Social media marketing is all about making splash. The entire purpose of taking your campaign to a social platform is to connect with your customer base and get involved with the communities that use your products. And that means conversation. A social media campaign is more than a series of posts, it should be a constant interaction between your campaign managers and your audience.
While the statistics may focus on how many clicks and conversions you create, the true test of your social media success can be measured in discussions. You know you’re getting people’s attention and really bringing your campaign front-and-center when dozens of people gather to discuss and share ideas about each of your new posts. Take a look at any successful social media campaign by another brand and you will see people discussing everything from their weekend plans to world events and how they relate to the product/brand.
Today, we’re here to talk about how to inspire your own community discussions on social media, even if your company is new to the social media scene and doesn’t have an active community yet.
The Value of Content Diversity
First and foremost, it’s vital to understand the value of user discussions on your page and posts. Discussions are more than a sign of user engagement, each discussion is a thread of unique content which is incredibly valuable for your campaign. Discussions serve to further engage others who are interested in the conversation topic and entice strangers to join your community just to join the discussion.
Conversations on your page and posts also provide something that you can’t put a price
This becomes even more valuable if the discussions inspire your growing community to post pictures that others will comment on, share stories, and even post videos. These may serve to further engage your audience with minimal effort on the part of your marketing team.
Of course, you can’t just plan for a discussion to happen and expect people to show up and chat. In order to get lively conversations about your subjects and on your posts, the key is to inspire them. Readers who browse past your content should feel compelled to pitch in their two-cents and be intrigued by the comments of others. This creates an interesting challenge for social media campaign managers: To create core-posts that can spark long, involved conversations.
Fortunately, most people on social media are eager to comment and there are many ways to get your first few commenters that start the conversation. All you need is compelling content, something that makes readers want to post and to see what others have to say. This could be a joke, a survey, a hilarious picture. Anything that makes social media feel an emotion that they will then want to share.
Ask Engaging Questions
The best way to start a conversation is simply to ask a question that everyone wants to answer. It can be controversial, thought-provoking, creative, or funny. Ideally, it will feel like your question directly relates to each person who reads it so that they will feel strongly about sharing their own personal answer and interested in seeing the personal answers of others.
Questions meant to inspire discussions should be open-ended, not just a ‘yes or no’ answer. Think of these questions as similar to what you might ask in a party game. Things like “What three items would you take with you to a desert island?” or “What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done with a pair of scissors?” Questions like this will get people’s minds active and they’ll want to share the neat answers they think up.
And, of course, don’t forget to tangentially relate it to your brand and product.
Post an Intriguing Poll
Along the same lines as a question, a poll can also inspire a variety of answers and lively discussion in the comments. Especially if the poll is funny and creative. Don’t just put up a question and a list of answers. In your poll question, encourage users to post what their answer was and why in the comments. This will help to get the user-content flowing.
With polls, your first few comments are likely to be tame, normal participants sharing their poll results and why. But soon, someone will want to comment on someone else’s results and compare results. After you’ve ‘put together some data’, the percentage per-answer will start spurring conversation on its own. People may comment on how interesting it is that 60% of responders think cheesecake is really a pie, for example, then spur a discussion on how people feel about the results.
Invite Others to Existing Threads
If a discussion does get started on your page, remember this isn’t the total of your potential success. Start inviting community members to join in the discussion. Reach out to people who follow your account or are usually active on your page and ask if they want to throw in their two-cents. Like, favorite, and re-post your favorite comments in the discussion thread to create new content and inspire others to wonder what on earth you’re all talking about so enthusiastically.
Even a small amount of existing conversation can be snow-balled into a much larger and more sensational response if you make use of the momentum you already have. The more people you can get involved and responding to each other, the better.
Share Compelling Photos
Photos are another great way to get people involved. For years now, it’s been known that photos are more powerful social media content because they catch people’s attention and can inspire thought before a single word of text has been read. But which photo you use matters a great deal. As well as the caption / content you pair it with to inspire conversation.
Look for images that inspire an emotional response. Adorable, funny, even confusing. A photo of something common from an unusual angle, for instance, can pique user curiosity. If you can find a strange photo, challenge users to guess what it is with a promise to reveal the truth if it is guessed correctly or after a few hours.
Whatever picture you choose, make it interesting. And, ideally, pair it with a caption that encourages users to comment and discuss what is depicted. In many cases, a good photo can become the root of a surprisingly detailed discussion as the image becomes the ‘mascot’ of the conversation.
Inspire a Share-Chain
A share-chain is when something you share inspires many people to share something as well. This, for example, might be a picture of a messy closet with a caption encouraging others to share pictures of their messy (or unusually tidy) closets. Or it might be a story that encourages others to share a similar story.
Share chains are incredibly powerful because they tend to elicit not only comments, but photos, videos, and personal stories that are even more effective than a lively comment discussion. Every brand can inspire a share-chain differently, but the key is to make your audience feel personally involved. They can become a part of the fun sharing experience (again, like a party game) by sharing their own experience relating to the initial content.
Host a Content Contest
Another great way to inspire a flurry of incredibly valuable online content, including pictures and stories of using your brand, is to host a contest where the winner will be featured by the brand itself. You could, for example, offer a prize and a featured blog to the person with the most compelling story about using your product. Or the person with the best hand-drawn graphic design for an upcoming campaign theme. Or the person who makes the best self-interview video about why they love your product or will be using it for a special occasion.
The best thing about a content contest is that it creates so much free user-content that you can then use for your campaigns in the future. You don’t have to have just one winner, but there should be a prize that many people would appreciate like a gift card and a by-line when you use their content. Many people on social media love contests, love sharing their creativity, and will delight in joining your brand content contest.
Or Announce a Raffle Give-Away
Along similar lines, even a simple raffle give-away can be a powerful tool for inspiring discussions and content sharing. Simply announce an awesome event where you’ll be giving away gift cards or a special product to the winner. Then encourage everyone who wants to get involved to post something fun to your page. It might be something specific like “Post a number to the comments on the announcement” or “Post anything on our page with the words “Purple Turtle” so we know you’re in the raffle!”
The fun people will have simply coming together and ‘signing up’ for your raffle will usually inspire light-hearted conversation both on-topic and off-topic as you turn your page into an online event venue.
Talk About Current Events
Don’t forget that current events are also something you can take advantage of to inspire discussions on your brand page. Not only do people have things to say about issues that are going on right now, but it also gives you the opportunity to make use of the current hottest hashtags. Current event discussions should be kept carefully safe-for-work (no religion or politics) but feel free to span the gamut from celebrity gossip to natural disasters, depending on your brand personality and typical audience.
When to Get Involved
Finally, it’s important to know when your community managers should get involved and when to take your hands off the wheel. Early in any discussion, it can help to occasionally pitch in with a comment or to respond to people who have already posted. This can help to ‘seed’ the discussions and make sure your early participants feel involved.
You also want to respond if any questions are asked directly of the brand about the product, or customer service issues come up in discussion. However, once the ball is rolling and users are talking amongst themselves, it’s best to mostly step out of the way. This will help the conversation feel more genuine and doesn’t risk interrupting the social momentum.
The two instances where you should step into a lively conversation are A) to moderate trolling and B) if momentum slows and you want to help it pick back up.
Inspiring discussions on your social media page is an incredibly powerful method to create content, engage the community, and get amazing feedback on your marketing tactics. Whether you’re asking questions, hosting contests, or starting share-chains, user conversation on your page is exactly the kind of activity you need to build a strong social media community. For more great marketing and reputation management tips, contact ustoday!
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