Growing and Nurturing an Audience

social media flowers

Recently, I’ve experienced a recurring theme of people asking about how they can use social media to inform people, to promote their event, or because they just need a Facebook or Twitter page. And yes, social media can be used to inform people and promote events and programs, but that’s is not what they are about. They are about conversations and relationships. And don’t even get me started on having social media channels just for the sake of having them. But your audience members take some nurturing to grow, so give them a little water and sunlight and they’ll grow into thriving, engaging members of your community.

Take the Time

Just like an taking the time to pick up the phone and call an old friend, you need to take the time to find out how your audience is doing! This can be accomplished by asking them, monitoring relevant hashtags, or by listening to what they’re flat out telling you. You can then gauge their feelings and talk to them appropriately. Talking to students during the summer is different than during finals week.

Truly Listen

I’ve talked about truly listening to your audience before, but I’m going for it again. Sometimes you think you know what a problem is, or what an audience member is referencing, but if you jump to conclusions you could miss someone’s point quite easily, especially if you’re on Twitter and have a 140-character post to work with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or take the conversation to email if you need more information to understand what your audience member is trying to tell you.

Engage

Your audience wants to know you care. In higher education, that can be as simple as congratulating newly admitted students, answering questions about when food locations are open during spring break, or offering to answer questions of prospective students. Tell your audience you’re there for them in whatever capacity they need.

Story Time

I heard University of Cincinnati’s @PrezOno speak at EduWeb last year, and he told a story about a student who was upset that the vending machine was out of Cheez its. He listened to the complaint, and said he would find out why the vending machine was empty. And he followed through. His audience understands that he’s there for them, and reaches out regularly. He provides a perfect example of how to listen and engage with your audience. You can see this and more of Santa Ono’s presentation in the SlideShare below:

 

Audience and Tone: Two Important Steps Not to Skip

Social media is all the rage, and for good reason, but there are a few things that you should remember in your strategy that can be easily forgotten. Social media is just another communications channel, and should be treated as such.

Audience

In every post, tweet, message, press release, whatever piece of communication it is, you should always think about who your audience is. I know, you’re saying this is communications 101, but it can be easy to forget to actively think about this important step. And when I say every tweet, I honestly mean it. It might seem a little overkill, but what is the point of sending out messages if they aren’t going to reach their targets in a way that makes sense to them?

Tips to Achieve

  • Make a note to ask yourself who your intended audience is. For instance, keep a content plan for your social media content? Make a column or a place to write down who your target is. Then you won’t forget to consider what things will resonate best.
  • Know your audiences in general. Writing posts and tweets to communicate with these audiences is easier if you pay attention to what those audiences engage with. Brands can find themselves with many different audiences, for instance, for universities you can have students, prospective students, alumni, faculty, staff and even parents. Obviously you can’t reach all audiences with each post, but if you have 2 out of 6 audiences in mind with one post and know they will react, then you can focus on the others with other posts. This is where knowing what your audiences enjoy and expect comes in handy.

Tone

Another thing I’ve seen passed over recently is presenting an appropriate tone for your brand. A surf shop can do the whole “What’s up, dude,” vibe, but you probably wouldn’t like to hear a similar tone from your bank. Without the correct tone, your message isn’t achieving your intended message.

Tips to Achieve

  • Your tone should align with your brand’s mission, vision and goals. If it doesn’t, then your message is not having the impact and impression it should. At Texas Tech, we are a national research university, and while we have some leeway with messaging, I really focus on making sure our tone represents this fact.
  • Your tone should assure your audience, it shouldn’t sound over the top, unless your brand is known for these things. I suggest writing down words that come to mind when you think about your brand, this will help you decide what an appropriate tone is, or even better, also ask someone who doesn’t work in communications for the brand, you’ll get an honest answer. Then compare the two lists of words and phrases.