I once had an email exchange with a colleague about how friendships are similar to the relationships we have with clients. At some point, of course, I began to draw parallels between friendship and social media engagement.
We always hear about strong communication being a necessity in friendships to avoid misunderstandings, but what about when it comes to social media relationships? Most people wouldn’t think that interactions with their buddies have anything to do with their professional social media relationships, but they do.
Many of the challenges business owners have with social media stem from errors in communication. Whether it’s too much activity, not enough activity, the wrong type or just a misinterpretation between what’s written and what’s meant; at some point, if your social media audience doesn’t “feel the love,” they simply stop reading your blog or listening to your podcast and you’re left to figure out why.
Here are a few tips to help improve your social media communication and build sustainable relationships online:
- Always be available. Ok, not always, but one of the chief complaints within friendships is when someone is cold, distant or hard to get in touch with. Your readers may feel the same way about your company if it takes weeks to approve and reply to comments. Business owners especially need to make sure they’re on point because a benefit of working with a smaller company is the expectation of high-touch interactions.
- Don’t allow things to fester. In a friendship, what often starts out as a small issue can quickly grow if left unaddressed. The more time that passes, the more likely the other person will fill in your side of the conversation with what they think you’ll say. If your company offers a blog or online community, do your best to address small issues, complaints, etc. in a measured but timely manner.
- Know the line between friendly and too familiar. Nothing kills a friendship faster than one of the parties attempting to become too familiar too soon. The same is true with social media. While you may have some intellectually stimulating and insightful conversations as you build your relationship with your audience, it’s still important to maintain a degree of professionalism. While you do want your readers to feel good about your brand, they’re still clients and potential clients, not buddies.
- When you’re at fault, apologize. The best thing for friendships is for all parties to “own their stuff.” If your company falls short in a way that may compromise how your audience interacts with or feels about your brand, the best thing you can do is own it, apologize and spell out a plan of action that decreases the likelihood of the transgression ever happening again. There’s little worse than tossing your reader’s trust aside by sweeping shortcomings under the virtual rug.
A good rule of thumb I give to my clients is: when in doubt about what to do and how to respond to various social media occurrences, ask yourself what you would do if the same thing happened with a friend. If that response is tactful, professional and serves the highest good of everyone involved, you can’t go wrong. Even if your brand has a bit of egg on its face afterward, you will be rewarded with your market’s increased trust and the positive association with being known for doing the right thing.
Lena L. West is an award-winning social media consultant, blogger, speaker, journalist and technologist. She is also the Founder of InfluenceExpansion.com (formerly xynoMedia), a coaching and training company that teaches women business owners how to *painlessly* and strategically leverage social media to EXPAND their influence, EXPLODE their income and ROCK the world! Go to http://www.influenceexpansion.com/ to download a free Insider's Report to learn how to do just that!
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