Finding Your Voice on Social Media

Almost every time we’re asked whether we do social media, we know what’s really being asked: “Can you help us figure out a coherent communications/business strategy, as we don’t have the time or patience, let alone the faintest idea why a particular image of a shrugging Siamese cat is so damn funny?”

The problem is that “doing” social media seems pretty basic, until you try actually doing it. After all, what’s so hard to understand about a 140 character tweet or putting up and maintaining a company Linkedin or Facebook page? But it’s kind of like starting a diet — after week one you’re thinking, this isn’t so bad, I can do this. But come week three and week four, you realize what you‘ve gotten yourself into. After a month, perhaps two, of somewhat regular tweeting, posting and uploading, you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Your incisive comments, insights, and flashes of genuine wit are failing to be liked, retweeted, commented upon. Your following is stuck in the low three digits and doesn’t seem to budge no matter what you do. You’re wondering why your content isn’t resonating…and in a fit of frustration you make the terrible mistake of posting an image of a shrugging Siamese cat.

Before you post a picture of a shrugging Siamese cat (which, full disclosure, I have never exactly seen), we’d like to share some thoughts on how you can use social media to make friends and influence highly influential people.

Pick a strategy, and stick with it. This pudding, thundered Churchill, has no theme! The lack of a theme — or overarching strategy — can be as devastating to a bowl of tapioca pudding as it can be to social media activity. Take a look at the Twitter or Facebook pages of the top companies in your space, particularly those are particularly active and effective (based on numbers of followers). Their tweets/posts may seem random and disconnected, but it’s very likely that there’s method to it. A social media strategy begins with goals — what are your areas of focus, who is your target audience, how do you define success? Once this is firmly established, it’s imperative to establish daily operational procedures to coordinate timing and topics/content. If it’s a team effort, keep all stakeholders in sync. (Pro Tip: using a tool like Hootsuite for Twitter makes it easy to coordinate team activities, and via their analytics you’ll get a sense of what’s working and what’s not.)

Find your “voice.” Social media is qualitatively different from traditional communications channels. For instance Twitter has its own syntax, language, time-honored in-jokes and memes. Mastering the subtleties of irony — or at least knowing it when you see it — is an important skill to have. Think of a company voice as a company brand within the context of social media. It’s more subtle than just conveying your brand, requiring more careful calibration of your “tone.” Being too “corporate” or “official” sounding can come across as stiff and off-putting. You must always bear in mind that social media is, fundamentally, about a conversation — think of a tweet or post as a conversation starter or stirrer…you are not tweeting “at” you are tweeting “with” (Ed. Note: though we still reserve the right to laugh at you, not with you).

Connect and engage. Our primary social media strategy is to engage reporters and analysts via Twitter, which is where many of them live. We monitor several feeds throughout the day and respond to tweets that for any number of reasons have particular resonance — maybe it goes to a technology or issue that’s relevant to a client, or it’s simply interesting and timely. We aren’t always looking to advance the interests of a specific client, but rather, keep our media relations fluid and consistent, and to underscore our value as a reliable editorial resource…so when we do want to send a pitch, it’s more likely to be given consideration. Of course your mileage may vary — chances are you’re looking to use social media to raise your profile among potential customers, possibly new business partners. There too, you’ll want to build your following by consistent engagement, while being selectively opportunistic in reaching out via a direct message. Reply to them, tweet stories at them, and don’t be afraid to crack a joke or two during a Friday tweetstorm. Keep it professional, but keep it light too, and your brand could develop a reputation for being hip, fun and informative.

Being effective begins with a coherent strategy, clear goals and sustained commitment. Before you get any traction, it’s a grind. The key is finding your social media voice — it’s a process, but it’s there and you’ll eventually find it; the real challenge is sticking to it! Whatever you do, resist the urge to post pictures of Siamese or any cats, for that matter, as it’s a sure sign that you’ve given up. They’re cute, no doubt, but it’s not a great look.

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