Friday, October 7, 2016

A Social Media Homecoming

by Steven S. Vrooman

Today my social media class had a visit from Beth Dietert, social media director at the Children's Association for Maximum Potential, which provides year-round recreation for children and adults with physical and/or mental disabilities. 

Beth made this surprise visit because it is Homecoming at TLU and she wanted to sit in on my classes today. I asked her to speak to my social media class, and things went swimmingly from there.


You can see us making the "bulldog" hand sign. 

I took notes, like a good student, and I was gratified that much of what she said dovetailed with what I'm going to be presenting at my upcoming keynote address for the Texas Self Storage Association. I keep finding that some things are true about social media regardless of the size or type of organization you represent. 

Here are Beth's tips:


1) Like and interact with important local influencers and groups.


Especially on Twitter, follow and interact with the content of the organizations that you wish were interacting with and following you. You heard that before. But you should also do this with influencers who are connected with organizations you wish were interacting with and following you. She gave an example of, say, journalists who tend to cover organizations that she might want connections with.

As I've found, it's not a question of volume here. One connection can often be enough, and can bring great things. For example, at Michelle Johnson's Doodled Blooms Instagram page, you can see in her post history the new connection she made with one person via Instagram, Tabby May Art, which generated a Dutch blog review and sales. 

Pushing out with your scope of connections is how you help make those kinds of quality interactions happen.


2) Tell stories.


We know from many academic disciplines that this is the key to persuasion, but we so often don't do it! We sellsellsellsellsellsellsellsellsellsellsell as if anyone would care. Be authentic and have a voice and tell the stories of what is happening in interesting ways.

Beth's particular tip is to break stories up across multiple days to encourage people to keep tuning in.

She also suggested, in response to a student concern that long "show more" social media posts are too long, that you should post stories of different lengths to test what your audience is interested in. As I pointed out, Humans of New York is a testament to the interest some people have in very long textual content.


3) Be aware of platform-specific audience.


Too often we use services like IFTTT to duplicate our content across platforms. That can work, but we should also be aware of the different audiences in those different places and their different needs.

For Beth, parents interact on Facebook, young people on Instagram, and the the larger community on Twitter. This is probably true for many people in their own organization's social media channels, as well. And it means that content needs to be customized, at the very least. What's more, the whole strategy of the connections you are making needs to be different to meet the needs of those groups.

In her case, what do parents want to know about an upcoming event versus the community versus the campers?

If I could pinpoint the biggest mistake most people make with social media, it's involved here: People think their content is about them, not their audience. Who is the audience and what does that mean for you?


4) Test posts (Revision is good!)


This is connected with what Beth said in #2 and #3. You should try every type of idea in multiple versions or iterations and see what people like best. Give them more of the style that works best for how they view and interact with your content. 

To give a personal example, I use Instagram as an educational tool, collaging, say, PowerPoint slides together and writing a critique on the images. I changed the collage software I used to allow for more black space and I immediately got feedback from a regular follower that she liked the new design a lot better. 

My Instagram is a particular challenge, as my images are more information-dense than people are accustomed to on the platform, so it is a question of finding the boundaries beyond which people will no longer be interested.


5) Ask questions


We know this is a pretty decent strategy to generate further user engagement, but on another, less instrumental level, dialogue helps you get to know them. They will tell you what they want and need via those kinds of interactions, and that can lead not just to adapting your social media content, but also everything your organization does in the world.

Why can't social media provide core information for how our organization should shift?




All in all, it was a very fortuitous visit from an English & Communication Studies Department alum. 

Thanks, Beth!

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