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How to Talk to Social Media Users on Different Social Networks

The social networks are where a lot of our readers spend a lot of their time, so clearly publishers need to be there too. But simply being there is not enough, writes Amanda MacArthur. You need to make sure you fit in!

By Amanda MacArthur

Would you show up to a business meeting in a bathing suit? And how about the beach, would you show up in a full suit, or polyester, long-sleeved dress? I bet you wouldn't attend a parent-teacher conference in last year’s evil clown Halloween costume either, right?

So why would you sign up for a handful of social networks and then send the same message to all of them? Isn’t every social network a little different?

You probably don’t air your dirty laundry on LinkedIn, but you might have done it once or twice on Facebook, right? And Twitter – you probably give away more mundane information about yourself in 140 characters than you’d ever bother writing in a daily journal, right?

Just like your boss, your friends, and your kids’ teacher, everybody expects a slightly different persona from you. Nothing too drastic, but in the same way you probably avoid talking about work to friends and about personal life to colleagues, every segment of communication has a different filter. Some people you high-five when you see them, some you hug, and some you shake hands.

Social media requires the same set of filters, and you might be surprised which social media channel aligns with each.

Let’s talk specifically about all the many differences between the users of each social network and what they expect from you. If you can talk to them in their language, then not only will you not risk standing out like a sore thumb, but you’ll see a better return on your investment in social media, which, if you haven’t learned this yet, is most often loyalty – also known as the long-tail of commerce.

How Twitter Users Want to Be Treated

* They Expect You to Talk to Them

Twitter is best used to build a community, whereas Facebook is better to maintain one. In fact, Facebook barely gives you any tools or opportunities to build fans other than paid advertising, whereas Twitter gives you endless possibilities to build followers. Use to find people Tweeting in your niche and start answering the questions they’re shouting out into the Twitterverse. You’re a publisher for Pete’s sake, you’re the expert!

* They Will Use You as a Punching Bag

If your readers or subscribers are mad at you, they will use Twitter to let you know. They might do this on Facebook too, but on Twitter they have a direct line to you and will expect a personal response. You can thank Comcast for that, a US cable provider who became famous for using Twitter as a customer service tool. Twitter is the new customer service channel, and any publisher on Twitter should be equipped to handle both the negative and the positive feedback (and have a protocol ready to put out any flames quickly).

* They Expect You To Call Out People By @Name

On Twitter, almost everybody has a username. When US Weekly (@USWeekly calls out a celebrity like Simon Cowell in a Tweet, they call out @SimonCowell. Twitter has its own language, and you’re expected to use it. It’s also a benefit to the reader when you’ve done the research of looking up someone’s username for him or her to follow if they want.

* They Need More Than a Headline

Your headline can be seen in its original form on your blog, in your magazine, on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and everywhere else. On Twitter, you have the unique opportunity to rearrange it, and that’s what you’ll find publishers doing. The Economist (@TheEconomist) re-writes headlines often, turning ‘Not Quite Ready for Take-Off’ into ‘FastJet, an African low-cost carrier, struggles to establish itself’. You’ll find that other highly followed publications, like National Geographic (@NatGeo) and Wired (@Wired) do the same. The benefit of re-writing headlines on Twitter is that you can track which formulas work best, and you can also re-promote one article many times in one day without anybody noticing.

* They Expect to Be Marketed To

Twitter users tend to be smarter about marketing than on other platforms. They don’t follow a publication on Twitter to not get links to new articles, they follow them because they want them. And when they are ready to subscribe to your publication, they’ll check Twitter to see if you’ve sent out any promo codes recently.

How Facebook Users Want to Be Treated

* They Want to See Behind the Scenes

They get your magazine, which is not in real time, and they read your blog, which may be closer to real time. But, on Facebook, they expect real-time updates too. Magazine publishers looking to add some diversity to their posts can add photos from behind the scenes at photo-shoots, or do mini-interviews with staff.

* They Want VIP Discounts in Exchange for a “Like”

Email marketing and the common exchange of an email address for an eBook has taught us that if you want us to do something for you, you must give us something in return. Whether your revenue comes from products, advertising, or a mix of both, your followers will expect to get specials from you on Facebook. Mother & Baby, the top parenting magazine in the UK, has a tab on their Facebook page called “Subscription Offers”.

