So, you’ve got a Social Media Group…now what? Whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or have your own blog/forum, it can be challenging to get group members to stay active, submit relevant discussions, comment or even meet up online. So, I have again reached out to my network of valued experts and entrepreneurs to find out their best tips for motivating a Social Media Group to actively participate. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar tips, but I kept the insights separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Engage Authentically!
Once you know where your audience hangs out, it's essential to engage authentically. The best conversations arise from sharing who you are and being willing to be different, even if you feel like you are out on a limb!
I find the more 'out there' my comments are, the more people engage... show up as the quirky, insightful, interested, creative being that you are and watch your comments skyrocket.
People on social media want to connect with people...not a whole lot of autofeed links!!
2. Stay on Topic!
Okay, how many of us have been in a discussion group that covers our topic of choice and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you get a barrage of posts that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Someone, or some people, for some unknown reason hijacks the conversation and starts talking about things that are not either relevant or anything I care about. Once, okay, it happens. Twice, I start adding my $0.02, getting people back on subject. Want to keep people engaged... STAY ON TOPIC!
3. Get Real, Get Known
Social networking is called social for a reason. To build an active community, we need to get known to each other for more active engagement. Don't talk to your group; talk with your group members. Ask them interesting questions, ones that allow them to share a bit of their personal life. Allow yourself to be authentic, encouraging others to be also. When we have commonalities with someone, we feel a kinship, they become your kind of people and that's how a connection and loyalty is made.
4. It's Gotta Be Free
We wanted to get people to attend our Conference, but it was our first one and we didn't have a track record, so... we used the Free Facebook Event App to invite people to a Free Presentation about Social Media Marketing. Since it was a subject of interest, people signed up and attended. Once they saw who we were and what we had to offer, then they were more comfortable to communicate with us online and sign-up for our non-free conference. Step 1: Free Social Marketing Presentation. Step 2: Engage.
5. The Most Beautiful Sound...
to another person...is their name! Admit it or not, we all like to be the subject of positive commentary and discussion. With that in mind, a sure fire way to inspire an otherwise inactive social media list is to post a message featuring someone from your circle with an inspiring story or worthwhile product. Do this daily. These types of endorsements are invaluable and cost nothing. Just imagine what would happen to you if your best business friends referred you to all of their friends!
Steve Gallegos of WhoYa
6. Book it
In social media, you have to be current...so choose a recent book that is helpful to your profession and set up a discussion group on that book. Then, you might establish a book of the month club to keep interest. Discussion members can suggest books as well. Contact the author of the book to have him make a "guest" appearance at the discussion board. This gives you credibility and encourages people to continue to participate.
7. Carve out your Niche
This tip is simple - Don't try to be everything to everyone. Find a niche where you can really make a difference to your social circle. Focus on just your niche and how you can help others through your postings and others will follow you. Don't be self-serving, but work on giving to others within that niche and everything will come together.
8. Talk WITH Them and Not to Them
Talk WITH them; do not sell to them. Share usable information, tips and tricks. Get to know them - their needs and concerns. Then, you are in position to suggest a solution. Also, it's a good idea to ask them questions or their opinions. Make them feel that they are individual, unique and valued.
In a short, we began to use thought provoking questions with personable responses, advertise other events in the world and promote giveaways...People love to win quality, useable gifts and this builds your reputation as one of "quality".
10. Build a System
Building a social media system has increased our ability to stay in touch and minimizes our time spent on social media. Here's what we do. Following each event, we go through each business card/contact and connect with them on linkedin, twitter and facebook. For those who indicated interest in being on our mailing list, we send a personalized email and begin the relationship right away. A system means no more piles of cards on the desk!
11. Connect & Get Personal
The key to successful social media is making it personal & connecting with "people". Put your photo (not your pet's photo) so they can connect with a person, the EII (educate, inform & invite). Share great tips or quotes, and respond to their posts. DO NOT use an auto messaging system on FaceBook! The whole point is to connect with people! Pretend you are courting them before EVER asking for business, whether you meet live, phone call or FB...PERSONAL!
