Context can make us do strange things, especially in how we interact with people.
For example, you’d never walk into a stranger’s home and then sit in a chair, open your mouth wide and let them proceed to poke your teeth and gums with sharp metal objects. Yet when you go to the dentist’s office, that’s exactly what you do and you think nothing of it. The setting sets the context, which forms your expectations for the experience. Social media channels have a similar effect, but the context is still lost on many businesses.
The best real world analogy for social media channels is a crowded cocktail party. Your intention when you walk into this party may be to network for your business, but you don’t go about it by wearing a sandwich board with your logo on it and shouting out marketing messages through a megaphone. Instead, you mingle. You listen to the people at the party and find some common ground; you calculate what they need and whether you can provide it, or perhaps if they can give you something you need.
The tips offered by Dave Kerpen in this Globe and Mail piece are helpful in reminding that context is important. In the context of social media, people don’t expect to just be shouted at, they expect to engage in a conversation. It’s not a one way channel where its expected that there’s a sender and many receivers, but it’s the crowded party where everyone is on equal footing to participate in the conversation.
Social media author and speaker Tara Hunt has a great talk about this same topic. She reminds her audience that even though you’re interacting on a computer, you’re expected to act like a human on social media, not like a robot. Make sure your business values align with human values, she says, and then act like that when conversing with the public.
Setting expectations will guide your success in social media. Busineses should expect to give for the benefit of their audience, not to gain at their expense