Grow Your Brand’s Community: Q&A With Shonali Burke
It takes more than a few posts and likes to build an online community, and it won’t happen overnight. So how do you turn followers into brand advocates?
At her upcoming webinar, “Unleashing the Power of Social PR,” on Tuesday, June 28 at 2 p.m. ET, PR and social media expert Shonali Burke will share her tips on how to build, engage and motivate your community on social media to increase reach and grow brand awareness.
Here, Shonali gives us a taste of what’s in store for webinar attendees by answering a few of our questions:
Q: What are some of the biggest social media mistakes brands make?
A: It’s going to sound really basic, but one of the BIGGEST mistakes brands make when it comes to social media is they don’t listen.
They want to talk, talk, talk and have people “join the conversation,” but they forget that a conversation requires more than one person talking and listening (unless you’re the Evil Queen in “Snow White”).
So while they may “be” on various social media platforms, far too often they’re only listening for mentions of themselves. And what they should be doing is really listening to, and participating in, existing conversations, adding value as they go. That’s the first step to building relationships of substance, and social media is no different.
Q: What is the first step in practicing social PR? Where should brands begin?
A: Just like you would with any other business initiative, you need to begin at the end: what is it you’re trying to accomplish? What are you working towards? Define your goals – which is theoretically simple, but different departments often want different things – and then work backwards from there.
Once you’ve done that, if you’re really serious about “Social” PR, then you have to pay attention to that word: social. That means really listening (see above) to who’s participating in relevant conversations, talking to them and consistently engaging in initiatives to build your community, so that they start to tell your story for you.
In very practical terms, this means that, after you’ve identified your goals, you have to set up a listening dashboard and workflow. You can do this very easily these days. The most important thing is to set up a good workflow, and then commit to it.
Q: What are some of the ways to build relationships with your audience on social media?
A: First of all, provide value. Sorry if I sound like a broken record! That starts with listening. Because if you are listening to what your audience is talking about, and says it needs, you can find ways to fill those needs (assuming you can, of course. If they want pink unicorns, you can’t). They’ll appreciate being heard and start to look on you more kindly.
Second, don’t be afraid to have, and state, your opinions. It’s impossible for everyone to like you. But the clearer you are about who you are and what you stand for, the more you’ll start to build connections with those you can build mutually beneficial relationships with.
Q: How can you increase the likelihood that your audiences will engage with your social posts? How do you determine what kind of content will grab your audience’s attention?
A: It’s a crap shoot.
Seriously, though…you’ll have to do a lot of testing and see what resonates, then do more of that, and less of what doesn’t. And again, it starts with listening, so that you can create and curate content that is of value, but that is also interesting and engaging.
In my experience, there are certain factors that consistently come into play for smart Social PR. So I recently codified them in what I call my 7C Social PR Framework. You’ll see that content is itself one of them, but you should test a variety of content, and get as creative as you can.
The good news is that we have tons of tools at our disposal to do so these days, and several social networks – including the big ones – are trying to help us along.
Q: How do you determine what social platforms to build your community on?
A: Again, you need to listen to determine where your audience is engaging online. There’s no point in spending hours on Facebook if the majority of your audience is on Snapchat. So that means doing some research.
But I think it’s equally important that you have a level of comfort with your chosen social platforms. If you don’t, you’re not going to use them.
So if there’s a gap between where (platform-wise) you need to be, and where you’d like to be, the onus is on you to bridge that gap through education, training and/or hiring someone who can fill that gap for you.
A: I always say, “Love your community, and they will love you right back.” You need to engage with them, respond to them and generally behave with them online as you would in real life… and your community will appreciate it. That’s how you build it; by being consistent, present, honest and constantly looking to provide value.
Spoiler alert – you can automate some of this but you CANNOT automate all of it. If you do, you’ll lose them – I guarantee it (and if you don’t, they’re not a “community”). They’re simply followers. So be ready to roll up your sleeves and spend time with your community; it’s not going to happen otherwise.
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