Are businesses forgetting to be social on social media?

In the rush to establish social media presences, many brands forget the reason to have those presences in the first place.

Most businesses that invest heavily in social media tend to forget one key component to maximizing their success in developing direct relationships with their audience: They forget to be social.

Much effort and attention is given to creating valuable content, publishing at just the right time to maximize impressions, determining what triggers to use to incite sharing, figuring out how to encourage comments and “likes,” and more.

All of this is great, but there isn’t anything social about publishing content and hoping for virality metrics to shoot through the roof. Even replying to comments left on blog content, Facebook updates, tweets, and Google+ posts isn’t truly being social.

Think about it in the context of your life. You don’t go to a party, see some guy standing in the corner all by his lonesome, and think, “Man, that guy is really putting himself out there!” He’d probably answer a question if you asked him, but he’s not doing anything to garner attention, attract people to him, or develop connections or relationships. Except for rare circumstances, businesses and brands simply cannot develop meaningful relationships with consumers on social media without behaving socially.

The beautiful thing about social media is that it gives businesses the opportunity to speak with their audience, including current and prospective consumers. That’s powerful stuff.

Initiate a dialogue.

If you are hoping to develop real relationships with your consumers, attract them to participate in the discussions that are occurring on your social media properties, and encourage them to be social, I strongly encourage you to initiate a dialogue with them on their preferred online turf.

By initiating an exchange, you are greatly enhancing the probability that you will not only receive a reply, but also generate a dialogue. When you create a dialogue with your consumers, you’re going to understand them better, learn what they want, fully comprehend their needs, and figure out how to provide tremendous value with your products, services, and content.

Develop direct relationships with your consumers.

You are also going to greatly increase the value of the interactions you have with your consumers if there is some give and take. Nobody wants to be involved in a relationship in which they are simply broadcast to. That’s not a relationship at all. People want to influence the course of a discussion.

This can be unnerving to reps at businesses and brands accustomed to retaining control of their communications, but it is also extremely exciting if you can adapt, learn, and be nimble enough to take advantage of the tremendous value that direct relationships with consumers can yield.

If there is one thing to take away from this post, it is to find ways for your business to be more proactively social on social media. You don’t sit on your hands waiting for consumers to learn about your business or brand in the offline world. You market, advertise, write press releases, work to generate word of mouth, and develop and build relationships. All of this is proactive and action oriented.

On social media you should really be doing the same. Try to avoid turning social media into a broadcast channel for your content, and get involved with your consumers where they are interacting and engaging on the social Web.

How do you engage socially with your consumers online?

Matthew Peneycad blogs, tweets, and posts as RGB Social with the aim of sharing his advertising agency experience in social media and digital marketing with businesses and brands of all sizes. A version of this story also appeared on Social Media Today.

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