Back in 2010, this week's guest on Marketing Smarts, Michelle McCormack, read an article on TechCrunch about the astonishing success Tiffany Philippou had had starting a Facebook group called "Secret London," which had collected 182,000 fans after two weeks. So Michelle started a group called "Secret Boston."
Though Secret Boston, at 10,500 fans, may not be the runaway success that Secret London was, it has succeeded in providing artists, musicians, and many others a platform for promoting events around Boston and sharing their love for this fair city (I live near Boston).
It has also taught Michelle a lot about how to get things done with social media, and she has applied those lessons to projects such as Fashion's Night Out Boston [FNO]—an official, citywide event devoted to fashion and sponsored by VOGUE—and, most recently, to the launch of a start-up, SCHEDit, which has been called "Twitter for Events."
Fill the stream with awesome content
To keep people engaged on your page, you need to provide a steady stream of content. Indeed, Michelle admits, "I believe in hammering the stream with content," though she adds the caveat, "as long as the content is awesome."
One reason you have to keep up the pace is that no matter what you post to your page, "Once it goes down the stream, it's basically gone." Due to the transitory nature of content on Facebook (they don't call it a "stream" for nothin'!), if people don't see what you've post pretty soon after you've posted it, they may never see it at all, which leads to a basic truth of social media marketing: "You're only as good as your last few updates."
Give the people what they want
If you're trying to figure out what kind of content to post as you're "hammering the stream" (or, if you'd like, "gently nurturing the stream"), Michelle puts it very simply: "Give the people what they want depending on what you're doing."
In other words, it pays to have a single content focus for your various pages and streams, and to perpetually reinforce that focus with the content you post.
"My content is pretty predictable," Michelle says, "If it's on FNO, it's only fashion. On Secret Boston it's only cool stuff in Boston."
People should know what they are going to find when they show up on your site, page, or channel. Don't disappoint them.
Don't alienate anyone
"I never engage in anything negative on any of my social networks," Michelle says, adding, "I don't talk about politics at all."
Unfortunately, political discussion, as necessary as it may be to the democratic process, can also be incredibly divisive. A recent Pew Research study found that 38% of social media users were "surprised" by their friends' political leanings, and 18% had even gone so far as to block or unfriend people based on political differences.
So, unless your page, site, or community is devoted to a particular political cause, you may want to limit its use as a political platform. Politics, frankly, can be alienating. And as Michelle told me, "I don't alienate anyone... unless you're alienated by cool content."
"This is the thing about social media," Michelle said, "you can get people excited, but to actually get them to act is something else."
Social media, as we have seen, has garnered much attention as a PR tool (or even, as "the new PR"), but there is continued skepticism about the power of social media to motivate targeted actions (such as purchasing your product or showing up at your event).
How do you get people to do things (in addition to being excited)? In Michelle's view, "Asking people to do certain things is the best way to get things done in social media."
You can't just assume that people will share, comment, and act, which is why you need to ask for specific actions on their part. You can, as Michelle has done, conduct contests, seed the stream with ideas, and invite people to attend an event or submit some content of their own.
People want to engage, contribute, and participate. Don't keep it a secret! Ask them to engage. Tell them how.
And, above all, make it easy (and cool!).
If you'd like to hear my entire conversation with Michelle, you may do so above. You can also download the mp3 or subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes and never miss an episode!
Michelle McCormack is a digital consultant with a background in the New York magazine world. She publishes the pop culture/fashion blog, LovetheCool, and produced Vogue's "Fashion Night Out" in Boston in 2011 and 2012. She also runs the popular "Secret Boston" Facebook page.