Who do you really friend on Facebook, follow on Twitter or add to your circles on Google+? Not organizations, you say? The people behind them? Yes, you are correct, it is the people behind the avatar that draw us in and actively participate in the communities we frequent. Yet, all too often, even with a community manager, organizations get stuck being their corporate selves both online and offline.
On a whim while standing in line at Whole Foods, I bought the August 2011 edition of Real Simple. (The Find Your New Favorite Jeans article got me.) And last night, as I flipped through the glossy pages trying to will my mind to sleep, I came across the article, 5 Ways to Be a Better Friend. Seriously? This is taking up white space? Do we need to be told how to be a better friend?
In short, the answer is yes.
Actually, we need reminders. And organizations need reminders to infuse humanity into their everyday participation. No one wants to be friends with someone that is not emotionally invested in them. After all, it is all about us.
So, what can organizations learn from this article? Here are five surefire ways to add a little Thelma and Louise into your engagement playbook:
1) Stop giving advice.
Organizations do not need to fill the role of parent or long lost best friend. People have plenty of those. And with the world available as their fingertips fly across the keyboard, they don’t want someone unsolicited giving them advice about how to run their own lives. Forget the preaching, show them examples of people that resonate to them. Let your best intentions live through your actions.
2) Show a different side of yourself.
Sometimes, it is OK to be a bit zany. People have relationships with other people, not organizations. Talk about shoes, your kids, the commute to work…emotionally connect with your community through conversation that is not all about you. Find like interests and balance the corporate side of your business with your human side.
3) Be (genuinely) happy for your friend’s success.
Pay attention to what is happening to those in your community. A little interest goes a long way. If you show you are taking interest outside of the big sale, you will more likely be top of mind for them when and if the need ever arises for them to use your services or recommend to a friend. This goes for competitors too. Together we are pushing the envelope and blazing a trail. No one wants to watch organizations battle it out for their attention. Just be attentive and pay it forward to all in your community.
4) Make small gestures.
Just as you would send your friends flowers if they were in the hospital or take them out to lunch their first week at a new job, surprise your community with something that is useful for them. This present should not be a secret gift for you, but something that benefits them and a token to show that they are on your mind. It is not all about the money or the material items. A smile (or emoticon) or simply paying it forward through introductions or sharing of content, goes a long way to staying top of mind.
5) Act like a nine year old.
Remember the times all you wanted to do was get home from school and go outside to play with your friends? As adults, we have become so caught up in work, the white picket fence dream and not giving time to others outside of our immediate circle. Release your inner kid and set aside time to get to really know and engage with the community…those people you call your friends.
How are you and your organization being a better friend in your community?