Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Who do you love? Who loves you? Play to your faves on social media

The more I help companies and organizations think about how best to reach their audiences, the more I wonder why there seems to be a universal desire to target people who are not fans of what you do.

That desire is what prompts polar opposites to keep arguing with one another in a comments thread, or professional groups to launch campaigns to convince "the public" that they're not so bad, after all. It's the organizational equivalent of "please like me," directed at folks who don't find you all that attractive. In some cases, it has a competitive feel (You will like us before this is over) and in others, it's woeful (Why don't they appreciate us?). If that's your approach, it means you are more likely to be broadcasting than listening to your audiences.

Either way, it's an approach to your audience that ignores a much more fruitful and satisfying path: Finding and appreciating the people who already like you. The ones you love who love you back. Asking "Who do you love?" may be the smartest communications or social media or marketing question you'll ever ask.

Trouble is, we don't tend to collect data on our fans and their reasons for loving us. In a 2000 report, the Wellcome Trust and the UK Office of Science and Technology issued a report on public attitudes about science that took this approach. Rather than focusing on the public's lack of knowledge or understanding--the idea that the audience you're trying to reach has a "deficit" of appreciation for your work--the study identified attitudinal groups, ranging from "confident believers," "technophiles" and "supporters" on the positive side to "concerned," "not sure" and "not for me" on the negative side. That key finding allows science communicators to focus on the top three groups, and leave the bottom three alone.

It's an approach that can help focus your efforts and your message, not to mention your budget and productivity. As Seth Godin points out, "Instead of working so hard to prove the skeptics wrong, it makes a lot more sense to delight the true believers. They deserve it, after all, and they're the ones that are going to spread the word for you." Writing for small businesses, Victor Ho urges focusing on "the vital few," noting that "a small business’s VIP customers--the ones who come over 10 times to a business--are the ones that drive the vast majority of revenue."

Instead of chasing after the elusive non-believer, the skeptic, the uninterested, why not figure out how to communicate with, engage and delight your fans? Who do you love? Who loves you?

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