Businesses can get ‘REAL’ with social media | Kelly Maloney

Social media is being woven into the fabric of society as a conduit for meaningful exchange between businesses and their audiences.

As a platform for promoting your business, it warrants a deeper understanding of how to engage your audiences through social networking, blogging and other online interfaces.

Networking can be a “push” type of communication, where an entity pushes information out to audiences that may or may not be interested. Adding a “social” element, in which audiences have the option of providing feedback, is one of the most integral ingredients of successful social networking activities. This can be said for blogging and e-mail, which also allows the author to respond to user comments.

Which is why you need to get REAL, an approach to social media I’ve developed to help my clients understand the most important activities they can undertake in this medium to achieve significant results. REAL expands on the tenets of traditional marketing principles, applying them to the online realm.

To get REAL, organizations need to be Relevant, need to know how to Engage their audiences, need to be Authentic and valuable, and need to Listen and learn.


If you aren’t relevant to the needs of those you’re reaching out to, you don’t exist. Regardless of the effort you put into your product or service, or the coupons you throw at customers, or the blogs you spend hours writing, if none of it strikes a chord or if you're on the wrong sites, you won’t benefit from any of it.

How do you make sure you’re relevant? Just as you would for a traditional marketing campaign, do your market research. Know your audiences. Know where they get their information. Know who their opinion leaders are. Know what’s important to them. Know your own messaging.

One of the most important aspects of Relevancy is to know where your customers are or where they are willing to go. Are they receptive to Twitter? Are they lurking on Facebook? What about LinkedIn or Squidoo? Are they on industry specific blogs? Would they come to your blog?


The rules of engagement in social media are ramped up. Here, you have the opportunity to have a dialogue with your audiences. This is a way to build trust and loyalty. And, audiences are quickly coming to expect it. If your online strategy is to simply post information, your audiences will turn to your competitor, who’s engaging their customers in two-way communication.

The key take away is to not only promote yourself, but be receptive and responsive to your audiences.

This could include anything from creating online “clubs” or "friendships." It may mean showing your interest in their offerings through your public posts on their pages. Or, it may be simply responding that you got and appreciate their comments.

Authenticity and value

People are busy. If they feel your posts are self-aggrandizing, overly exaggerated, smoke and mirrors, and not worth their time, they’ll tune out quicker than you can sign into your account.

It’s OK and welcome to present valid news and updates about your company. Signed a new contract Great! Make sure your audiences know about it. Your employees volunteered at a homeless shelter? Commendable! Make sure your audiences know about it. You’re offering a two-fer? Terrific! Make sure your audiences know about it.

Keep in mind that it’s OK to not post anything for a while if you have nothing substantial to announce. Customers will appreciate the “silence” more than if you were posting irrelevant information. The more authentic you are and the more value you bring to your audiences, the more likely they are to continue to engage with you.

Listen and learn

If you could get inside your customer’s head (figuratively speaking, of course) to learn what he was thinking, would you take that opportunity? If you did, would you respond to those insights by validating your findings, then taking any necessary and appropriate actions to meet those needs and wants?

An extension of the Engagement phase is to listen to (or take note of) your audience's input and learn from it. You’ll gain valuable information about how your customers feel about your products and services, and possibly how they feel about your competitors’ products and services. When warranted, validate this information through surveys or other research, and take action when necessary, remembering to be authentic. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and don’t be reactionary by extending your business in a direction it’s not meant to go in.

Keeping your online presence REAL can go a long way toward helping you achieve your overall business objectives.

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