As an experienced social pro, the answer to this seems like common sense to me. As an experienced social pro conversing with non- social pros, I realize that this is a dilemma for many, MANY brands of all sizes. Until every click farm and "100K Twitter followers for $39!" bot goes away, it will continue to be a hot topic.
If you know anything about me, or have read any other Sherman Social blog post, then you already know where I stand on this. If this is your first introduction to me (hello!), I strongly believe that conversations should be the #1 goal of a social media strategy. Not sales, not popularity, not empty followers, not 15-minutes-of-fame viral content --> but true, authentic conversations around your brand, your fans and your industry. Now, there's the catch --> When I talk about conversations I am not referring to the one-way conversations brands send out advertising their newest invention. No! I am talking about real, two-way conversations that acknowledge your fans' interests as much as they acknowledge your products.
IMHO, brand conversations should include a hodgepodge of the following:
Your BRAND --> You are on social media for a reason --> you have something to sell. It would be pointless for you to be on social and not update fans on your brand and products. Fans are also following your social networks because they have an interest in your brand, so don't shy away from speaking about it. They signed a contract stating their interest in you the moment they decided to become a part of your social community. While overdoing your brand messaging is NOT the way to go, providing relevant, VALUABLE content to your fans is vital to have an effective social media strategy.
Your FANS --> This is the single MOST important part of your social conversations. These are the people you NEED in order to have a social universe, and can easily turn away from your brand by overdoing brand messaging or not giving them the attention they deserve on social media. While you should do the everyday community management with your fans, you ALSO should pay attention to what else they are talking about on social media. Don't be afraid to talk about something a bit outside of your brand in order to connect to a fan. It's like the popular analogy goes --> social media is like a cocktail party. If you talk only about yourself at a cocktail party, no one else is going to want to talk to you. However, if you act interested in what the other party goers have to say, the you will be the most liked person there!
Your INDUSTRY --> Whether you are a publishing platform, a design firm, a fashion brand, a doctor's office --> you have to know what is going on in your industry and participate in those conversations online. Not only will this connect you to others you have things in common with, only expanding your social network, it will also position you as a thought leader within your industry. This will automatically build trust within your social community that you actually know what you're talking about, which will only enhance the value of your social ecosystem.
Yes, this type of social media conversation takes more time, but it's WORTH IT. The value that will come from an audience that trusts you as a thought leader, and knows you genuinely care about their interests, will create a brand loyalty like you've never seen before. Just watch.
- Marji J. Sherman