Episode 96: June 18, 2010
by Lisa B. Marshall
Just about two years ago, I started The Public Speaker with the article, How to Start a Conversation. At the end of that article I promised a companion piece about starting electronic or online social media conversations. So today, is the long-awaited article about making and extending online conversations.
The podcast edition of this tip was sponsored by Go To Meeting. Save time and money by hosting your meetings online. Visit GoToMeeting.com/podcast and sign up for a free 45 day trial of their web conferencing solution.
How to Start Conversations Online
Certainly over the past two years there’s been staggering growth in social media. Although I could look to the statistics, I don’t have to. I always know when something has hit the mainstream when my two non-techie friends, Linda and Larissa, start talking about and using newer technologies. Over the two past years, they’ve joined LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (in that order).
I also know starting conversations online is gaining mainstream status because much my clients have been asking about how to make and (most recently) extend online conversations. In short, they want to understand how to engage their audience.
Recently, our entire quick and dirty team dedicated an entire conference call to discuss our individual experiences with online conversations. It was really interesting. So I thought I’d share with you some of the things we learned about making online conversation. But before I get into today’s tips, however, I want to remind you that making conversation is an art, not a science. Although it’s good to benefit from other people’s experiences, still you need to analyze for yourself what is working and what isn’t.
How to Make Conversation Online
The first tip for making online conversations may seem simple, but it emphasizes a fundamental concept that is extremely important. Always remember that conversations have two sides. Social media conversations are interactions between people; it’s not about collecting friends. Yes, it is important to broadcast links that drive traffic to your website, however, it’s equally important, if not more important, to listen, to ask questions, and to solicit opinions. Of course, you’ll also need to respond--to be visible.
How to Solicit Opinions Online
The NBA Facebook fanpage is great example of an organization that “gets it”. Even if you not a basketball fan, I suggest you “like” their page because you’ll learn a ton of effective techniques for engaging your audience. Yesterday, for example, they posted, “As good as it gets! Tonight is for all the marbles. Who will win Game 7?” Then they used a FB application to poll for results. And what’s interesting is that more people responded in the comments. The point is that people will respond to questions that have no right or wrong answer—especially if it’s something they are passionate about. By asking for personal opinion, people feel more relaxed and are willing to respond both to the original question and to the opinions of other fans. And by the way, the quick and dirty team has learned from our own group experience that, in general, people love polls or quizzes!
Get More Online Interaction By Posting Videos or Photos
Another way to get more interaction is to post videos. Particularly on Facebook and YouTube, video is extremely popular (see my episode about creating good video content for more). If you look to the NBA facebook page, you’ll see a prime example of that. In fact, as of the time I’m writing, the landing page is a montage of photos, which when clicked show short related video clips.
Last week I mentioned that I read on Dan Perez’s website that 90% of Internet users prefer watching a video to reading an article. Short (less than 3 minutes) videos that are entertaining, directly related to your topic area, and that include very subtle shameless marketing are perfect. For a great example of what I’m talking about, view this video that award-winning film maker Dan Perez made. (By the way, I recently interviewed him to get some video advice. You can get this exclusive content by joining the facebook fan page.)
Share Personal Yet Universal Topics
Last week, I posted the video our family made. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I was hoping to generate more interaction. However, I also posted this video in an attempt to share something personal, yet somewhat universal. All parents struggle with choosing appropriate childcare. Part of the reason I think Dan’s video is so appealing is that it includes his daughter. As with my video, it hints at a universal theme--parents do not understand the younger generation. So the quick and dirty lesson is be sure to include conversations--or better yet some text, videos, and photos--about things that are related to your topic area, personal to you (yet not too personal), and universal in nature. Topics like that are appealing, authentic, and likely to generate conversation. Some ideas for video include quick interviews, guided tours or perhaps something funny from the interns.
Reward Commitment to Your Brand
Another obvious way to generate interaction is to give away stuff. More specifically, it’s important to reward commitment to your brand by providing free samples, products, or services only found via these social media interactions. After all, that’s why most people initially join the conversation to begin with--because they are interested in additional related content and possible freebies from you.
Hold a Contest to Get Online Interaction
Holding a contest is a great way to generate conversation and enthusiasm. In the past, Oprah’s cable channel (OWN) ran a video contest. I’m guessing that you probably heard about the contest at the time—either because someone asked you to vote, you saw an entry on someone’s facebook page, or you heard it through the news or a podcast (like this one)! The point is contests generate conversation, and person-to-person conversation is, in essence, word of mouth advertising- the best kind of advertising!
So there you have it, some quick and dirty tips for making conversation online. First remember it’s a conversation, not a one-way broadcast. Asking people’s opinion of anything that relates to your topic is a good conversation starter. Next, people love entertaining video and photos, but they also need content. Remember to occasionally share something that is personal yet universal and to reward your brand. Finally, consider holding or entering into a video contest. I believe that networking starts with conversations—lots of them. Some of those conversations will fizzle out, whereas others will build into a “connection”. Using these tips you can transform your online friends to real connections and eventually with time and effort into relationships.
This is, Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication, your success is my business.
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If you have a question, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.