12. Talk About Them!
Submit interesting articles that relate specifically to their needs and interests and they will be sure to comment on them. Also, ask questions. Another way to create a sure response is to launch a contest - give away a prize for the most interesting comment on a topic or question.
13. Make the Honest Ask
Sometimes, you just need to be transparent and let your community know you need help. If you haven't been asking for too much and have always been a good person to them, they will happily reciprocate.
14. Engage their imagination
I publish Be Inkandescent Magazine, a monthly ezine for entrepreneurs. Each day, I post an interesting tip or tidbit from one of the ezine columns on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with the goal of engaging feedback. It works! Daily, I get several comments about the article, suggestions of new story ideas, and queries about the services of my PR firm. Ideas beget growth and that generates more good ideas.
15. And You Shall Receive
For discussion groups on LinkedIn, I've found the best way to get members to engage is to ASK THEM directly. For offline meetings, ask group members to submit door prizes, and then announce the event not only via the group Discussions/Announcement feature, but in other places online...including direct, personal emails to those you most want to attend (and be sure to target the Big Mouths in your group --- the extroverts that post often, have a blog, etc).
16. Ask for What You Want
If you want to motivate people in your social media group or readers of your blog to engage, do something radical -- ask for their opinion.
I end every one of my blog posts asking people to share their thoughts on the post by leaving a comment.
I read every comment -- and except for those which are clearly spam -- I approve it and respond.
Sometimes it's just a "Thank you" for comments like "great post".
To encourage interaction, I respond in detail to substantive comments.
17. Ask Me Anything
Posting questions for social media can create a flood of conversation and get you lots of attention from friends of friends, etc. Ramp it up with the right words and you'll multiply your success. If your Perfect Prospects are leaders, ask about getting organized and they'll respond. If your Perfect Prospects are fun-loving, ask what they did last weekend. Knowing who you're talking to will open the door for dozens of responses, and that's the ticket to a social media home run.
18. We're Only Human
A Best Practice is to provide fresh, original and relevant material that speaks directly to your Human audience. Give your audience a "feeling" that they are receiving value from engagement by offering information that will benefit their business or their lives.
19. Ignite Discussions with Video
Our social network site caters to "veteran rock fans". Our most popular thread is "So Whaddya Buy?", in which members report on their latest music purchases.
To kick off the thread, I posted a video giving my own buying report and inviting others to post theirs. It had a tremendous impact on reader response, as members saw my enthusiasm for the topic. It's easy to do and starts off a thread much better than a boring text post.
20. Be the Connector
If you want your audience to really engage and even meet-up offline, the best thing you can do is give them more than one reason (you) to do so. Start introducing people to each other.
If you notice you have two contacts that are in the same city, make the connection. If a couple of people are really into business, fishing, comic books, or whatever, get them talking to each other.
This keeps the conversation going online and when it comes time to meet up, they'll have more reasons to show up.
21. Pimping Your Personal Brand!
Treat your business brand like you do your personal brand! The tactics used to get members of a business social network to engage should be as spontaneous and entertaining as those used to engage your personal network. Posting your thoughts on subjects important to your network, even making your network laugh, is all fair game! The idea is to create a sense of camaraderie that will make members of your network eventually WANT to meet and take their social engagement to the next level.
22. Contests Create Brand Activity
A great way to keep your social media followers active is to have a contest where they submit stories, pictures, videos, or tips. These submissions lead to natural comments from others and keep your social media site active and thriving. The prize retains current members and attracts new people.
Pictures of the messiest office, (office supply company), the worst 1980's picture of a hair style (salon) are examples. Have another prize for a person who refers new followers, thus building your group.
