Building large numbers of followers/fans/friends was a worthwhile activity and important in itself. Soon enough, it became clear that what makes social media different from traditional one-way marketing (i.e. the marketer speaks, the customer listens) is that the customer can be involved in the conversation.
Social media for business became about brands interacting with their customers, rather than just telling them to buy their stuff.
In the past we experimented with lots of scheduled messaging and automated interactions, it felt soulless at the time but that’s what we thought we were supposed to be doing. Luckily we came to our senses and realised that if it does not feel right, then it probably is not.
In this article, I am going to highlight the key reasons why businesses should only have genuine social interactions. A clue for you is that it isn’t just about looking good to your audience… it is also because social media platforms are now able to work out who is genuine, and who isn’t – the genuine are then rewarded with preferential treatment.
What does non-genuine social behaviour look like?
On social media platforms, there are certain behaviours that can be labelled as inauthentic, or not genuine.
- Failing to interact with followers
- Scheduling posts in advance (so not being spontaneous, in the moment, relevant)
- Posting about certain subjects repeatedly
- Putting your own views out there, but not listening to those of your followers and not taking part in a conversation.
Who can tell if I am genuine or not? A quick reference to search.
If you are on the ball, you will have heard about Penguin, Panda, and many of the other cutely named algorithm updates that Google have made over the past few years. If you are less on the ball, you are probably just annoyed that some ‘penguin’ caused you to lose half of your website pageviews in 2012.
Every time Google has an algorithm update, they make search engine optimisation (SEO) more complicated than it was for businesses before. As far as Google are concerned, they want to consistently improve the quality of their search results for users – making results more relevant. Understanding how that ‘relevance’ is calculated is becoming more complicated but the key seems to be quality content and genuine engagement. Gone are the days of Google Adwords and putting ‘the right words’ on your webpages as a way of being found.
What is certain is that consistently published, relevant, quality content is what Google wants from you. In addition, it wants to know that you are being real with your followers. For Google, this applies to how you use their own social media platforms Google+ and YouTube.
Proof that Google can spot ‘fake’ behaviours
A comprehensive research piece that was carried out in late 2013 in Italy found that in order to be successful on Google+ (and as a consequence, YouTube), it is essential that ones social interactions are genuine.
Google have built tools into Google+ and YouTube that serve their purposes perfectly. One great example is the ‘+1’ button.
Firstly, when you click the +1 button, it recommends other related/relevant content on the same website. Just another way that Google is trying to be useful to us. Secondly, you have the opportunity to share the item, as part of a post. Thirdly, you can select who exactly you share it with from your Google ‘circles’. If you have made your share a public one, the next time a friend searches the same thing on Google, their search will be enhanced by information that you have +1’ed a particular page.
This is a great move by Google. Firstly, it makes the content returned in the search results even more relevant to the user (i.e. “your friend recommended this page out of this list”). Secondly, it rewards those websites who are encouraging interactions with their visitors (i.e. “because you have encouraged Google+ interaction on your website, we are going to enhance your snippet when your website is returned in search results”).
The Italy-based research has resulted in a Google Hangout with a panel of SEO/social media experts. It is long but if you are interested in hearing a discussion about in-depth elements of Google+ it is worth a listen – check it out below:
What they found was that it is the people that are really passionate about their topic of expertise and that fully participate in social media interactions with those connected to them who become the most visible on the social network. It is more important to focus on depth of relationship rather than the number of relationships that you have.
If you do this then the volume comes naturally.
This is in contrast to most people’s belief that the friend/follower/circled count is the most important indicator of their influence. The key thing is to just treat it like your real life – start small with the people you care about and enjoy talking with the most and then scale it if you have the time.
How can online video help?
- Create videos that are relevant to your audience. Video is just another medium of communication but it can be a very effective way of making a point to those around you.
- Optimise your video for SEO to make it easy for Google to return your video content in searches
- Share your videos via social media in ways that ‘make sense’ – as appropriate answers to questions for example. Don’t spam your followers with the same content repeatedly.
- Be creative. Some of the best online video campaigns have used social media in a way that has raised the bar for us all. Think Bodyform, Old Spice and Red Bull.
Third party videos
- Make video a key part of your everyday social media interactions. Video is dominating the Internet and good video really engages audiences. If you come across a video that your followers will find interesting or relevant, share it with them.
- When you share videos with your followers, use them as a conversation starter. Don’t forget to engage with your followers (i.e. answer them!) when then choose to interact with you about a video you have posted.
The key to social media is to remember that it is just like ‘real life’.
If, as a business, you aren’t sure how to act on social media, ask yourself how you would act (or interact more to the point) with your customers face to face.
Be friendly, be helpful, ask questions, take the responses on board. Be yourself. If a person asks a question or makes a comment on your wall – respond to them.
Don’t have the time? Then make the time or make it someone’s job to have these conversations. It is all about customer service and the perception followers have of your brand – which, as we all know, can be extremely beneficial, or just outright damaging.