Welcome to the world of casual connections. This is my term for partially engaged communications.
People love to feel connected to their friends without the burden of giving them their full attention. For example, my daughter has a Skype video call open with her best friend some nights while they both do their homework. Most of the time they don't say anything to each other, and are simply doing their own thing. But, they are still there for each other. Connected, but their focus is on something else.
There are so may ways to engage in these types of casual communications now. It started with bulletin boards and forums. Then we got chat. After that came Facebook, Twitter, and texting. Hard to imagine that people once lived without these things.
As an aside, I believe the advent of casual communications is a truly disruptive event for humanity. Yes, that's a pretty lofty statement, and you may think I'm overstating it. But we have changed the ways humans communicate, and it has all unfolded in the last 20 years.
Few would argue that the advent of the telegraph, trains, cars, planes, phones, radios, TVs, or the Internet itself weren't disruptive events. All of these were changes in how we communicate.
The importance of casual communications is on that scale. With it, the flow of information has been changed forever.
I won't try to tackle all the societal implications of that (of which there are many!) in this article. Instead, the focus will be on casual connections and what it means to our social and SEO strategies.
My previous column discussed the need to focus on authority and outlined how authoritative relationships and building your own authority are an essential part of a marketing plan. This column will outline why you need to understand what casual communications are about and what you need to do to participate.
Why it Matters
Social media provides an opportunity to present a human face or personality to your organization. People will respond to that in many ways.
Bing has released data that shows that 90 percent of people seek advice from friends and family as part of the decision making process. The reason people seek advice from friends and family is because they trust them.
People also define the notion of friends differently. Consider my Facebook page:
Do I really have 622 friends? Not in the same sense that I call people friends in the offline world.
In the world of social media we define friends much more loosely. I turn down lots of friend requests, but I do accept people who I have heard of, read articles from, or feel some sense of connection to. This is quite common.
People will imbue some level of trust based on a very loose sense of connection, and people are more likely to respect content suggestions from sources they trust. This makes it more likely that they will share it as well.
Put another way, making your organization seem more approachable and trustworthy will directly impact the viral spread of content that you share. When people share your content they are effectively recommending it to their friends. This makes it far more likely that their friends will re-share it, or fan/friend/follow you. This also directly impacts your ability to receive mentions/shares/tweets and links from your social campaigns.
Making It Work For You
The key is that you're allowing people (potential customers) to have a casual connection with you that they receive benefit from. The content/tools/deals you share is the benefit, but the connection is made deeper by injecting a little personality into the picture. It helps them get to know you a bit better.
Here are some strategies for making these important casual connections:
- Be casual in your communications. A lot of formality rarely does well in social media.
- Show some personality. Some people take this to an extreme with most of their social stream being an expression of their personality and the actual value added components are only between 20 to 30 percent of their communications. This can work, but only if it's completely genuine. For most organizations a modest amount of personality is all that is required.
- Support others. Always make sure to give back. Share other people's content. Say nice things about others that deserve it. Be a part of the community.
- Support causes. Show some love for things that you care about. People will respond to your support of those causes and look at you with a friendlier eye.
- Invite responses. Make sure you have an audience that is large enough to generate some responses before starting this. You can figure out when that is be conducting periodic tests.
- Be responsive. If someone asks a question answer it. While the response doesn't need to be instant, the sooner you respond the better.
- Don't be demanding. Assume that no one owes you anything in the social media world, even if they do.
Allowing people to develop a casual connection with your organization (or you) will make it much easier to build your own audience and establish your own authority. You want to develop trusted connections with authoritative people/organizations, but you also want to build your own authority. Making casual connections makes this a far easier task.