You encounter a lot of talk about what is known as “the social media echo chamber” when you use social media a lot. Around 2012-13, it was often used to refer to social media marketers, who talked to each other rabidly about each new platform launch, and who assumed that EVERYBODY cared that so and so unfollowed everyone on Twitter. Over the last couple of years, the echo chamber has evolved to refer to political echo chambers. The idea is that people of a conservative bent tend to share articles (or just headlines really) that they know will perform well with their connections. People on the other side of the spectrum do the same thing. A recent article by Sean Blanda explores this phenomenon further, noting that we not only start to build an echo chamber, but that we also categorize people with other opinions as “dumb.”
All of these conversations occur in regards to personal social media use, but I have never seen a discussion about corporate accounts and echo chambers. While corporate accounts usually will not get involved in political discussions, I do think corporate accounts are at risk of another kind of echo chamber, one that is industry-specific.
What Does That Have To Do With Us?
Difficulties in tracking social media ROI have persisted over the years. Companies are willing to jump into social media marketing, but arguments for hugs and puffiness are no longer cutting the mustard. These days, companies want to make sure that they can track the role social media is playing in the sales process, if any. Because of that shift in focus, there is an increased feeling that corporate social media accounts should ONLY post things specifically relevant to that company’s products or services.
There certainly is plenty of good sense behind this sentiment, but creating this lonely echo chamber is risky as well. Part of the magic of social media is that you can communicate one-on-one with your customers, but we are starting to forget that our customers and prospects are not jumping onto Facebook or Twitter anxious to see what new product we’re talking about. Like anyone else, our customers and prospects jump on to their social media platforms to talk to friends, see pictures of the kids and grandkids, and maybe play a little Candy Crush. The pages they will gravitate to will be ones they feel are valuable. If your corporate page, or your corporate Twitter account, talks about nothing but “work,” they’re not always going to feel compelled to engage with you.
The 8:1 Ratio
Back in the “old days” (which was I guess about six years ago), the proposed best practice for Twitter from expert Chris Brogan was to share 8 things from other people for every one promotional item. You don’t need to be orthodox about that, but it’s a good concept to keep in mind. Along with sharing content from other accounts, I always included items that were not business-oriented, because people can get to know you better, even if you’re using a corporate account, if you show a little personality now and then. A lot of this is a matter of what feels right in relation to your company’s brand, but appealing to other facets of your customers’ personalities beyond your work relationship can only help nurture those connections.
An Online Cocktail Party
The other advantage to sharing some non-business items now and then is this will make your unique brand more visible. Your competitors are facing the same battle. “How much do we promote? What do we share? How do we connect?” Creating your company’s online voice is so important, and much of that effort consists of choosing to share subjects or types of content that give your company an actual persona. The ultimate goal is sales, but just below that is getting people to think of your corporate accounts the same way they think of their personal connections. Do not be afraid to be funny or a little off-topic. I have always pictured social media as a professional cocktail party. Sure, you’ll talk about work, but you’ll also talk about the latest football game, the crazy weather, or whatever else ties your collective interests together. You might get goofy, but not out of control. You might word things strongly, but you won’t be rude. All of those same rules can guide you online and can help you avoid the corporate social media echo chamber.
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