If you’ve ever been to a dinner party where you sat next to someone who likes to talk about himself, you know how painful that can be. Endless stories about his self-proclaimed fascinating life, from the appetizer round all the way through the salad, main course, and dessert. You know the guy. You walk away feeling like you were talked at all evening instead of talked with.
Keep that guy (or gal) in mind when interacting with your constituents via social media. Your online conversations may not involve rack of lamb or crème brulee, but you should still follow general dinner party etiquette because your fans want to be talked with, not talked at.
We call this the Dinner Party Rule of Social Media: don’t just talk about yourself.
A popular dinner party guest will tell an interesting story or two about himself, but he will also stop talking and let others speak. He will ask questions of those around him to show that he is interested, and he will share stories about others at the table that put them in a positive light. The popular dinner party guest is adept at entertaining while also making those around him feel good about themselves. Your social media strategy should do the same.
Your community wants to know about the work you are doing. They need to know that you accomplished x, y, and z. But in order to stay engaged in the conversation they need a chance to talk too. And, they love it when you talk about them and make them the stars of the show.
Here are two examples of the Dinner Party Rule in action:
As the official fundraising partner of the Generosity Series, we recently worked with Friends of Firefighters on their social media strategy for the Generosity 5K Run/Walk. Each week leading up to the event they posted a picture of one of their participants along with a brief story about the person and a link to their personal fundraising page. This gave their fundraisers a chance to enjoy the spotlight while also planting a seed in the minds of other members of the community – ‘if that person can fundraise, I can fundraise too.’
ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer is doing something similar with their Run/Walk. They are highlighting participants as a way to celebrate their fundraising efforts, while also connecting participants to each other by sharing stories. A look through their Facebook page will show a balance between sharing information about research, talking about the important work the organization is doing to improve peoples’ lives, highlighting their participants, and inviting their participants to be part of the conversation. They’re talking about themselves enough, but not too much.
Social media conversations happen online, but they are still conversations. To create a tight-knit community via social media, just think about the best dinner parties you have hosted or attended and try to replicate those experiences. We don’t want constituents to get up as soon as they have finished eating and walk away feeling like they were talked at. We want them to linger at the table after dinner because they have connected with those around them and don’t want the night to end. We want them to feel like they are part of something. And the best way to do that is to not just talk about yourself.
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