Putting your best Facebook forward
Have you ever sat in front of Facebook or Instagram and peered into the seemingly perfect lives of your friends with pure, green-eyed envy?
As you contemplate whether that's the second bloody time, or the third, in the past two years that Paul and Shaz have posted selfies from some gorgeous Thai beach, it's worth remembering this: what you see on social media is usually a carefully curated, highly sanitised version of other people's lives.
They have the same daily struggles as you do. It's just that they're not posting status updates about Paul's itchy skin condition, or recounting the shouting match over how to pay next year's school fees (it turns out that last trip to Thailand was one too many).
It's the same when you're in business.
Social media provides an unprecedented opportunity to carefully craft your firm's public image, promote key messages and strengths, and create positive experiences and associations for your audience; all while wallpapering over the more mundane, functional elements of being in business.
Gina Lednyak, the founder of media strategy advisors L&A Social Media, says platforms such as Facebook and Twitter feed a basic human desire - to be loved.
"While social media has tapped into the intrinsic human need that we all share, namely the desire to be acknowledged and enjoy a pat on the back, it has also tapped into the love affair we have with talking about ourselves," she says.
"The so-called 'Facebook Generation' offers brands a very unique opportunity; to leverage the love affair with perception and positive reinforcement, and use it as a value exchange between a brand and a customer."
Here are Lednyak's top tips to put your business's best Face(book) forward:
You are the company you keep
By sharing and engaging with branded content we carefully craft what kind of person we are. Do I like that popular lager, or the local craft beer that no one knows about (yet)? Do I share content from the environmentally friendly shop down the road, or from a major supermarket? Social media allows us to craft ourselves by bringing brands into our social sphere.
As a brand, the biggest opportunity is to highlight your brand personality in a way that allows your community to take ownership of it.
Analyse why your customers and target audience like you, why they spend time with you online and why they buy from you. Use this essence to create content that your community can share to showcase their own personality. Don't be afraid to polarise. It is better to be loved and hated than to be stuck in the apathetic grey area.
Be the brightest crayon in the box
As social media users we love sharing content that makes us look intelligent, witty and relevant. We like sharing content that we feel our personal networks will find interesting. Often this is content that indirectly makes a user look well-rounded, and an expert on any given topic.
Give your community the tools to do this and you've won. Your job as a brand on social media is to provide content that your community will be proud to share because it reflects well on each individual users who share.
Make your followers feel special
People love being celebrated. A follower on Instagram is much more likely to create user-generated content if they know there is a chance you will 'regram' them. Being celebrated by a brand you love innately feels good, and this is a very powerful way to connect with your consumers.
Never take your community for granted and always think of ways you can help celebrate them.
Help them to come first
We always want to be the first to know. Not the first to know in the world, but the first to know within our networks. If your brand gives users the opportunity to be the first to know something within their network, they will be forever grateful.
If you are at the forefront of what they find interesting, you will be helping them to become more influential within their network. The more interesting and value-adding you are, the more your communities will share your content, talk about you and influence their networks with your help.