Are You Speaking At People or With People?

BullhornIf you’ve ever watched a political show where a host has on a Republican guest and a Democrat guest and asks them to discuss an issue, you know what I’m talking about.  You’ll have two people anxiously waiting to say their talking points and they don’t even seem to care what the other person is saying.  They’re just talking at each other.  They aren’t listening to each other.  When they are not speaking (if that ever happens), they aren’t listening to the other person, they thinking about what they want to say next.

Don’t worry!  I promise this isn’t a post about politics.

Social Marketing:
Social marketing is when an organization uses social media (like Facebook, Twitter, a blog, etc) to try to market themselves.  The tricky thing is, though, that since so much of marketing is about blasting your message, that most organizations don’t realize that social media is different.  They treat it like TV, radio, online ads, etc.   They just keep putting their message out there and hope people see it and respond.  However, that isn’t how social media works.

Social Media:
The name itself, social media, implies that this medium is supposed to be social in nature, which means it’s about interaction, not broadcasting.  Yes, you telling people what you think can be part of that interaction, but it should only be part of it…not all of it.  You need to be speaking with people, not at them.  Social marketing isn’t just about broadcasting your message, it’s about connecting with people and having real engagement.  It’s a very different animal from other forms of marketing.

Listening:
on the journey of thought : a quiet conversation,  san francisco (2014)The most important part of any social engagement is listening.  Even if all you want to do is put out content, how can you know what content people want or how they want it if you don’t listen.  You need to be listening to your audience.  Sometimes your audience will make it easy to hear, but sometimes they won’t and you’ll need to do something crazy…ask them questions.  Then listen to their responses and show that you are listening by acknowledging the responses and acting on them.

Levels of Engagement:
I know you’re life is busy and you probably don’t have time to just sit around having conversations with people on Facebook and Twitter all day, so you may want to find the level of engagement that will work best for your situation.

  1. Ear to the Ground: This is the most basic level of engagement, if you can really call it engagement.  You look around at what people are talking about (especially your audience) and listen for what people are interested in.  You also watch people’s reactions when you post something to see if it piqued their interest.
  2. Responder: At this level you are not only listening to hear what people are interested in, but when people post something for you or about you, you respond to their post.  When people receive a response, it tells them you are listening and appreciate their input (assuming you are nice in your response).
  3. Questions and Answers: This is when you move beyond just listening and even responding to where you are actually starting the engagement.  You post questions and ask for people’s responses.  So, where before you were more passive, allowing the engagement to happen to you, now you are creating those engagements and reaching out to people.
  4. Fully Engaged: At this level you are actively listening, reaching out to people, and responding.  This is more than simply asking questions in order to create engagement, but actually allowing your audience to help determine what your organization is doing.  You’re having real conversations with people, showing them that you value their input, and creating real connections.

Why Engage?
As you move through each level of engagement the connection you form with your audience becomes stronger.  Stronger connections create more loyal members and bigger advocates.  Of course, it also takes more time and effort.  You can find tools and services that can help to make it more efficient, but in the end, like any relationship, it takes real people interacting with each other and engaging each other.  But, often times, the rewards are well worth it.  Member/costumer retention improves, social sharing increases, and you gain a bigger, stronger audience.

Share Your Thoughts:

  • Does your organization have social media accounts?  Do you do social marketing?
  • How engaged are you?
  • What are some great stories of engagement that you have experienced?

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .

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