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6 Ways to Engage More Authentically on Social Media

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/10/2015 Communications Week
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Have you ever been at a cocktail party and encountered a person that only talks about themselves? While you do in fact learn a lot about them, you don't make a connection, automatically trust them, or find reasons to connect with them again. It's the same situation on social media. Brands need to build trust, show followers that they care about and listen to them, and truly understand what is important to them. Remember that people trust people, not brands, so authentic engagement and interaction is critical to the success of any social media program. Can you be a brand advocate without sounding like you're selling or marketing all the time? Can you stop sounding like you've drank the corporate Kool-aid to be more authentic in your messages?
Authentic is defined as "not false or copied; genuine; real". We're all smart enough to quickly sniff out when someone is trying to sell us something, right? Well, your social media followers are just as smart. They want to connect with your brand in a genuine way, not be marketed to or sold to. It's a crucial element of success because people are more likely to buy from, refer and engage with brands they trust online. Below are 6 tips to help you build trust and connect with social media followers in an authentic way, whether you're just starting out or looking to optimize activity already underway.
1. Sound Real: Speak in your own words - not acronyms or corporate terms
Communicate in the same way you would if you were talking to someone at a family gathering or casual networking event. You need people to understand what you're communicating and quickly relate to it.
2. Filter It: Put your social media messages through the "would I care about this if I didn't work for the company" test
Think about what catches your eye on social media and write down the elements of that message. Why does it capture your attention?
3. Tell a Story: Incorporate storytelling on your social media channels
People buy experiences, not products so it's important to make an emotional connection with followers. There's an opportunity for back and forth so have a 2-way conversation - social media affords that ability. Use visuals to tell your company story. But more importantly, solicit fans, followers, customers and more to contribute THEIR photos and videos to have them help tell the story of your brand. Why do they love it? Why do they use your product? What did your product help them achieve? Think of ways to inspire, encourage, excite and educate your followers.
4. Show Value: Communicate business value
What do people get? Show don't tell. Talk about how people BENEFIT versus talking about WHAT your company or the product does. People want to be able to relate to a brand through it's users and the value of its products. People buy products because they heard about it through a friend or other referral method, not because the brand told them to. Authenticity helps to build strong relationships with customers who may be less likely to complain or talk negatively about a brand online if they've already had positive experiences online.
5. Be a Good Listener: Listen and connect with customers
Engage with them as a real person, not a brand. You would never introduce yourself to someone as the name of your company, so don't speak from that perspective on social media. Ask questions to learn what matters to followers, understand what's on their minds, and how you can be a better resource to them.
6. Be a Resource: Share news and information that your followers will be interested in
Something I tell clients all the time is that it's important to have a well-rounded social media presence and that offering advice or information that's relevant to their business, even if it isn't about them, is a good idea. An example is, if you're promoting a winery, perhaps there's a new wine tour you want to tell your followers about. Or if you're a working to build buzz for a local clothing boutique, give praise on social media to the new coffee shop that recently opened up next door. Be a resource for a variety of information that relates to the business you're promoting to create an environment of sharing and to give followers reason to come back to your social media channels.
As with any relationship, it takes time to build trust. Develop a long-term strategy for your social media efforts to ensure success. This is a marathon not a sprint so remain consistent, engaged and interactive with your audiences. Social media can be a powerful tool to develop meaningful, purposeful connections. Engage more authentically and see the change that results.

This post is a part of a series exploring communications and media trends in honor of the second annual Communications Week, a week-long series of events celebrating the communications industry, held from October 19-23, 2015. Follow @CommsWeekNY.
Post by Jennifer Donovan, the founder of Nova Communications. You can reach her at (@jendonovansf).

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