Within the American Red Cross, we prefer to use the term “social engagement” rather than “social media.” The word media focuses on tools and technology. Engagement, on the other hand, defines the desired outcome of interacting with our community through the use of social networks.
Last week I spoke at a statewide conference attended by public information officers (PIOs) from various government agencies. There I outlined the following three premises for effective social engagement:
Premise #1. Social engagement requires human interaction between two or more people.
Too often, corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations speak in an authoritative, inanimate voice. Interacting with them on various social networks feels like you’re dealing with a robot, not a real person.
Granted, the name or face of the person speaking from within the organization is seldom identified. Yet the corporate entity should at least act and sound as if it is a real person.
The more human an organization becomes, the more likely people will engage with it.
Premise #2. If you’re not having conversations, you’re not using social media right.
Some organizations push information outward, mistakenly believing that one-way communication is sufficient to connect with people.
The best organizational communicators are good conversationalists. They listen. They join existing conversations. They offer additional information and, when needed, correct misinformation. They welcome comments and thrive on the ensuing interactions.
I am most impressed with organizations that engage me in conversations where I feel as if I’m talking over a cup of coffee with a friend.
Premise #3. Success in social engagement requires the deliberate blending of personal and professional.
People like doing business with people they trust. Trust is built as we get to know each other as real humans. A formal, sanitized professional persona does little to connect or to engage us with others.
Professionally, I am known mostly as a marketing strategist and a communicator. That’s a narrow definition of who I am, though. On a personal level, I’d also like people to know that I’m a husband, father, friend, mentor, teacher, blogger, volunteer and community citizen. I’m much more effective professionally when people know something about me personally, something more than what’s printed on my business card.
In summary, I have some simple advice to anyone responsible for creating content on a corporate Facebook page, Twitter feed or other social platform.