23. Excite Them!
To encourage participation in social media groups, run a contest with a prize to get excitement going. Invite people to submit pictures or videos on a relevant subject for your business and interact with their submissions on social networks. How excited your target market will be to interact with you and others with the same interest in anticipation to see if they won! Also encourage them to tell their friends to submit and you will have everyone talking about your company.
24. Ask Questions
If you want your facebook fans to interact with you, ask questions. Don't just post article links and offers. Make sure the questions are relevant to the topic of your facebook page.
25. Give 'Em Candy
...of the digital variety, of course. Ask, "What does my audience value most? A money-saving deal? The inside scoop? A chance to showcase their work?" Then, give it to them via a Twitter contest offering a chance to win a gift card or a Twitter exclusive announcement. Try a Facebook promotion offering 20% off or a call for photos, essays, or product ideas within your blog. It's all about the prospect of a sweet reward, and this value is the make or break for all things social media.
26. Engage, Engage, Engage
You need to participate just as much, if not more, than you need to lead the conversation. Social networking is more than just talking about yourself and what you're doing. It's more than just selling your products and services. In fact, it's more than just having brief conversations with people. No one will become a raving fan if they don't get to know, like and trust you. You need to engage-ask questions, share resources, share a funny or emotional video or story...join in the conversation!
27. The Secret to Getting Traction
The secret to getting traction in social media is to keep people talking.
Whether you're asking a direct question like, "Why do you..." or asking for their opinion on a news topic, if you want to succeed, you keep them talking and they keep marketing you (through their feeds). It doesn't get any "harder" than that.
28. Meaningful Engagement
I have a Facebook & Twitter presence and pose meaningful thoughts and questions to stimulate thoughts that help provide personal answers for my particular niche. My format helps me connect with my audience in a more personal and meaningful way. Participants interact with each other to provide support. It's refreshing for all of us to realize that we're not alone in our feelings.
29. Talk About People
If you are using a social media service for prospecting and recruiting customers, and you want people to participate; talk about people. People will take the time to read and comment if they, or someone they know, are featured in your blogs and posts. You may want to focus on people who have had a problem and how you solved their problem. Give people credit for their achievements and they will encourage others to participate as well.
30. ABC - Always Be Challenging
In the words of Alec Baldwin, "ABC", Always Be Challenging... well he said closing, but anyway. You need to challenge your audience to engage & to take action to bring their brand loyalty to the streets & e-ways. The best way to engage in the social media space is to ask questions, solicit ideas, and make them part of the process. Create a platform for submitting user generated content like videos and interesting testimonials. See what CPB did with Domino's Pizza: http://www.showusyourpizza.com
31. Chase the Calendar
For business entries on Facebook and twitter, make sure you are relevant by consulting Chase’s Calendar of Events in advance. If you haven’t used this clever reference guide before, they offer a comprehensive listing of special events, holidays, et al., Most local libraries carry current copies or you can purchase direct.
32. Offer Incentives to Members
One of the most effective ways to keep social media group members engaged and participating in the community is to provide different incentives for members to contribute. Incentive ideas: offer a small prize for the first five contributors, solicit submissions in exchange for being entered into a giveaway, and highlight the “best” or “most popular” contribution of the week in the group e-newsletter or blog.
33. Social Media Group Motivation
The best strategy for connecting & keeping people engaged or relevant is to start a group discussion page on Facebook & then promote topics of interest & seminars to those participating in the discussion of choice!
34. Great Comments, Great Blog!
People want to belong to a community. And allowing people to comment on your blog is one way to do it. But many people leave bonus comments just to get more visibility and link backs. In fact, many of the comments have nothing to do with the topics I discuss on my blog! So, I decided to reward people with valuable products for giving thoughtful comments and creating a dialogue... and it worked. It enhanced my blog's quality and people love being rewarded for their efforts, so it's a win-win!
Do you have another way to motivate a social media group to engage that wasn’t included? If so, please share it below. As always, many thanks to everyone who contributed to this article!