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Social media connections - followers and fans - are hard won and easily lost. I'll look at a couple of key elements to keeping your connections engaged.

I spoke very briefly at a recent meet-up, sharing a "top tip" for social media usage for non-profits. "Very briefly" was indeed very brief, so I'll expand a little on the topic here.

There are many opinions on the topic, I'm sure, but as I look at how people are using social media, two words come to mind when I think of what it takes to be successful.

Consistency and relevancy.

The good news is that this is true for businesses, non-profits, and just about anyone that wants to have an engaged social media following.

Even better is that, while I'll focus on social media, my tips apply equally well to all forms of an organization's communication.

Followers are hard won, whether they be Twitter followers, Facebook fans, newsletter subscribers or blog readers. While you'll always look for ways to attract followers, the more common and often overlooked challenge is how to keep and engage the ones you have.

Consistency

A good friend of mine is a social media maven, a recognized expert in the field.

She regularly shares valuable information - real gold for those who are interested in the field - through her Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Unfollow

And yet, I had to unfollow her.

She regularly violates an important characteristic of social media sharing: consistency of scale or simply frequency.

Every so often, she'll attend an event and "live tweet" it, turning her normally consistent pace of a few valuable posts a day into a fire hose of information. In my case, it got in the way of my paying attention to the other folks I follow.

Unfollow.

There is no real "right" frequency - set a pace that makes sense for you, but stick to it. Whatever you set that to be, your followers will come to expect it. If you then grossly violate that expectation, either with too many or too few posts, you'll lose your audience's interest.

Another acquaintance of mine, this time in a more technical internet marketing space, suffers from a different problem.

Once again, his social media posts are, on average, well paced, insightful, and overall quite valuable if you're interested in the topic.

Until the NBA basketball playoffs.

Not only does his playoff fire hose of posts violate the rate I've come to expect from him, it also violates something else perhaps even more important.

His posts lose all relevancy. I don't care about his team and even if I did, that's not why I followed him in the first place.

Unfollow.

People connect with you for a reason. They form an expectation of what you'll be sharing, and if you then veer off-topic, you'll lose those connections very quickly.

It doesn't have to be an unexpected flood or drought. It doesn't even have to be as far-off topic as basketball is to internet marketing. Anything that violated the expectations of your followers puts you at risk of losing their mind share.

Relevancy

Who are you publishing for? It's an important question to understand as you develop a social media strategy. Who is it that you want to reach out to? Who is it that you're trying to connect with?

My internet marketing friend is a great example. He knows who his audience is. He knows what it is they want. And most of the time, he gives it to them.

That's key.

Some years ago, I was working with a non-profit agency on a project to engage more of its supporters. The individual that I was working with put together a three-ring binder - a notebook full of information which she wanted the potential volunteers to read.

She had a story to tell and she wanted them to hear it, gosh darn it!

That's not how it works, particularly in social media.

It's not about what you want.

It's what they want.

Feedback

Give your followers what they want. Keep what you're sharing relevant to their interests and their needs and you'll find that you have a more engaged and more passionate following.

That, by the way, is one of the things that you can use to fine tune your social media output. No other medium gives you the opportunity to simply ask your followers what they think, get ideas, and turn that around into making what you do that much more valuable to them.

Benefits & Costs

The more consistent and relevant your communications are, the more engaged your audience will be, no matter what your mission might be .

The cost of doing it right is simply a little thought and planning. It's a commitment to understand and meet your followers' expectations and to do so in a way that is as meaningful to them as possible.

The cost of doing it wrong, of course, is silence.

Article C4760 - March 9, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
linda
March 15, 2011 10:35 AM

This brings about a very important question, and is one of the reasons that I have not yet jumped on the Twitter/ Facebook Bandwagons.

I have 2 totally different businesses, dog training and energy healing. Though SOME dog training clients may well be interested in energy work posts (as it helps with behavioral issues), most energy healing clients are not interested in getting info about dog training.

How does one address something like that??

Can you recommend some type of 'Social Media guide for total rookies'? : )

linda

Mark J
March 15, 2011 10:40 AM

You could set up a separate Facebook page for each business which would be separate from your personal Facebook page.

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