The world is a very self-centred place. It is not natural to focus on others before yourself. In fact, I regularly see so many posts, updates, memes, vlogs, infographics, etc all saying how important it is to focus on yourself to make you feel better.
And yet this is not true when it comes to engaging online. You will probably find if you go on about yourself on social media, people (who aren't your devoted friends) will soon start ignoring you.
This is a cruel world. The reaction you'll probably get is 'So what?' or 'Who the hell are you?' or something similarly discouraging. And if you think about it, why should they bother if they don't know you from Adam?
So what's the answer?
It's time to forget about yourself, and start to focus on others. Your readers, new followers, prospective, present and past customers or whatever should come first. They are the life-blood of your blog, the raison d'être your social media engagement, the main objective for interacting online.
You and your business aren't important. This may be difficult for you to hear, but social engaging is about having conversations, making friends, forming relationships, not business transactions or self-promotion.
Whenever I see another comment on my blog bristling with links back to irrelevant or uninteresting websites, I sigh for the enth time. Do these people really think I'm going to accept this? What planet do they think they're on?
Check out this infographic for what you really should be focusing on:
And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.
Step back and start listening
Forget about the real reason why you are on social media. (I bet it was to promote your business, product, brand, latest blog post, etc - wasn't it?) You need to turn around your mindset and start thinking differently.
Before anyone gets to know you properly, you need to get to know them properly. This means standing back and listening, watching, reading, absorbing topics of conversation, understanding what is interesting to your chosen targets, and why this is the case.
Being social has nothing to do with promotion. It's about networking with people to get them to know, like and trust you. Similar to offline networking groups, the more you make the effort to get to know the people within your group, the better chance others will want to find out what you do.
Have you properly understood everything?
There seems to be this permanent rush with anything online. The concept of real-time exasperates the need for things to be done yesterday. Patience is non-existent, and concentration spans have disintegrated. Nobody appreciates 'taking your time' anymore.
Success happens to those who slow down to do things properly. Like really reading posts before commenting. How else are you going to form a considered argument, a valid point of view, an opinion which offers relevant added value others can benefit from?
Rushing about dumping inane and useless comments because you have five minutes spare and you 'really ought to do something' won't do you any favours. Whereas one well-thought-through response to a suitable post which is relevant to your cause, will.
Notice others in order to get noticed
Obviously the reason why you socialise is to draw attention to you and what you represent. Millions of newly written blog posts are posted every day with the hope someone will read them. These may get noticed, the headline may arouse interest, the link may even get clicked on. But how often will this result in further engagement?
Influencers and other online celebrities have worked incredibly hard to get where they are. Much harder than most people imagine. And this is because they focus on others when they socially engage. They go to extreme lengths to get to know their audiences, and give them what they want.
You could be the most incredible writer, write the most wittiest comments, produce the most colourful memes, etc. But if you aren't focusing on your followers or readers, they won't be able to relate to you or your 'message' because you haven't formed a proper connection with them.
How much knowledge have you gained?
How much do you really know about your readers or followers? Do you retain any knowledge you accrue about them to use later? This isn't just creating a database with tags which tells you which subject has interested them in the past, or which e-course sales page they deigned to visit.
There is this massive drive to get huge mailing lists of prospects. Numbers are so important, people even pay for leads of contacts who have no idea who you are and you about them. As a result these spray and pray email-shots fail dismally as the recipient is totally unsuitable and the 'message' is completely inappropriate.
This is particularly so when pitching for guest posts. I regularly get requests which show nobody's read my posts or understood the subject properly. The title suggestions offered are totally wide off the mark when it comes to relevancy or a good fit. I often wonder if these dismal attempts produce any results at all!
Why the approach really matters
Doesn't it make a difference when someone communicates with you with a bit of information which is relevant? This may be from a previous conversation, or something they gleaned from your social media profiles. This shows they've made an effort to get to know you, understand your motives, and think carefully before making that initial approach.
And how they proposition you is important. Obviously 'hello my dear' results in reaching for the block and delete buttons. Even 'Hi' or 'Hey there' (without my name) gets short shrift. It is very difficult to not sound creepy when you're accosting someone you've never spoken to before.
What works best for me is a statement or question which is extremely relevant to me right now. Something which makes me sit up and take notice. Something which it's obvious the sender's aim is to focus on others and not on himself. This person seems genuinely interested in helping me, improving my life, or making a difference to my business.
Are your customers a good fit?
It's time to get inside the heads of whoever you are trying to target. This isn't about doing bland marketing research – how relevant is which newspaper they read really to you? It's about going on social media, doing a bit of 'lurking and learning', finding out what they're talking about, their preferences, their deepest desires, their pet hates...
It's important to understand social interaction cannot be fulfilled in five minutes. People need to be woo-ed, without them knowing it. All the time you are gathering information about them, they are doing the same with you. They need to start to feel comfortable with you, trust is won, loyalty is gained, a friendship is formed.
Your communication needs to show your human side, by revealing your foibles, failings and other comparable scenarios. People need to feel an affinity with which they can relate to their own lives. If you are all in the same boat, the bonds are much stronger. Now you'll have gained some real fans.
Divert your attention to focus on others
However, refrain from always talking about yourself, and focus on others when making observations, offering opinions or relaying a point of view. How relevant is this to others? Can they relate to it? Does it reflect their own lives? Would it encourage a response from them?
Where businesses fail with their advertising or attempts at social communication is their inability to forget about themselves. They are constantly trying to draw the customer back to them by saying how wonderful they are, how many years of expertise they have, how their product is the best thing since sliced bread.
What is needed is to reduce the boredom factor. You need to play with your customer's equally self-centred traits. You need to focus on others to get their attention, say the things they want to hear, make the benefits so desirable they cannot cope without them.
The world doesn't revolve around you
Why, oh why, do so many comments from businesses have this insatiable need to include a link back to their website? Don't they realise they already submit a link (accessible behind their name, which really shouldn't be a corporate one) when they post their comment?
Commenting, on whatever media, is about communicating with the author of the post. You should be talking about the subject, enhancing the value, answering a question, providing a solution, continuing the conversation. This is not somewhere to promote your business. Moderators do not tolerate random links, as this is what spammers do.
If you are insistent in providing a link, it needs to be directed to a post which is relevant to the topic. Not your homepage. Nor your sales page. The comment box is not a vehicle for promotion. It is to provide suitable information which others may find valuable. If you create a good enough impression, they may deign to click on your link to find out more.
How much do you focus on others other than yourself?
I do hope you aren't one of these terrible people who coast around the web looking for inlets to bang on about your brand. Nor do you litter forums and groups with links back to your latest blog post (guilty as charged!) I know how easy it is to dump and forget when you're really busy.
But if you make a concerted effort to change your tactics to focus on others, it will pay dividends. This is what I'm going to do to promote my books and e-courses. I've realised I need to accrue a following to help me. And they need to understand everything I'm trying to do. And the best way to do this is to communicate socially online.
Let me know in the comments below your experiences when you started to focus on others other than yourself. Has it make a difference to your business? Are you a much more fun person to know? Is it nice to feel included in a community rather than trying to get in from the outside? We look forward to hearing from you.