Give your customers a clear reason to follow you on social networks

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Whether you're an individual using social networks or a business you should constantly be asking yourself why should people follow you. What's going to make your content interesting, engaging and valuable for your audience. Why, determines your focus and refines your content strategy. It's important for you and your audience. People can't possibly listen and absorb everything that comes through their Twitter feed or their Facebook wall so nailing down exactly what your focus is on each social network is vital.

For example last week I ran a Social Media workshop for a recruitment agency. Over the day we developed a different approach for Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin. Their use for each network is quite different, it's targeted and specific.

On Facebook the approach was to focus on tradespeople and related construction staff. Content would focus on the culture of different construction sites, health and safety advice, and the people involved. Experience and knowledge shared from within the company gave us insights that those types of people were actively using Facebook and often had mobile devices receiving notifications during the working day.

LinkedIn offered them the ability to target employers and candidates with more serious content and advice and Twitter was established as a conversation channel they could use to engage with the wider community, utilising networking and personal referrals to identify possible candidates and foster relationships with potential new clients.

So the strategy for Facebook was highly structured and organised with programmed content based around the trades people they are communicating to. While Twitter is very unstructured, free form, with less focus on "what the business does" or "what the business needs to achieve" and more on outreach, fostering useful relationships over time.

Giving your customers and fans a reason to like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter could begin with deals, discounts, exclusive content, or competitions. In fact research suggests those tactics appeal to the vast majority of social network users, but are they enough to keep people engaged over a long period of time? We know that consistency is paramount when building a community so a competition once a month or even weekly specials are unlikely to create a brand experience that people will participate in on a regular basis. They may read that information but will it really engage them in your brand?

In this video Brian Solis discusses this topic among others. The first 4 minutes or so is focused on the 'why should I follow you' question and uses an example of a yoghurt product which has "Follow us on Facebook" on its label. Solis asks "Why would you want to become a fan of your yoghurt on Facebook". Simply saying "Follow us on Facebook" does not answer the question "What for".

If the yoghurt label had said "Follow us on Facebook for great recipes with yoghurt" more people might think it was a useful and rewarding thing to do. Each day they could post a great new smoothy recipe, breakfast meal or started pairing different flavours with different cakes.

I enjoy talking to businesses about social media because each one uses the same tools in a different way. And you should, after all it's not about what social media can do for you, it's about what you can do with social media that matters.

So what's your angle? How are you or your business differentiating your social network content from other users or your competitors?