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Putting the Soul Back Into Social Media
By: Christine Geraci
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There's been a lot of discussion this week about social media getting back to its roots. Folks are saying social channels need to throw back to the early days, when they were places where real people could converse, not places where companies go online to hustle people for money.
And they're right. Social media needs to get back to being raw, authentic, and original, like Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," not wannabe and manufactured like Pat Boone's pathetic cover, if you will. (And points to you if you even know what I'm talking about without having to click on the links.) 
It's not the social channels that really need to change — it's the businesses trying to use them for obvious financial gain. This by no means suggests a business shouldn't participate in the social space. Quite the contrary: They NEED to be there. They just need to be, you know, human. They need to have a soul. 
So how do you put the soul into your social activity? The answers are pretty basic, actually. You might have heard some of these before, but they're worth repeating. 
Be helpful. Give people information they can use in the context of your business. If you sell pools, give people pointers on the best questions to ask when they're shopping, or help them determine what type of pool is the right choice for them. Just don't try to sell them anything. 
Be inspiring. Uplift your followers by sharing what motivates your business. Show people you're about more than just taking people's money. What do you do with the money? Invest in innovative research that will help people? Give back to the community? If it's something good, then share it. If not...well, your days on social media are numbered, frankly. People will find out, call you out, and systematically destroy you.
Be thoughtful. Don't be afraid to voice your opinions in assertive but non-threatening ways. Tell people what you think about what's going on in your industry, good or bad. Offer ideas for improvement. People may disagree, but they will at least appreciate cogent thoughts backed by research and experience. 
Be attentive. If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone has a complaint, respond to it. Consistently. And as close to immediately as possible. 
Be an individual. A million other people do what you do. How are you different? What makes you unique in your industry? SHOW people, don't just tell them. This is your chance to communicate your own creative take on things. So what if there are a million blog posts out there about woodworking? What about YOUR woodworking?
So, understandably, it can be easy to fall into soul-crushing habits, especially when faced with the daunting task of distinguishing oneself in the sea of information online. 
Some tactics that tend to take the soul out of your social media efforts include:
Tweets jammed with hashtags. How can you communicate authentically on Twitter when you're devoting character real estate to obvious ploys for wider reach? Use hashtags more responsibly. One or two at the most is all you need. And most certainly NOT in every tweet. 
Obviously scheduled posts. If your Twitter stream is busy talking about the Boston bombings and you're firing off tweets about the four-inch heels you have for sale, don't be surprised if your following drops off. Having a human in charge who actually looks at your Twitter stream from time to time is pretty key here. 
Posts devoid of tact and sensitivity. See "Obviously Scheduled Posts."
Demands. Like us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Share this! Retweet this! After a while, this crap gets annoying. If you're not going to show, or even tell people why they should do any of those things, then don't bother. 
A one-dimensional approach. Words are powerful, but can be limiting. Diversify by including richer content, such as photos, videos, or podcasts. 
Every soul is inherently unique. And for that very reason, you will be able to differentiate yourself from the masses, no matter what your business. In the end, no matter how large your following is, it will be that much more loyal.

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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