What Skills Do You Need To Participate In Social Media?
After reading a blog post about the minimum skills necessary to operate a computer (Dwight Silverman's Techblog | Chron.com | What are the basics of computer literacy? ) and got to thinking about what additional skills are necessary to be successful in social media. In a sense, the skills necessary to be successful with social media are not necessarily technical skills - they are more people skills.
What? People skills? Yes, people skills. Social media is all about being social. When using social media to market your company or product - a huge component of content marketing - the need to be socially adept is even more critical. Users of social media want real interactions with real people. Like it or not, to find success means being as genuine as possible and that includes being appropriately social.
So what does it take to be social? To answer this, think about the skills you use when working an office party or other quasi-business social gathering:
- you greet people with positive intent
- you listen intently
- you are cordial and positive at all times
- humor is applied with elegance and finesse
- you add to a conversation rather than being the center of it
Social media interaction is no different than any other human interaction (except for the obvious distance between participants). Consequently, the same skills mentioned above apply to successfully navigating social media.
Let me translate this into some concrete social media skills and how you can use them.
There are two components to listening: a) listen to what people are really saying when they post their thoughts -and - 2) know what people are saying about you or your company. The fastest way to figure out how to enter a space is to listen to the conversation prior to entering it. To do this, conduct a search for your company name on Twitter. Search for groups dedicated to your industry on Facebook and read every comment. Use a search engine to locate blogs that are talking about you or your product. Be willing to dig in and take the time to listen - it's vital.
2. Add to a conversation rather than being the center of it
This follows listening as a very important social media skill. When posting comments, it's vitally important to add information that will benefit the conversation rather than attempting to steer it toward yourself. No one likes to maintain a relationship with people who only talk about themselves - that is a sure-fire strategy to losing your audience.
3. Be cordial and positive at all times - avoid being negative
When posting anything online, use the adage "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." That's not to say you can't say anything negative ever - just be aware that over use of negativity turns people off and consequently away from hearing you.
4. Use humor appropriately
Apply humor in a positive light without using dripping sarcasm. Did you know that the root of the word sarcasm is a Greek word meaning "to tear flesh"? That's why sarcasm can really sting and may not be an appropriate type of humor for business communication. Also, in a written medium, it is difficult for people to recognize you are trying to be funny - sarcasm often comes across as your actual thoughts. Instead, use self-depreciating and ironic humor that allows the reader the opportunity to know you are a real person and not someone who takes pleasure in ripping others to shreds.
5. Treat people the way you would like to be treated
This is more than just a way to live. I'm amazed at how responsive people are to being treated well. Here are a few ways to do it:
- If someone posts a nice comment to one of your posts, acknowledge them (just say thank you and then shut up - this is about them, not you).
- When you see a helpful post on another site, post a comment that encourages them.
- If you see something posted that is not entirely accurate, use carefully chosen words in your response to convey the inaccuracy (I like to think the person is simple in need of education rather than thinking they are being cruel).
6. Follow through
Always, always, always follow through with any promises you make. If someone asks a question, be sure to answer as quickly as you can. If you don't know the answer right away, respond that the question is a good one and you will need to research a bit to provide a good answer - then make damn sure you follow through with an answer.
Making sure you participate in social media as a real person will ensure you a certain amount of instant respect and will lead to people trusting you. Trust is the key to successful social media participation - and subsequent content marketing success.