The Art of Follower Recognition

Long gone are the days when brand auto responses were socially acceptable. And by socially, I mean on social media. We call them consumers, but at the end of the day, the people who flock to a brand’s social channels are part of an audience, a community, if you will. They choose to dedicate however many minutes — and in some cases hours — each day to following their beloved brands, for whatever reason, and can all too easily get lost in a number.

Like many people in a social strategy leadership role, I’ve spent much of my career working with clients and colleagues to demystify vanity metrics, teaching what success actually looks like — numbers that actual have strategic implications versus what’s just shiny but ultimately without long-term brand value. And the reality is, for so many brands, the community gets lost in the numbers.

As we push brands to embrace engagement as the lead performance indicator, we have to identify opportunities to recognize and reward the “every-follower” — the person who’s not necessarily an “influencer” (its own class of buzzword that requires clear definition), but has nonetheless made the conscious decision to follow and actively react to a brand’s social story.

 

  • Start Simple: People don’t hear the words “thank you” often enough. Not every brand action on social needs to be draped in pomp and circumstance. If your main goal is to showcase appreciation for your community, start by saying it with words.
  • Say it with a Surprise: Don’t be afraid to go that extra mile for a person (or people!) who has been an especially active and supportive member of your brand’s social community. Surprise them with something offline, like a handwritten thank you note and their favorite product from your portfolio, or even something brand-agnostic based on what you know from being a careful listener and community manager.
  • Build Sustainable Relationships: Nurturing your existing community is as important as growing it. Establish a regular community management routine that involves not just “listening,” but learning — about your audience, their interests, their motivators, and their values. Get to know the people who believe in the brand messages that you’ve worked so hard to craft. Their follow, like or retweet is their way of saying “we care,” and as a community manager, it’s your job to look for ways to keep that message reciprocal, and ongoing.

 

 

Advertisements

Talking About My Generation

While I’m sometimes guilty of using industry jargon (a practice which has inspired physical jargon bells in my office), I really cannot stand buzzwords.

Public relations may have deep roots, but as far as industries go, social media is a relatively new speciality area, and when it emerged, so too, did a smattering of descriptors for its target demographic.

Calling me a “millennial” — and worse yet, an “older millennial” — will summon the most cold-stone serious of stink-eye stares from my otherwise shayna punim.

The phrase millennial casts a wide net — it technically accounts for some 75 million people born between 1980 and 2000. Farhad Manjoo put it best when he said:

Although millennials are now the largest demographic group in the country (sorry, boomers), and though they are more racially diverse than any other generation in American history, they are often depicted on TV, in movies and music, and in the news (including The New York Times) as a collectively homogeneous cliché.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in corporate America, especially in the technology industry, which has long been obsessed with the dubious idea that young people are in the cultural vanguard.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m pretty fabulous, but I would never dub myself a cultural vanguard. Not even close.

I wince at the thought of being part of a generalized cultural clump that discounts the diversity of my generation. And, as Manjoo goes on to explain, “there’s a glaring problem with these and other efforts to go after the younger among us: Millennials aren’t real.”

I couldn’t agree more. My passionate disdain isn’t just in reaction to a perceived misnomer, but more so because of my larger beef (or tofu) with the closed-mindedness of generational marketing.

I lead a team of social strategists, and while the clue may be in their title, everything they (really “we”) do is rooted in strategy — a practice that’s very foundation is dependent on understanding the target audience.

Caging an entire segment within the confines of broad generational rhetoric is lazy, and it’s high-time to un-teach it. We live in an age where mapping out a sophisticated set of personas — or personality types that your content should speak to — is conveniently at our fingertips, just a few taps away. Alongside the rise of the social strategist has been the role of digital analyst, a function that every digital team should have. These are the people that offer credibility to what would otherwise be healthy hunches with strong strategic intent.

With the data available, it’s downright irresponsible to rely on generational marketing to guide any sort of smart thinking and most importantly: authentic, relatable stories.

I guess my problem is that I expect more — from myself, my industry and even consumers. I expect us to think of ourselves as deeper than “boomers” or “millennials.” I’ve been called a lot of things — and yet somehow, millennial irks me most. I’m a communicator, a wife, a dog-owner, a pescetarian, a Michigander and more; my age doesn’t define me, and yet because I’m young and grew up in tandem with the booming tech industry, I get stripped of what makes me standout.