One of my favourite quotes of all-time is from Fight Club. Narrator says, “When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you instead of just…” and Marla Singer interrupts, “Instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?” As crazy as it might sound, I’ve always found this applicable to social media marketing.
Startups rush to social media to tell everyone about how awesome their vision, culture, funding, founder, etc. is. Unfortunately, all anyone is waiting for is their turn to speak. Newsflash: people love to talk about themselves. But that doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing.
In fact, you can use it to your advantage. The first step is to simply stop assuming anyone cares about what you have to say. Harsh? Yes, but also true. The only place Narrator could find people who would really listen to him was support groups for terminal illnesses. Let that sink in.
Once you can move past that, check out these tips to help you use this all to your advantage and dominate social media.
1. It’s not about you.
This isn’t just a concept in some movie from 1999. It’s the honest truth. When you’re speaking, most people aren’t listening. They’re thinking of what they’re going to say next. The same applies to social media!
When you’re tweeting about something that’s only about you, people are thinking about what they’re going to eat for breakfast, whether they’ll be home before 6 p.m. and what their best friend is tweeting about. You need to make sure your social media efforts are more about your followers than yourself.
Here, try this:
Know your audience inside and out. Are they male or female? Young or old? What other types of accounts do they follow? Before you can make it about them, you need to know who they really are.
Provide real value. At the end of the day, that’s what it all comes down to. You can tell people about your latest accomplishments all you want, but it is less likely to start a conversation. Instead, talk about how that new accomplishment will impact them.
2. Ask a lot of questions.
Asking someone a question empowers them. It implies that they know more than you do and that you hold them in high regard. It’s simple psychology. Asking questions is a powerful, powerful tactic.
If you’re trying to get a response from someone, end the message with a direct question. Whenever possible, avoid asking yes or no questions so that you can get a real conversation going. You’ll be amazed at how many more responses you get, especially on Twitter, if you end a message with a question mark.
Think of it the way you think of books. Once you start reading a book, you feel compelled to finish it. It’s the way the mind works. Similarly, once you are asked a question, you feel compelled to answer it. This is also the reason copywriters use questions frequently. Subconsciously, we’ll answer them in our heads as we read.
3. How can you help them?
Let’s all take a page from the Gary Vaynerchuk book here. Always start by asking how you can help someone else. Don’t focus on what they can do for you because, chances are, they won’t. You need to build up some goodwill first, folks.
If you’ve taken a psychology class, you likely know about the sign experiment. A marketer asked people to put a large promotional sign in the front yard and no one agreed. The second time, the marketer asked people to put a small promotional sign in their window. The majority agreed to the smaller sign.
A week later, the marketer asked the people who put the small sign up to put the large sign up as well. Again, the majority agreed even though they originally wouldn’t allow it. She had to get her foot in the door. That’s what you’re doing when you offer to help someone instead of asking them to help you (the art of reciprocity).
Finding out how you can help your followers (promoting something, offering advice, introducing them to someone, offering a free trial, sending them a free t-shirt, etc.) is vital. Once you help them, they’ll be much more likely to want to help you. It’s human nature.
4. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
Here’s another secret: if people don’t like the conversation, they’ll change it or leave. Ensuring you have built up a following that is generally interested in the same things you are is key. Sounds obvious, right? Right, but it’s so frequently overlooked.
I see startups targeting anyone who mentions the word “startup” or “entrepreneur” or “SaaS” on social media. That’s just not effective. Those parameters aren’t niche enough. You’ll start to talk about your fashion and beauty startup and they’ll interrupt to tell you about their ecommerce site.
Build your following on social media expecting that people will change the conversation (they will). Ensure that even when the conversation is changed, you have a place in it. You’re still relevant, you can still add to it.
Sometimes we forget what social media really is. We forget that the same harsh rules that apply to a face to face conversation apply to social media as well. We just can’t see the glazed over look in their eyes via social media.
Knowing as much as you can about human nature and how we communicate matters more than ever.
Now, ask yourself this, are your followers really, really listening to you? Or are they just waiting for their turn to speak?