* They Like Questions, They Really Like Them

The major advantage of Facebook is the willingness to comment, so take advantage. You might not hear a peep on Twitter when you ask a question, but if you can get just one person to answer on Facebook, you’ll start to see more and more tumble in thereafter. The more comments you get, the more visible your post will appear in everyone’s timelines.

* They Don’t Want Ads in Their Timeline Unless They Know You

Promoted Posts were created by Facebook to first, take away your Page visibility, and then, give it back to you as long as you’re willing to pay for it. Unfortunately, promoting posts to those outside your own fans will often get you chastised for “spam”. The comment thread on your promoted post can get long and hateful. To avoid backlash, promote posts to your inner circle and use other types of ads to the larger audience.

* They Want You to Be Personal, Just Not Too Personal

Although Facebook is the social media platform that people share the most about themselves on, it’s not necessarily the one that you should use to share the most. Remind your social media editors that Facebook is a professional platform, not their own personal Op-Ed column.

How Google+ Users Want to Be Treated

* They Want a Closer Relationship

Even though Google boasts a high number of Google+ accounts, it’s no secret that the numbers don’t reflect active users. That’s why if you’re using Google+, users are giddy when you’re really using it. So for that reason, they expect that if they leave you a comment, you’re going to answer it. On the other hand, if you’re not active, they very much expect that you won’t answer – like everyone else.

* They Want You to Throw a Google Hangout

The biggest benefit to Google+ besides a pretty interface, is the ability to “hang out” with people. These web conferences allow you to face-chat with up to ten people while anybody else can watch in through a live stream. Glamour magazine is able to monetise Hangouts by getting sponsors, and then inviting their staff and celebrities to come in and chat with their readers in a way that print can’t enable. In 2012, the New York Times hosted Hangouts with Olympic athletes!

* Mostly, They Just Want You to Use It

Have you used Google+? It’s an excellent social network, if only the network was there. And if they un-confused that whole “circles” thing. The biggest pet peeve of Google+ users is that their favourite brands, and their friends, are still on Facebook and not on Google+.

How Instagram Users Want to Be Treated

* They Expect High-Quality

Instagram is a powerful tool because it can cross-post to both Twitter and Facebook, making personal efforts to reach readers even easier. Users on Instagram don’t expect you to engage with them on Instagram, but they do hold publications to higher standards of content and quality. To please them, post photos that are eye-catching and magazine worthy, especially those behind the scenes at photo shoots, at interviews, and around the office.

* They Want Expertise

If you’re a travel publication, ask editors to scope out hot-spots to share in their cities. If you’re a cooking publication, scope out interesting ingredients. Give a lesson with each photo.

* They Want to Know Who You Know

Just like on Twitter, Instagram users want you to @ people and businesses in your photos. Instagram recently started allowing you to tag people in photos, which makes it even easier.

* They Expect You to Tag Content

If you want your photos to spread, look no further than the hashtag. Unlike on Twitter, where users hardly use hashtags as a navigational system, Instagram users find and discover photos often through hashtags. Using the hashtag #NYC can garner a handful of “likes” in a matter of seconds.

* They Will Like You For Your Contests

You’ll get the most value out of Instagram by making followers feel like they’re “part” of your magazine production process. Come up with a theme, make up a hashtag for it, and ask readers to attach the tag to their photo. Include the best photos in an upcoming issue! Heck, create a new user-generated section out of it!

How LinkedIn Users Want to Be Treated

* They’re Here For Business

People who use LinkedIn frequently are either marketing themselves, looking for leads, sharing their articles, are hiring, or are looking for a job. As long as you know these types, you know if LinkedIn is a place worth spending your time.

* They Want to Know if You Have a Job For Them

If they’re looking at your page, they probably want to know more about you. Who works at your company? What jobs are available? Whom can they get in contact with if they want to work with you? Develop a protocol for people who work in your organisation and are contacted by those looking to get their résumé pushed to the front of the line.

* They Really Don’t Expect Much From You at All

On LinkedIn, the extent of your presence is a business profile, the profiles of your employees, and whatever forums in which your employees decide to engage. If you’re using LinkedIn as a marketing channel, at least use it consistently.

Just because there are unlimited social networks out there doesn’t mean you need to join them all. If engaging on any one of them seems appealing, try it out – just don’t get stagnant. An inactive social media profile is the devil’s playground.

The most important thing to know is that people use every social network in different ways, and they expect you to use them in those ways. The community itself will always be your guide, you only need to listen.