Building rapport with social media

July 9, 2010

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Building trust

When you don’t know someone very well you could be quick to judge their character based on a single action, or wait to see how multiple actions and interactions create their personality. In an information-saturated, time-poor world most people will judge them right away. Professor Judy Olsen on Social Media trust says:  “Where examples of one’s competence or reputation are lacking, people will construct whole profiles of another’s personality from what little information is available.”

The same can be said for connecting with unknown entities on social media. If you are managing a brand on social media and you want to build a relationship with your audience, you need to regularly display the right behaviours so people will learn to expect the same standard from you.

So what is that social media audiences want?

A study in December 2009 found that people followed companies on social media to learn about special offers (65%), to learn about new services, products or features (61%), to learn about the company culture (41%) and to a lesser extent, to be entertained by something funny or insightful (34%).

You may like to offer on your social media networks:

  • Reviews on new products (not your own or your competitors) that will affect them
  • Update them on events that are happening in the industry and what it will mean to them
  • Post industry news
  • Share professional insights
  • Give them an industry-relevant tool that will be useful to them in some way

The idea is to show that you are an expert in your field and that you are listening to what your audience want.

Develop the relationship by adding value

Once you’ve shown that you’re there to add value, you can start a deeper conversation. You might like to:

  • Invite their feedback (on topic and off-topic)
  • Have a guest poster offer them something via your forum
  • Help them solve a problem
  • Send them relevant research, whitepapers or blogs (for B2B) or promotions and specials (for B2C) as a reward
  • Ask them directly what they want
  • Give away free things to the first X people to respond

Two things are important here: frequency (not everyone wants to hear from their local supermarket every week with the same ‘special’ offers) and responsiveness. If your followers interact with you on your page, you need to show that you are listening and that the conversation is important to you. You don’t have to respond individually but you do have to be 100% genuine, say ‘thanks’ and be transparent.

Don’t push your brand directly or you will be ‘unfollowed’ very quickly. But you could invite people to talk about their experiences by starting a conversation that is relevant to your brand. For example, an outdoor adventure company might create a Facebook post like this:

“What is your favourite outdoor adventure?”

But their customers might be wary that this will happen regularly or that it might be followed up with a brand-heavy message. Instead, they could tie the post in with something direct like: 

“When was your favourite weekend away with your Dad?
 Tell us what you did before the end of the day & you could win
 a $500 voucher for Father’s Day.”

This sets the parameters and invites people to share their experiences, but it doesn’t have to be about that specific brand.

If you can get people to upload photos or create a video (with a longer response time), all the better because they are sharing interesting or entertaining content to your forum, and it’s related to an area that your brand specializes in.

By testing your fans’ responsiveness and their level of involvement with your profile, you can assess if you need to go one step back and build your credibility or if you can jump right ahead to private messaging them invitations to exclusive events.  Just like any marketing technique, you need to test, test and re-test.

Deliver the expected and then more

Understand what people are looking for when they choose to follow your company. Let them learn a little more openly about how it operates and deliver messages that are sincere and responsive - just like you'd treat your real world audience.

Offer your audience something extra for interacting with you online.

If you listen, understand, tailor and add value, you will continue to grow the quality of your social media relationships.

Would you like to know what you should do if something negative is posted on your profile?

Main image credit: Rosaura Ochoa

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