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Interviews

It’s Not About “Engagement”: Using Social Media To Make Ideas Happen

Mastering social media means learning how to communicate your ideas with sincerity and passion. It’s not rocket science, it’s reciprocity.


It’s all well and good to tweet about what you had for lunch, or share party pics on Facebook, but what if you want to use social media to achieve a specific goal? Perhaps to garner support for a creative project, or build awareness about a product you’re launching. How then do you wade through all the social media speak and interact with people in a way that will make a difference to your mission, not just create more idle chatter?
I

talked with a handful of social media mavens, community managers, and grassroots organizers to get their tips on navigating the social sphere. Here are a few pointers on rising above mere fans and followers numbers to create relationships that will really move the needle on your creative endeavor.

Dave Brown /// Social Media Specialist, Etsy

  • Being the mayor of Whole Foods on Foursquare isn’t going to make your idea happen.

    Don’t get caught up in followers, likes, or check-ins. If you keep doing what you love, share your creativity and inspiration – that’s how you move the needle.

  • Somewhere right now there’s an online conversation happening about what you’re interested in – join it.

    Find these conversations and get involved – keep the message short but let your passion show. Use plenty of visuals. Instagram is a great place to start documenting your ideas from start to finish.

  • Let people in on how excited you are about your idea.

    The best way to get people excited about what you’re doing is to let your passion show. Share the process, ideology, and execution.

  • There’s nothing more rewarding than feeling like you’re a part of something, so let your audience in on your project.

    A great way to engage your community is to ask for their input. Share your experiences, and ask for something back from them.

The best way to get people excited about what you’re doing is to let your passion show.

Andres Glusman /// VP – Strategy & Community, Meetup

  • If your current circle of friends and contacts were enough to help you reach your goal, you would be there already.

    Finding a new community, one filled with people who are already doing what you want to be doing, will push you to accomplish it yourself. But only if you jump in.

  • To feel connected and inspired, you can’t stand on the sidelines.

    In community, as in any aspect of life, you get out of it what you put in. Passive lurking or anonymous posting is just not as rewarding as immersing yourself and forming relationships.

  • Face-to-face interactions help you push your thinking.

    I’m at Meetup because I get more out of in-person interactions than I do with pure online discussions. For example, the people I’ve met in the Lean Startup Meetup that I co-organize have become some of my favorite people in NYC, and help motivate me to look at things in a new way.

Cindy Au /// Director of Community, Kickstarter

  • Think of your community as collaborators – not an audience.

    The people most likely to engage with you are those who know what you’re going through and appreciate the kind of work you do. Go through it together, and in the process, you’ll begin building a really powerful creative community.

  • Don’t overload people with enthusiasm.

    Nothing comes off as more suspiciously non-human than frantically beating people with enthusiasm about your ideas and products. Find a balance, and be authentic.

  • Your audience needs to care about you before they care about what you have to say.

    Build your audience just as you would in real life – by being a real person, and by devoting real time to individual relationships. Take the time to delve into what others are doing and share their work with your community – that kind of generosity and collaborative interaction goes a long way. It’s a complete rejection of the “all about me” tendencies that the Internet can breed, and it’s what lays the foundation for lasting communities to support you and your work.

Build your audience just as you would in real life – by being a real person.

Lea Marino /// Co-Founder, Community Manager Meetup

  • The most important way to engage is with individual outreach.

    If there’s someone you think would be valuable to your community, find what makes them unique or what they recently wrote, and be sure to call attention to any mutual connections. Instead of writing a mass email or a broad tweet, target the message to the person.

  • Nothing replaces the deeper connection brought about by face-to-face interaction.

    The Internet makes it easier to find the right people. Once they’re found and you’ve begun to build a relationship, hop offline and grab some coffee with them. In different cities? Skype may help strengthen the connection.

  • Celebrate every person who celebrates you.

    If you have something great, people will start engaging on your behalf. When this happens – be sure to acknowledge this and check out what they have going on as well.

Charlie Todd /// Founder, Improv Everywhere

  • Don’t treat your community as just “fans” or “followers.”

    It’s important to take the trust between you and the community you lead very seriously. For example – with Improv Everywhere – thousands of people might show up at a given event, without even knowing what they’ll be asked to do. I have to respect this trust they’re giving me as the leader, and respond by working hard to design these experiences.

  • Don’t focus on the monetary aspect of a project too early – build your brand and community because you love it, and success will find you.

    I wasn’t able to treat Improv Everywhere as my full-time job for the first 8 years. It was always my passion that I focused on every chance I could outside of a day job – if I had worried about a business model when I began, I never would have found success. It was always about the ideas – bringing the ideas to life is what got me excited. It was only later on that I found ways to make it my living, but that was never the point.

  • Find real-world ways of getting together and working, celebrating, and creating.

    Improv Everywhere specializes in real-world engagement, but we use social media and email lists to organize this offline participation. Actually getting together on a regular basis to try out new ideas gives community a feeling of much closer connection.

What’s Your Take?

How do you build strong relationships online? Any tips?

