable is the way to gain an audience that knows, likes and trusts you. The strategy should be about engaging in real time for connection, as well as creating and sharing great content, then using social media as a channel to broadcast and direct traffic back to it.
TREND #3: Content is still king, but you need to re-focus on community. The key to having your ideal audience engage with you is to create amazing content of value, or something with a narrative that draws them in. Again, this is where visuals and video in particular can play a huge role. Written content is great, but a visual hook is now more important then ever.
HOW TO BE MORE REAL IN LIGHT OF THIS TREND? Live unedited video, writing like you speak in a conversational tone, sharing photos and experiences that give a brief glimpse into the lives of the people behind the brand are all good places to start. But really, engagement is about a two-way communication, so think about prompting and responding to questions, allowing viewers and readers to guide the content, and really, really LISTEN more. Then deliver what is helpful. Again, it comes back to serving a community, building an audience that knows, likes and trusts you, and then having the opportunity to sell. Social media is simply a tool in this process. The strategy emphasis is always on drawing them back to you owned platforms, such as website, blog, or enewsletter. Ultimately you want permission based contact with them in a one-on-one channel such as email, phone or in person.
At the end of the day, many folks get lost in the reeds of social media. It’s simply a tool to build community and engagement. A theme I increasingly come back to with clients is to pick one channel and do it well. Then add more if it aligns with your audience. But above all, especially as the space becomes more and more crowded, just be REAL.