This is my little piece of the world. I'm a relentless tech junkie and prepress guy ...these are my ramblings and useless swill.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Five Key Ingredients for Social Media Engagement

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Lisa Cruz, President of Red Shoes PR in Appleton, WI to do a guest blog posting on the Red Shoes PR blog. I was totally 100% overwhelmed and humbled by the invitation. The reactions and comments have been stunning. You can read all the comments here. My life has been forever changed by the relationships I have made. It keeps getting better and better...  - Tommy

Today's guest blogger is Thomas Clifford, or tommytrc as his followers know him as. Red Shoes PR first met tommytrc via Twitter during the fall of 2008. Tommytrc regularly ranks as one of the top three Twitterers in Wisconsin and top 100 in the world. Tommytrc's presence on Twitter skyrocketed after tweeting throughout the birth of his son. We asked him to share his passion and expertise on social media. Thank you tommytrc!

I come from a very heavy Italian background. My grandfather on my mother’s side was born in Sicily, so eating and food preparation took a major role in my social upbringing.

Social media is like the recipe for Mom’s favorite spaghetti sauce or chocolate chip cookies. Everyone has a recipe and each is a bit different than the next, though the purpose of the finished product remains bringing smiles to the eater’s face!

Like every good recipe, you start by throwing a few key ingredients together, season to taste and Voile! your masterpiece takes shape. The key ingredients to social media engagement are really simple. Your mileage may vary as everyone’s social media engagement “strategy” is different. Here are my five key ingredients to social media success:

It’s next to impossible to be involved in social media without interacting with others. Interaction is one of the main ingredients to a successful social media experience. Regardless of if you are using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, the base for each of these social media services is interacting with others. This may be the hardest work you do. You must get out there and meet people, strike up conversations and do some old fashioned “networking.” People can tell if you are genuine or not, and in social media, the one thing you cannot fake is interaction. While some people may find it hard to strike up a conversation on social media sites, I say just like the first dip into the pool, just do it! Once people start replying to your questions or comments, you will get the bug. And it’s infectious. Interaction feeds on other interaction, and before you know it, you will be a social media butterfly.

As you build your social media recipe, it’s next to impossible to go through your day without seeing something that is worth repeating. Whether it’s a post on Twitter or a comment on Facebook, if you like it, spread the word. Like a telephone operator in the old days, if you see a comment that you feel your network of friends will like, “patch it on in” and pass the good 411 around. On Twitter you would retweet it, or on Facebook you comment on it. That way people in your networks can be exposed to valuable information and find people they normally would not cross paths with. In the Twitter world, the sincerest form of flattery is to be retweeted by someone else. Sharing is critical for true social media engagement.

Many times, the most important ingredient for your master recipe is also the one that you are most likely to leave out. Kind of like the salt in your mom's favorite chocolate chip recipe, “Why does something sweet need salt??” You may think that skipping this all-too important ingredient will not make any difference, but have you ever tried chocolate chip cookies sans salt? You get the picture. In social media, the top engagers are also the best listeners. Its one thing to want your message heard, it’s totally another to listen to other’s messages. Like a great parent, favorite teacher or counselor at school, what makes them great are their listening skills. Many times it’s not what you say that is important, it’s the fact you give someone a listening ear.

The same holds true to social media. Just like an IRL (In Real Life) conversation, listening is one of those ingredients that can make or break the interaction. A conversation without listening is just like mom’s chocolate chip cookies without salt. Do not forget to listen.

A great cook knows when to hang up her apron and leave the kitchen. Likewise, in social media sometimes you just need to log off, shut down and spend some quality time doing something else. I’m not talking about just going to bed either. You cannot be a top engager in social media if you are not engaged in real life. You cannot neglect your local friends. Things like local tweetups, local Twitter meet-ups, are great opportunities to network and build new friends, while also feeding your hunger for social media interaction. Locally, we have a pancake tweetup every other Friday at 7 a.m. This is a great way to put real faces to the Twitter avatars and talk more openly about issues and situations. These local interactions actually strengthen our Twitter relations because now you are true friends with these people.

Like moderation, family time is one thing that you may not expect to hear in a social media engagement “must have” list. But, family is one of those ingredients that will add so much pizzazz to your social media experience. Looking for content to share on Twitter or Facebook? Look no further than family oriented stories and experiences. Nothing builds more credit on the social media networks then someone who shares true blue family interaction. You can’t build good family interaction if you are on Twitter or Facebook all day, which is why the family ingredient goes hand-in-hand with our moderation ingredient. Showing family pictures and stories not only warms the heart of your friends and followers, but also shows you are a real person, which in turn builds your followers and friends. It’s a vicious circle that works.

Now, just because you talk about your family, does not mean you need to give up their identity. Privacy is one thing we all need to be careful of. I talk about my wife online all the time, but instead of giving up her name, she is referred to as “mrstommytrc.” This makes it fun, while also keeping your privacy level high. You can experiment to see what works for you.

Now remember kids, if your initial blend of herbs and spices isn’t exactly right, no need to worry or fret. Social media is your creation and you make it what you want. I know from personal experience that mom’s special sauce was always a work in progress. A little more of this, or a little less of that. Like all great cooks, experimenting to get the blend just right takes time and practice, but once you hit it, you will be a social media engagement gourmet!

Connect with tommytrc:
Twitter: @tommytrc

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