What works and what doesn't when it comes to engaging an audience through social media. A “Top 10” list of how to engage audiences effectively.
By Jack Newton, Software Developer
Social media takes on many forms, ranging from blogs to social networks to podcasts and beyond. Professionals looking to dip their toe into social networking are faced with many questions in terms of who they should engage with, and on which topics. The following is a “Top 10” list of how to engage audiences effectively.
1. Separate Personal and Professional Social Media
Your private, personal social network should be mixed with your professional social network. It’s best to completely segregate these networks, and to choose specific social networks (e.g. Facebook) as your personal outlets where you only add close personal friends as your connections.
Choose the more public outlets, such as a blog, LinkedIn or Twitter, as your professional face, where you will talk about topics on a more professional level.
2. Know Your Audience
When deciding what to blog, tweet or otherwise build a conversation around, you need to decide who your target audience is. Are you speaking to your peers? Your existing customers? Your prospective customers?
In deciding who your audience is, frame the decision based on your goals for engaging in social media: are you aiming to strengthen relationships with your peers? To encourage repeat business from your existing clients? To find new clients? Once you know who you’re trying to reach, you can go about building that audience.
3. Create Your Audience
Social media begins in a vacuum. You will start writing a blog with zero reader; you’ll start Tweeting to zero followers; you’ll create a LinkedIn profile with zero connections.
With your target audience defined (see Tip #2), you will know who you should start adding as followers and connections. Engage with your audience in an earnest fashion. Share information of value. They will reciprocate and follow you back, share your blog posts with their followers, and help you build an audience.
It will typically take some time to build your initial audience, but as your first followers share your information with their followers (and on and on), you’ll see the benefits of geometrics growth in your audience size.
4. Have a Voice
It’s important that you have something to say, and that you say it in an authentic voice. Just sharing news you’ve come across in various outlets isn’t going to do enough to define your voice or to compel others to share your content. Add your own unique perspective and voice to everything you do on social media, even if it’s just an aside when sharing a link or article.
Likewise, think about the macro-level topics and perspectives you’d like to share with your audience. What high-level topics will you share and engage on?
5. Leverage Work You’re Already Doing
Many of us need to stay up-to-date on a wide variety of topics as part of our profession. I, for example, need to stay on top of the latest technology developments, cloud computing advancements, new ethics opinions relating to cloud computing, and so on.
Since I’m already staying on top of these topics for the purposes of my own professional needs, the incremental effort associated with sharing my learning via social media is a small one.
6. Let Your Personality Come Through
Not all of your social media interactions need to be about professional items. Keep charged topics such as politics off the table, but share aspects of your personal life, such as your plans for the weekend, the dinner you’re making, or pictures of your kids. Showing your personal side simply adds an extra dimension to your social media identity, and helps form a bond with your network.
7. Don’t Sell
While one of your ultimate objectives for engaging in social media might be to increase sales, don’t sell from the proverbial podium. Those engaged in social media are especially savvy when it comes to detecting and rejecting overly spammy content.
8. Think Long-term
Nothing in social media generates instant returns. Instead, you will see slow, steady gains in your audience and your engagement level. Likewise, you cannot implement a “social media strategy” with the hopes it will have a substantial short-term impact on your business. Instead, you need to be thinking on a timescale of years, not months, where your audience, engagement, impact and respect will grow over time. If your objective is to generate new business, this may fall out of your social media efforts, but it won’t happen overnight.
9. Engage on Multiple Channels
Any social media effort begins in a vacuum. If you’re starting a blog, launch a Twitter account to help promote your posts. Share your posts through LinkedIn. Engaging in multiple social media channels will help encourage cross-pollination in your audience and, hopefully, increased sharing of your content.
10. Know Thy Ethics
As with any form of marketing, your social media efforts must comply with your State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct and ethics opinions.
Jack Newton is co-founder and President of Clio, a leading provider of cloud-based practice management and client collaboration tools. Jack holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Alberta and holds three software-related patents in the United States and EU. He has written and spoken extensively on cloud computing in general, and specifically on the ethics, privacy, and security issues relating to the use of cloud computing in the legal market.