Breaking away from the herd.

Last Updated on August 11, 2016

Break away from the social media herd
Image credit.

I enjoy watching nature shows with my two daughters. A common theme in most of these shows is how a herd of animals gathers and moves around. It’s pretty cool to see how a group of animals, like zebras, interact with one another. This may sound strange, but seeing the zebras made me think of how companies communicate with their users via social media.

Recently,  I’ve seen a lot of companies move with a herd-like mentality when it comes to social media. They may start a Facebook page, add social media links to their web pages, create a Twitter or Pinterest account, or even go so far as to start a Google+ account. Every chance I get, I ask them why they made that decision. Typical answers range from “Well, our competitors are doing it” to “We learned about it at a workshop” or “We have a staff member who can manage that.”

My typical reaction ranges from a frown, to biting my lip, to a small grunt of disapproval. Every time, I’m shocked and disappointed. Why? Because there’s no real thought behind it. They’re just adding buttons– pin it, tweet it, or like this — to their content, with no plan or strategy. Simply adding these buttons, or impulsively creating accounts on various social media channels, does absolutely nothing to enhance a company’s content, enrich their users or, more importantly, to strengthen the relationship between the company and its customers.

Just because the herd you roam around with does one thing, doesn’t mean it’s good for your organization or your users. So how can companies improve communication with their users and  use social media the right way? Let me outline some key points.

Know your users!!!!
Talk to them, ask them questions, and cater to them.

Write for your users.
The content has to be tailored for THEM and NOT for you.

Design and build for your users.
It has to be easy to use. Remember, it’s designed for THEM, not you.

Now that those key points have been covered, let’s consider how social media comes into play.

Assuming that you know your users pretty well, you can determine which social media channels they may frequent. From there, you can extend your relationship and have conversations with them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other sites. This is a lot more meaningful than retweeting or reposting just to fill your accounts with content. If you are looking for numbers relating to social media site usage click here.

When adding social media links to your web content, be cautious. It can be tempting to add every social media button under the sun — and the herd you roam with may push for this — but YOU HAVE TO RESIST! Evaluate the content first and determine whether it’s worthy enough to repost, tweet, or repin. Better yet, ask your users if they would share the content with their contacts.

If you decide to add these buttons to your pages, consider whether they will cause your users to leave your website prematurely. People’s attention spans are shorter than ever. So once your user repins that cool image on your website, there’s a chance that they’ll lose interest in your site and move on. This is where some user testing can be beneficial.

Running with the herd can have its advantages — but don’t let the herd make key decisions for you and your users. Take the time to break away, get to know your users, and learn how to carry on a conversation with them.