Having three years between my kids seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, for the first few months, it was ideal. When my youngest, Noah, was born, Anna was nearly 3.5. She was potty trained. She was content to pretend to “nurse” her doll in the chair beside me. Or do puzzles at my feet while I spent hours in the rocking chair with her newborn brother, whom she loved… Until, at about four months of age, Noah became a chubby, happy, and very social little baby and Anna became jealous of my interactions with him. Ever since, juggling to keep these kids happy and in line at such different stages of development (and patience) has been nothing short of back-flipping on a tightrope with flaming batons in my hands. One-on-one parenting is easy: I know how to package the message to get the behavior change I’m looking for. But, the packages are very different for my now 7.5 year-old daughter and my 4 year-old son. If I tell them the same thing – kids, if you don’t finish your dinner, you don’t get dessert – I get two different levels of engagement. My daughter will generally do what I ask if the reward is sweet (we usually have fresh fruit for dessert). My son, however, when faced with a plate full of yucky-mucky beans, will drag his feet, whining and complaining for an hour if I allow it. It takes twice the work (and twice the patience) to get messages to the both of them that will lead to action.
I face the same dilemma as a communications professional, especially when it comes to using social media. Many companies are just worried about their reach – they send the same messages across all the social media challenges in the hopes that the messages will be received and acted upon. What this method lacks is strategy. Social media allows us to connect with millions of people each day, but those connections will only be meaningful if they are engaging enough to be lasting. As my four year-old son requires more than a simple warning about the pending end of the meal, folks on Facebook are looking for different things than folks on Twitter. Twitter has become a channel of delivery for in-the-moment news to a targeted audience. For me at least, Twitter feels less engaging. Though I may browse through the feed and often click on links to read related articles, I do so only if I have time and seldom interact further with the content. I’m an English major-geek who gets a thrill when a single word is over 140 characters… Noah demands much more engagement if he’s to perform even simple tasks (like eating his beans or clicking on a link).
Perhaps one of the things I find more engaging on Facebook is that it’s visual. I love photography and feel more connected to people and brands when I see pictures, read text, watch videos, talk back, and build a community around what I see.
How do you decide what channels to start using first? Especially if you are strategizing for small non-profits or start-ups with few resources to devote to marketing and social media, you may be forced to choose which social media channel would most increase your ROI. If this is the case, do a little research! Find out where your audience spends the most time online. Take a look at what your competitors are doing in social media. Think about what you like and what you’d do differently. Take careful notes (and lots of screenshots) and then develop a plan that’s best for your brand.
If you’re already using social media, but finding that engagement is less meaningful or fruitful than you’d like, be sure that you’re using social media channels strategically. Respond to comments about your brand in the same channel in which the comments were made. Recognize usage trends on each channel and use the channels accordingly. Use Twitter to deliver up-to-the-minute news that clients might find interesting (news, sales, severe weather closings, etc.). Use Facebook to focus on something beyond what people can find on Twitter, and leave the marketing messages for your blog/website. Facebook gives you the opportunity to show the human side of your brand, to focus on the people you serve, the people who work for you, your community involvement, etc. Repeating the same messages on all channels leads to burnout (for you and your customers). Sometimes, in business and in parenting, we jump right to the message without stopping to think about whom we are trying to reach and which ways would be best to reach them. Without a doubt, creating a strategy involves more work initially, but it’s the kind of work that will be rewarded by building relationships with loyal customers. Now, if anyone can tell me how to get Noah to eat his dinner within 30 minutes at the table (mucky veggies included) – I’m all ears.