Stop blushing; relax. It may get personal, but NOT THAT personal. Let me clarify, revealing the acronym to ask instead, “How’s your Social Engagement Experience?” And when I say “social engagement,” I’m speaking beyond the digital world to include all the ways in which your organization connects with its audience bases––clients, customers, employees, patrons, donors. These are the people who pay the bills and justify your organization’s existence. So, if you aren’t seeing results in the form of attendance, conversions, traffic, retention, or revenue, your marketing communications’ S.E.X. life may need a little T.L.C. (and yes, that’s tender loving care).
The below suggestions pertain to all your internal and external marketing communications’ copy, content, and outreach efforts, and apply to any institution––whether for-profit, nonprofit, small business, or corporate enterprise. When looking to improve your institution’s social engagement experience, strive at:
Acting Authentic. If you want to participate in an audience-related trend––take, for example, engaging in brand activism or touting a tremendous corporate work culture––great! First, however, be sure that your organization aligns with and reflects what you want to promote; if it doesn’t, work on improvements before moving forward. Or, at least identify where existing or potential contradictions could exist, not only being ready to address them but also acting to correct them. Otherwise, not only your message but also your institution risks jeopardizing its credibility. Relationships are built on honesty, which is dependent on words as well as actions. If you expect your audience to be trustworthy and loyal––not to stray––then you need to be honest and authentic.
Keeping in Touch. People are dynamic, complex creatures who are constantly changing, so don’t lose track of who your audience is and what they presently care about, which also changes. Current events, societal trends, breaking research, and news cycles all shape current thinking and actions. Therefore, be sure you follow what your audience follows, read what they read, and consider what impacts their attitudes and behaviors.
It does not involve stalking, but it does require keeping informed about current desires and pain points. Set up Google News and Google Trend alerts; poll your audiences via online surveys or through social media posts; review the conferences they attend, learning what timely topics are being discussed; sign up for one or two podcasts, newsletters, or blogs that your audience subscribes to; and conduct social listening.
Building Rapport. There are several ways to connect with an audience base–– seminars, webinars, ads, articles, and blogs––the possibilities are almost endless. It’s wise to make sure you are considering how each prefers to receive information and be informed. Applying an integrated mix consisting of paid, earned, and owned media generally ensures all bases are covered.
Paid: Third-party receives payment and distributes the message(s) Some examples include paid search; display, broadcast and print ads; paid influencer; and corporate sponsorship.
Owned: Organization creates and controls the message(s) through its website, emails, blogs, and social media channels and marketing collateral.
Earned: Information about the organization is shared via press coverage, industry awards as well as reviews, shares, and mentions.
Keep in mind that different modes of communication have their own "rules of engagement." For instance, how and what you communicate on Facebook may not always be appropriate for LinkedIn. Just like how you approach the media would differ from how you would approach a customer or colleague. Take the time to observe and learn. And when you are ready to create and reach out to your base, make sure your content or copy meet one of these criteria, in that it is: (1) informative; (2) entertaining; or (3) timely. Lastly, when you share the communication piece across different media, make sure it's consistent.
Being Responsive. Provide opportunities to exchange thoughts and ideas, and allow for comments and feedback, responding in a timely and thoughtful manner. On occasion, it’s possible that commentary may be less than flattering, but avoid being defensive. Step into the “commenter’s” shoes and practice empathy. Relationships involve, at least, two people, and no two people are alike; there are going to be differences; consider it and, even, record it. Keeping a running log of feedback––positive or negative––allows you to analyze information over time. Are there any themes? If so, you're in a good position either to reinforce or to quash and correct.