Everyone struggles with how to calibrate social media content for their audience. Meeting after meeting, people sit around tables looking at data: What is the best time to post? What content do we have to offer them? What is our competition doing?
Stop the meetings! The single most effective way to understand your audience is also the simplest:
The catch? Just asking open-ended questions is a terrible idea. Like the myth of crowdsourcing, throwing a vague question will get a slew of irrelevant answers. Here are a few ways we’ve asked networks what they want, and have exponentially scaled many (many!) highly engaged brand communities.
1. Listen to the conversations people have with each other.
When people are talking about your brand in social media, they know it’s in the open. And, they want human interaction from the brand. When they talk, ask them what they mean. It’s really that simple.
While managing KFC’s Twitter, we saw two people talking about getting fried chicken on Friday, and used the hashtag #friedchickenfriday. We wondered, “Is this a thing?” So we asked our followers. People responded, driving a weekly tradition where people would post to their friends at mealtime about getting KFC together on Fridays. In terms of our competitive set, we now owned a whole day of the week they couldn’t.
2. Give people choices.
Look for opportunities to let people vote. We started this on cover photos. Normally, our team would create four or five options and then working with a client we would select one to post. Then we realized, if they’re all generally good representations of the brand, why not post them all, and let the one cover photo that gets the most vote go up on our page. That makes the network feel invested in the brand, and rewards engagement with action. Plus, it structures the engagement in a way that is positive for everyone.
3. Embrace the ‘either/or’ option.
One of the more interesting triggers in post construction is giving people the chance to vote between two things. This popped for us when we noticed that among all posts for a particular brand, a simple question like, “At the movies: Gummy Bears or Popcorn?” exploded their comments.
Why? It’s so easy to answer.
The brand has already written the answer for people and no one feels put on the spot, as though their answer could be wrong. The bonus is that by creating the either/or scenario, you will unearth people that feel strongly about a third, personal option. In the example, there were a number of people who jumped in with a snack that wasn’t popcorn or gummy bears.
Hopefully, these examples help give you some structure around what should be the most important facet of your social media presences: giving your biggest advocates the opportunity to tell you exactly what they need to go and evangelize to their friends about what makes a brand great.