Don’t fake it.

You know when you’re at a party talking to someone you’ve just met or maybe haven’t seen in a while and you can tell they aren’t really listening? Sure, they nod at the right times and say things like, “Oh, really? Huh.” But you know they’re already thinking about whatever it is they want to talk about, getting a drink, how long until they get to leave or some other distracted thought.

It’s a total bummer because it feels like you’re talking to yourself. What’s worse is when this party jerk expects you to listen to whatever is going on in his or her life.

Unfortunately, this is exactly how many, many, many brands treat social media. They drop into the party on Facebook, Twitter or another social network, leave a quick post like, “Big News! We just launched Widget X!” and then leave without paying any attention to the conversation that follows.

That’s not social media. It’s advertising. If you’re doing this, you’re faking social media.

Here’s another example. Your brand pops onto a social network and leaves a post like, “We care about our customers. What are your plans for the long weekend?” Then sit back and watch the notifications pop up as your followers tell you about barbecues and baseball games, and think, “Wow. Look at all this engagement!” But you don’t become part of the conversation.

If you’re doing this, you’re faking social media.

Sneaking your ads and promotions onto social media is as old a strategy as buying links to your website. It worked while sites like Facebook were sorting out algorithms, understanding their users and generally growing up. But it doesn’t really work any more and isn’t worth the time to try to figure out because there’s not enough benefit for your business.

Businesses benefit the most from social media when they use it to better understand their customers (or prospective customers, brand advocates, influencers, etc.) and connect with them.

Think of social media more like a dinner party and less like a promotional platform. And it’s not your dinner party. You are a guest. When people log in to social media, it’s their domain. They are logged in to their profile and seeing updates from friends they choose. It is their party, not yours.

With all this in mind, here are some party tips adapted from Etiquette for Dummies (2nd ed.) that you can apply to your social networking strategy:

  1. Think about other people and care about them
    • Actually consider who’s on the other end of every interaction
  2. Act as if you’re a host, not a guest
    • It may not be your party, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drive conversation. Engage the quiet ones (which might mean commenting on their page or feed) and link people up with one another
  3. Be pleasant, cheerful, and upbeat when mingling, no matter what your mood
    • No matter what’s going on at work
  4. Listen more than you talk
    • Pay attention to what your followers are saying
  5. Know how to gracefully end conversations
    • No one expects you to live on social media all day, but make sure to end every interaction pleasantly
  6. Avoid making negative comments on the room, the food, the guests or your host
    • Always stay positive, no matter what gets posted or said
  7. To engage a stranger into a conversation, find a shared interest
    • Your brand shouldn’t be the only thing you can both discuss
  8. Avoid any type of talk regarding physical injuries, sickness, accidents, or off-color language or jokes
    • Unless it fits your brand

Connectivity offers a product that lets you view and manage all social mentions and reviews in one place. Check out social inbox.

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Josh is Connectivity’s Content Marketing Manager.