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Does Social Media Feel Like an Awkward Embrace?

embrace_kiss.014In Europe, it is customary to kiss a woman on the cheek when you meet. For me, an American expat, this is still a strange and awkward ritual – even after 3.5 years.

To make things more complicated each country has its own customs. I always seem to forget what to do. Where do I start? Left cheek or right? Do we hug too? Two kisses or three? As a result, greetings can be awkward and uncomfortable for me – even though they are intended to be friendly and cordial.

I think the same awkwardness occurs in social media.

Each person has different preferences and comfort levels with social media. Some people are happy to write blog posts, while others prefer to rate them. Some people will write comments longer than your original post, but are terrified to actually write a blog post themselves. Some are happy to be lurkers – consuming your content and quietly going about their business.

How Does This Apply to Your Attendees?

If you want to engage your event community in meaningful dialogue, you need to engage them on their terms. To be effective, I think that you need to keep these two questions in mind:

  1. How do my attendees prefer to engage with me through social media?
  2. What tools can I deploy to engage attendees where they are most comfortable?

How Do You Engage Attendees on Their Own Terms?

The Groundswell is a great resource that can help you understand how your attendees will use Social Media. For those that have never heard of the Groundswell – it is an idea, book and research from Forrester Research. Here is an excellent video that summarizes the approach. (If you have 2 minutes – this video is worth watching.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you want more information on the ground swell read this excellent summary or visit the Groundswell website. Equally important, try the Groundswell’s profile tool. It gives you a snapshot of your audience’s social media preferences. For an Association example – check out Frank Fortin’s Blog (Frank is the Communications Director of the Massachusetts Medical Society). You can read his findings here.

Bottom Line

Before you launch your Facebook fan page, start a Linkedin group or create a Twitter account – understand how your audience will be most comfortable engaging with you. Then, select the right social media tools to engage them accordingly.

Your event attendees need to feel comfortable engaging with you, unlike me, who is always trying to remember was it two kisses or three? Right cheek or left?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Samuel:

    Great insight here.

    As an employee of a U.S. association, I look at this slightly different than going where my audience is or where they want to engage with me. I think the last part of the sentence is on track thought, “where they want to engage.”

    It’s not always about their comfort level. Sometimes, it’s about helping them out of their comfort level so they’ll experience new things, try new things and ultimately have better experiences.

    We’ve found that we have sectors of our attendees in the top social networking platforms and meet each group at the right location. We also need to be a leader and help our members learn more about the social space so they can reach their customers. So it’s more than just going where the bulk of them are. It’s about leading them to new waters so they can reach their customers too. We intentionally try new things and ask them to join us, outside of their comfort zone, so they can learn what would work with their customers as well.

    October 16, 2009
    • Hi Jeff,

      I admire the fact that your organization is in a position to lead, teach and help your members (and attendees) expand their skills and comfort level with social media!

      I wish I was hearing more stories like yours. Right now, for each success story in Social Media – I feel like I am hearing 5 where do we start – this is new and weird – stories. For many of these groups the Groundswell thinking and Groundswell principles can be a valuable resource to help them get started.

      Thanks for your comments and insights! I always appreciate your point of view!

      – Sam

      October 16, 2009

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  1. 43 Social Media Tips, Tricks, Big Ideas & Real World Examples for Meetings & Events « Interactive Meeting Technology

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