I had to leave a Facebook group I’d rather stay part of last week. Unfortunately, they did not understand that social media is a pull, not push, medium.
Every day I’d log into Facebook, seems I’d find a message or two in my inbox from them. They were sending me news releases. OK, not even — they were copying and pasting links to news releases into the inboxes of every group member. I’ve talked before about overcommunication via social media streams, but pushing overcommunication directly upon an affinity group is even worse. And I prefer my inbox for personal messages, thank you.
Social media works best on demand. If you’re trying to communicate, you do want to have an audience, know how to communicate and (one place the group failed) provide a message of value. The key is trying to pull them into an action: enticing them to read, to learn more, to engage … you’re not force-feeding them information.
Your readers are engaged in pull as well — pulling in only the messages they want from the sources they want. It’s like instead of picking up the paper and finding the opinion section and reading their favorite columnist, they merely pull in the latest column (blog) from that favored writer and don’t deal with the rest of the old routine.
Admittedly, communicating via social media has its advantages over traditional PR. Normally, we’d send news releases to editors who may discard them, may cut them down to briefs, may incorporate them into a story or may (shockingly) run almost as is. Then we rely on the audience to pick up the newspaper that day, happen to go to that page, and find it interesting enough to read beyond the headline (which we don’t necessarily control) and lead (ditto).
Facebook is a great example where, if you’re communicating for your college, non-profit or organization, you’re already finding your affinity group or customers. Or they’re finding you. They’ve self-selected, made a conscious decision to be your friend, join your group, become a fan. They’re receptive to messages if they provide some kind of value. They may accept a pushed message from you once in a while, but they’ve spent their whole life dealing with pushy salespeople in real life or on TV. If you repeatedly push messages upon them via social media, then you’re no better than any car salesman shouting at them from a TV.
It’s a new world, and new rules for communication. Actually, it’s more complicated than that: In Web 2.0, every user sets his or her rules. We need to pay attention and do our best to figure out what they are. And know that as they change, so should we.