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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)
  • Artlarking

    Good advice. I love the idea of letting people in on the creative process. Telling them where you’re at in a genuine way so that they really do care and want to offer support. Thanks, Sarah

  • Sohail Amir

    Great tip, I specifically use Facebook and Twitter for business

  • Peteris no RigaBrain

    Great tips

  • Melissa Burkheimer

    Awesome advice. I agree – reaching out to those in your industry is inspiring and helps you keep motivated to pursue your dream.

  • Centralorbit

    Great tips and comments from high profile leaders! My startup has benefited enormously from following this type of advice. The Internet really is the conduit for all future business and relationships. These relationships have more value than pure dollars for an early project or company. To be genuine and to project your passion but not be grossly optimistic is important. Of course you think your idea is the greatest, but rather than telling people that why not ask their advice? This has great repercussions, those whose advice you value may invest more in your idea and project. And when I say invest I mean their optimism. Their continued support in any form, for your project is more powerful than any small loan of dollars.

    If you want to read more along these lines I recommend two books. The “power of pull” And “reality is broken.”

  • Ana Munzinger

    Love the bullet points. I think the common theme is interaction. We have to move away from the “success = numbers” idea and move back to the old paradigm of living what you believe.

  • Oscar

    Nice one

  • Chris Fluitt

    Wow!  What a great article! So many great points I had to read it twice.

  • Cynthia Schames

    It is about engagement to me, it’s just that it’s not JUST about “engagement”. I especially liked the point about the ultimate goal being face to face contact. Social media is about facilitating connections, but at the end of the day, looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand is the best real connection. I’m working hard to move my soc media connections into real time, if not in person then Skype or phone.

    And also, yeah, chasing numbers is pointless in my opinion.

  • juanmarketing

    I love all the tips, but I recognize my favorite is this one “Your audience needs to care about you before they care about what you have to say”Another Tips: – Make them really believe reinforcing their thoughts by bring up real and valuable data and facts. – Get them involved – Encourage the participation. This is anymore about one voice. Make them feel part of something. – Don’t forget the incentives (motivators)- Try to propose events where people can meet face to face. The connection with the real world has to be a consequence. – Be transparent, transparent… Passion Makes the difference

  • Geoff Talbot

    Great Article. I like to think of my social media family as “friends.” But how do you do this when you have a family of over 10 000 people?

    Any Suggestions?

    For me we need to redefine friendship and fully integrate sharing and boundaries into the way we do “family” in social media.  Most our followers are more like cousins than brothers. Numbers dictate lower levels of maintenance.

    Geoff Talbot
    Blogging and commenting in Seven Sentences

  • Steven

    Great stuff all around and from great people, too. The community manager meetup in NYC is one of the best things for anyone developing a community, to attend.

  • ... and dos Santos

    Cool and inspiring summary. Really helpful and tons of good advice. Thank you for bringing this up!

  • CHATO

    The overall feeling that i get from this is that the we as public creatives must behave like real humans to really interact, collaborate and enjoy a digital community.

  • Anastasia ASHMAN

    yes, plus their participation in your project (however you might make that available to them) can be a learning process for them too — and improve your work as well.

  • Nanoinvestments

    everyone agrees…how controversial… success breeds success… that’s the answer, and why quotes are from those that have done and not those that wish they could.

  • JoniCarrell

    I think the best way to build an online community is to offer relevant content – something that improves the quality of people’s lives – that sort of offering is almost irresistible. Also – I think the community needs to be self selecting – it shouldn’t be for everyone. I envision inviting people to join the community that also discourages them from joining unless they themselves decide they fit the criteria of the community. Say it’s a socially responsible community with humanitarian values – both in its mission and in the way members of the community are expected to interact online with one another. Great and regular communication between the community’s host and members – the ability for members to interact with the host directly – to contribute their ideas to the growth and development of the community- the ability for members in similar geographical areas to plan member events to which the hosts will participate, the list goes on and on….

  • Alex Barton

    This is really cool! Going to share this with everyone 🙂

  • Tembi Vens

    freaggin informative and powerful

  • Ray

    This is great advice for anyone marketing via social media

  • Im-Patient

    Thanks Sarah for the great article you made some excellent points, I actually enjoyed reading it. When it comes to community it’s all about giving back, sharing another persons success and building a strong connection with people, its something many people overlook when it comes to social media…its not about how many followers or likes you have, don’t look at the numbers!! Doing something out of passion is really what its all about, that’s why I love what I do.

  • Sheena Rajan

    Right on! Cindy Au of Kickstarter, really brought it home with her comment: “Build your audience just as you would in real life – by being a real person, and by devoting real time to individual relationships.” This method will take longer than those twitter bots, but will leave you with authentic connections. I wrote a little about this, inspired by a cafe I visited that caught my attention with the unique personalities I found there. You can read about it here: http://sheenadangers.com/2011/… 

  • Kathysierra

    “your audience needs to care about you before they care about what you have to say”

    Wait, what? Or rather, *why* do they NEED to? There is plenty of evidence to suggest they don’t need to care about *you*. Not that it this isn’t a useful strategy for some, but it still puts the focus on YOU. I am not suggesting that “what you have to SAY” is the most promising way to think about it either. Often the most useful approach is “they need to benefit from what you have to say. It’s about what happens *as a result of* what you do or say. If building personal relationships were a prerequisite for making ideas happen, the world would be without a great many ideas crafted and given to the world by, for example, introverts.

    We can all think of several of our most beloved ideas, products, concepts, etc. that we love for what they mean to US, not because we first *cared* about who created them.

  • Lydia Natalia

    awesome article!!! it’s very useful for anyone marketing via social media.. especially i like the point about the best way to get people excited about what you’re doing is to let
    your passion show. simply by share the process, ideology, and execution.

  • HKlyn

    “Don’t treat your community as just “fans” or “followers.” – I absolutely agree with this line. Social media is not just about establishing a fan’s database but rather building a connection with your prospective clients. It’s the first thing I learned when I started working as Philippine virtual assistant.

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