How to: Tap Into Your Social Audience

I’m always trying to think of ways to engage my audience. What do they want from me? How can I best get them to interact? How do I make them like me?! But I don’t always think about how my audience can help me.

Many companies are starting to not only listen to their audience, but tap into them for help. I have briefly mentioned the idea of using your community as a focus group. But you can also use your audience as a source.

This is an obvious step for news outlets, like NPR, who often asks their fans to contribute to stories that they are working on. They ask for volunteers to come forward and tell their story. Those fans are then featured in radio interviews. This is an invaluable resource for a company like NPR. It saves them money (less time paying reporters to track down the perfect person for a story) and makes their listeners feel important. Which they are!

But how can this work for brands? We use our audience as a source every day. We just don’t realize it. Community Managers need to take it one step further by listening to their fans and outright mining for content.

How? Here are a couple of examples:

1. Straight up ask them. Want to know what magazines your audience is reading? If they are using a certain product? If they like a topic you are thinking about writing about? Ask them! Use their responses to (or to not) drive and create content.

2. Fan interviews. A sure fire way to get more readership to your blog is to interview the people you want to read it. Pay attention to what your fans are saying, who is commenting most on posts and retweeting your content. Then ask that fan if they want to be interviewed by the brand. And bada-bing – you’ve got yourself a blog post! Not to mention all the friends and family who come along with that fan to read it.

3. Polls. One of the brands I work on recently created a promotion that would highlight some of our best Facebook fans. But what to call the contest? People were throwing around lots of ideas, and all of them were great. Who gets to decide which is best, though? The head of the brand team? No. The people you want to enter and participate – the fans! We asked our fans which title they liked best and chose which received the most votes.

4. In their own words. Another easy way to mine content? Use your fans’ own words. We all have those amazing fans who say exactly what we want to be saying about our brand, but better than we ever could. Quote the fan in a post and ask others if they feel the same. Or use them as inspiration to create your own new content.

But these are just a start. What other ideas do you have for tapping into your social audience? What has worked in the past? What hasn’t? Share in the comments!


Social Media New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is upon us! And with it comes my one year anniversary as a Community Manager. Hoorah! So even though I’m not usually a fan of new year’s resolutions, I’m going to make a few for myself.

It’s strange to think that I’ve been doing this for a year. There was a time when I thought I would never find a job I enjoyed and that anyone who said they actually enjoyed their job was a bold faced liar. But things changed.

Two colleagues were nice enough to show me the social media ropes and set me up with some great contacts (thanks DB and Josh!) Now I’m starting the new year with a job I enjoy (not lying).

But things can get hairy out here in the social media world. Sometimes I am the person who hates my job. So my new year’s resolutions aren’t just goals – they’re tips to help me avoid burnout and remember why I enjoy working in this ever changing industry.

– Let creativity in. Between my Instapaper, Google Reader, Amazon reading list and job in general, I sometimes feel like everything in my day has to do with social media. Staying on this one topic can actually stifle creativity – both inside and outside my job. My resolution is to read one non-social media book a month. Oh, and more cooking blogs everyday! Lots and lots of cooking blogs.

– Laugh at myself and my job. Remember that mention of hating my job? Well, it generally happens when someone says something outrageous or ridiculous to me on a social network. Instead of getting angry or frustrated, I’m going to laugh. Laugh, damnit. Because if I can’t derive some humor out of people getting angry at me for my grammar, what can I laugh at? Dont answer that…

– Take more risks. Many community managers have a tendency to find something that works and stick with it (Facebook polls, anyone?). I want to take more risks with my content. Try something that I never have before and step outside of the realm of “what works.”

– Enjoy it. When people see me browsing cat videos and photos, looking for interesting things to post, they say, “That’s your job?!” My first reaction is to get defensive and explain that it is a lot more than browsing for fun content. But they aren’t being rude. They’re jealous. And they’re right to be. My job kicks ass. Not just because of the cat videos (big bonus), but because of all the other every-changing things I get to do. And this year I am going to enjoy it while I still can.

Happy 2012, everyone! Share your new year’s resolutions – social media or otherwise – in the comments!