Comments (52)
  • Seyi Akinruntan

    There’s so much talk about how and what people should do. So much talk, books, seminars etc. Who’s keeping track of whether those who listen to those words, attend the seminars (which they pay for ) actually achieve the result those who advocate and espouse the ideas and techniques said they would? People keep re-inventing the same ideas and words. There’s so much noise. These so-called experts are charlatans, cons, dupes and frauds who take cunning advantage of the global economic condition and ever present human insecurity by proffering a solution without the legal obligation of being held accountable for the failure of their techniques or methods or the failure of its applicability. It’s so retarded, even for so-called medical doctors, professors etc. to suggest in any way that one approach can be made to apply to the life of others or will work for them. People are just so gullible and lazy – they have failed to think for themselves. When you fail to do certain key things for yourself, you have to live with whatever you get.

  • tung_airways

    As in real-life, trust takes time to build. Great insights compiled here. The metaphor I’ll like to use to help people get a grasp of social media and community building is:try and imagine
    that you are the new kid in the class room. Imagine this is the world’s
    biggest classroom with the most distractions. What kind of conversations are you going to have with the other kids to build relationships?Check out “Social Objects are the future of marketing.” | gapingvoid to see a really insightful way to frame the conversation.

  • venece

    This article was right on time for me. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • stanmorephoenix

    It’s interesting that one guy said “be enthusiastic” & another said “don’t be too damn enthusiastic”. Although it may seem so, I don’t see this as a contradiction. It’s about balance.

    Good advice from the guy who said “build it up because you love it before you worry about money”. I have personally not yet found the success I aspire to but more & more I see every little bit of effort over the years building & building. Follow your heart my friends.

  • stanmorephoenix

    It’s interesting that one guy said “be enthusiastic” & another said “don’t be too damn enthusiastic”. Although it may seem so, I don’t see this as a contradiction. It’s about balance.

    Good advice from the guy who said “build it up because you love it before you worry about money”. I have personally not yet found the success I aspire to but more & more I see every little bit of effort over the years building & building. Follow your heart my friends.

  • stanmorephoenix

    It’s interesting that one guy said “be enthusiastic” & another said “don’t be too damn enthusiastic”. Although it may seem so, I don’t see this as a contradiction. It’s about balance.

    Good advice from the guy who said “build it up because you love it before you worry about money”. I have personally not yet found the success I aspire to but more & more I see every little bit of effort over the years building & building. Follow your heart my friends.

  • Anderson Criativo

    Great article. I posted the quote of Charlie Todd “Don’t focus on the monetary aspect of a project too early – build your brand and community because you love it, and success will find you” on twitter. It’s a very inspiring way of thinking and acting.

  • BeverlyMChi

    Great practical advice on how brands can engage people and be authentic.

  • matthewsnyder

    This is awesome advice! I think the way that I build strong relationships with people online is just in the fact that I treat people like people… and I invest in them not because I want something out of them, but because I want to share in their successes. The more personable and relate-able I am to people, the better and more genuine interaction I have.

    Also, humility is key.

  • David Tierney

    Seems like the main theme is giving authentically and valuing your relationships.

  • Ian Garlic

    It’s very difficult for traditional marketers to get out of the traditional marketing mindset and it destroys social media.
    they think of it as a free way to market vs. a time intensive way to innovate your business

  • John Refford

    Really great insights.  There’s a thread of *empathy* that resonates with me.  In addition viewing social as an additive to your real life connections is the “way to be social”.  Be social by sharing an insight and contributing – just as you would in real life.

    Conversely, there’s nothing social about standing on a platform and telling me all about yourself.

  • Brandignity

    Branding is such an important part these days to building a brand online. If you are going to attempt to engage your online community you really have to make sure you have some sort of branding behind your business.

  • Beverly Cornell

    I couldn’t agree with you more!  It is always a balance but authenticity guides my team’s entire goal at Mango Languages!  We are so lucky to have such raving fans and love from our community!  Great article!

  • Wilton Blake

    “Engagement” does not have to be a dirty word.

    I teach my clients to use storytelling as a means of engaging clients, customers, and financial supporters. This same storytelling-based engagement accomplishes most of the objectives detailed by your interviewees.

    By telling stories we communicate our passion, we connect as real people and we immerse ourselves in a real community of people. Stories are an important part of conversation in the physical world and digital world.

  • Jason Williams

    Brilliant post.

    http://www.churchatthegym.org staff

  • Kos Dorota

    Fantastic article!!

  • Jose Jauregui

    i am really agree with every word in this article, it is very useful.

    thanks .

  • theTsaritsa

    I like to think of my blog as a collaborative effort with others weighing in on the discussion in the comments section. I love it it. Engaging is the best way to get through to your readers/clients/etc.

    the Tsaritsa sez

  • BeTrue2B

    Enjoyed reading your article

  • BeTrue2B

    Enjoyed reading your article

  • Mstaibrown

    Love this article! Lots of great insight. Anyone have any tips for successful branding?

  • Chris

    Nice article. I work as a software engineer but overseas. As a result it’s difficult to hook up with like-minded individuals to share ideas. Are there any online communities that could be recommended, or any methods on how to find such communities online? I tried the site recommended in the Behance book, but found it leaned a little too much towards graphic design.

    Thanks in advance,
    Chris

  • Rachael Currie

    Great article. I love that all the contributors to this article raised the “human” approach to using social media. Connecting communities.

  • JDiva54

    I’m a psychotherapist so I provide recommendations/advice to people on Yahoo Answers. I’ve considered setting up something similar on my professional website but I’m trying to invest more time in my music and the development of a music website. I won’t have time to do both.

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