Engage with Your Readers on Social Media

Entering the world of social media can feel overwhelming at times. The networks and technology are changing on an ongoing basis and there are many opinions about what works best to engage with your audience. There are two things you CAN be sure of, YOU know your readers better than anyone else and your readership is involved in social networking in some capacity. So, if you’re ready to jump into the online world of social media and engage with your readers, here are a few simple steps to get you on the right path.

Find the right places to engage. Take the time to do a little bit of upfront research about your readers’ online habits. Pinpoint the appropriate social networking sites that your readers are engaged in. There are some great tools available to you to help you do this – even some free or low cost options. Research will take some form of investment of your time and/or money (depending on how much information you want), but what you put into this is what you’ll get out. It’s worth taking that extra few hours or spending that bit of cash upfront to be an informed participant. Of course, if you have the ability to personally ask a sampling of your readers, the first-hand information you receive would be immensely helpful. Also consider surveying your readership through a free and simple Survey Monkey survey.

Once you learn more about your readers and where they interact online, decide what your voice will be when you interact with your readership. Be strategic:

– Keep the tone consistent with your brand voice and encourage engagement.
– Stay upbeat, positive and relevant. Ask yourself, would I want to interact with a brand using this voice on social media?
– Keep the sales language to a minimum. Again, think of how you would react to a brand trying to constantly sell you their products and services.

Start off slowly with one or two social media channels. Feel out the response from your readers on these online channels and adapt to their conversations as you become more familiar with the type of content they prefer. One thing to keep in mind is that it takes time (just like with researching) to build your social media audience. Unless you’re Charlie Sheen or Eminem, you’ll need to nurture your social media channels and watch it grow with patience.

As you continue to foster your online conversations, stay updated on trend data and the latest, greatest social media tools. For this you can’t go wrong with social media resources like Mashable, Brian Solis and Steve Rubel.

Now for a few trends to keep your eye on:

– Use share functionality (such as ShareThis and AddThis) to spread your message across multiple channels and reach new audiences. Whether it’s a blog post or your digital magazine, make sure it’s shareable.

– Know when your readers are online and engaging in conversations. Research has shown that the most popular time of day that people are participating on Facebook is at the top and bottom of the hour. Meetings have just ended, and people return to their desks to see what’s happening online. Day-parting your messages is key to catching your audience when they sign on. Once you know more, use tools such as Cotweet, Timely, Hootsuite or Su.pr to schedule your messages to go out on time.

– Find ways to integrate online conversations into an offline setting and vice versa. In the weeks leading up to an event you’ll be participating in, share the information with your online community. If you’re going to be speaking at an event, ask your readers for ideas on what to speak on and offer ticket discounts to your connections if possible. It’s also important to record your speech and share it online. Videos are a powerful medium.

What social media tips can you share?