The first ever blog was written in the early ‘90s, a time when social networking was just an embryo we called AOL Instant Messaging. I’m old enough to remember those days and even my AOL handle, JoanieFire007. I’d sit in virtual conversations for hours on end, training my mind toward addiction, gobbling up the opiate of the new-message chime.
I had a dial-up modem, of course, and sometimes it would take for-holy-ever to get a reply. This made the conversations a little slow, but no big whoop. I simply had to adjust to a new tempo of conversing. Somewhere between sped-up snail mail and slowed-down phone chats lay the vast middle ground that would one day be home to texting, blogs, Snapchat, , Twitter, Facebook, and other ways we converse virtually. Each of these things have a tempo of their own, but all are still very much conversations—or were meant to be.
The problem that many companies have is that, in their haste to capitalize on social media, they disregard its roots. But social media is not a descendant of billboards. It’s a great-great-great grandchild of things like the Pony Express—existing almost entirely to answer the human desire for connection, acknowledgement, and validation. That’s why it’s thrived. It’s also why you can’t just hit publish, post, or send and walk away.
One could argue that marketing has always been about making people feel connected and acknowledged. But the difference is that our culture has an unspoken contract about the traditional tools: Everyone knows the billboard, magazine ad, and radio spot are a one-directional communication designed entirely to coax a “user” toward action. When you or I look at a billboard, the best we can hope for is that it will engage us, but we all know it won’t engage with us.
The same isn’t true for social media. Social media demands that companies step away from the podium and walk the crowd after they’ve said their piece. So, reply to people who leave a comment on your blog. Thank them for the Retweet on Twitter. Answer the questions they have on your Facebook posts. And most important, do it in a way that’s savvy about the unique tempo at which each of these media moves. To answer a Facebook comment at Pony Express speeds is poor form.
You’re dealing with a culture that has been brought up on the opiate of the new-message alert. Don’t deprive them of their drug. People are forgiving of the delays unique to each tool. But using social media like an old-fashioned, one-way marketing tool is like walking away mid-conversation. Take it from JoanieFire007, if you take the time to engage with them, readers will be more interested in what you’ve got to offer.