Following the previous post regarding the importance for the science community of reaching out to the public, here is a follow up on social media. Below is part of the guidelines I give to brands or companies when consulting them. Even though I write about clients, companies or brands, the principles are the same whether you are a single scientist or someone part of a science team.
The principles of the social media scene are nothing new. They have always existed. What is different is the scale on which they affect our lives and also their relationship with technology. Humans have always socialised, it is actually part of our evolutionary survival. Whether at work, at schools or in the streets, individuals seek to connect with others. Ten years ago, and for hundreds of years before, this process was done generally face to face. People had to meet in flesh to develop relationships. Today, we have created tools that facilitate the expansion of our “social” network. And this is the most important change in our social behaviour. These tools not only helped people to connect, but they have created their own world.
This “world” is now accessible to anyone, anywhere, and for little effort. The rules that applied to our social lives, now are carried on into a place that knows no boundaries. This 4th place – the concept of a virtual social surrounding (the 3rd place being one between home and work) now defines the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
The most important tool for the social world is the smart phone. This device allows for uninterrupted connection and permits people to satisfy their instinctive need of belonging wherever they are and whenever. The effect on our consumption of information is immense. Social Media has transformed the narrative by turning the reader into an active player, and even often becoming the main character. Everyone participates in the dialogue. Everyone wants to participate. This intricate web of personal human stories has become a pillar in our society.
Now, a crucial key of Social Media is RELEVANCY. In a world already saturated with junk information and countless parties competing for attention, a successful strategy will be one that is based on a long term approach. Brands have become “individuals” and people treat them that way. People are loyal to brands in the same way they are loyal to friends. A friend makes you a better person – it listens to you, it helps you when you need it. Contrary to family, you choose that friend. It is the same for brands. Gone are the days where companies had the freedom to impose their will. Today, they must engage with their client and contribute to its well-being. Not in a healthy sense, but rather in a holistic sense (characterised by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole). That is why Apple has become so successful. Their goal was always to make life better, not to make money. Therefore they created products with which people saw their needs being answered and even surpassed. Apple’s main objective was to create the ultimate experience. They didn’t see their mission as one of creating computers, but rather to design a way of living. Which allowed them to move from computers, to phones, to music and to books. Although we can’t expect each brand to do so, the principles stay the same. Today, the business is about “EXPERIENCES”. To create “these” experiences, a strategy must look into the following points:
BE RELEVANT: You certainly don’t want your friends to bore your about things that don’t matter to you. Know and anticipate your client. Don’t become “Social Noise”.
REPETITION: Friendship is maintained through regular or daily contact. You share experiences and live life together. If your friend moves away to another city, it is most likely, that your friendship will gradually fade out. It is therefore important to constantly and daily interact with your client.
EDUCATE: Being social is in evolutionary terms, a way to get smart. When knowledge is transferred from person to person, from generation to generation, chances are that it will increase the ability to adapt and thrive. Educate your client. Make him/her smarter by feeding him/her content that is relevant. Help him/her expand his/her knowledge.
BE SMART: Don’t dumb down the conversation! There is so much junk out there, don’t be part of it. It is super easy to become the “Flavor” of the day, of the week, of the month. But you will disappear as fast as you appeared. Your aim should not be to attract traffic, but to cultivate what you have. Quality versus quantity produce loyal relationships.
TAKE YOUR TIME: Don’t be in race to accumulate followers. Don’t be easy for anything. Let your people expand your network. Their network is the one you want. It is pointless to have thousands of followers and be relevant only to a few.
GLOBAL: Time zones don’t exist anymore. Your friend can be halfway around the world and as much attention should be given to him than the one next door. There are amazing tools now like Automatic Schedule from Hootsuite to help you efficiently schedule your posts.
BE SOCIAL: Don’t be afraid to quote people, just let them know. Be proactive and expand your network. Like with friends, nothing will be achieved if you wait for people to come to you. Go and make the first move. Take part in the conversation.
BE CONNECTED: Tag the people, companies or organizations you mention. Facebook, Google + and Twitter all have this feature now so use it. See below. That way your post will spread beyond your own circle and reach new audiences.
BE GOOD: Etiquette has always been and will always be. It is too easy to steal content and disrespect others. People don’t mind having their work re-published, they just want to be acknowledged. Be polite and cordial when reaching out. Be respectful. Show the world that you REALLY care.