As part of our efforts to innovate at Mahallae and UNDP-ACT, we are very keen on the Work out Loud approach. This is why we as the Mahallae team provide ongoing support and mentoring to our winning Challenges teams in designing and implementing succesful social media and outreach strategies.
Yet we sometimes notice confusion and even resistance in our innovating teams towards social media, preventing them from being as good at “talking” as they are at “doing.”
I am wondering whether drawing parallels between Twitter and house parties can help demystify social media and even further encourage its use for working out loud.
1. When you first show up at the party, who you know matters.
As a beginner to Twitter, you may want to reflect on who you know that already has a solid web presence. These people (“influencers”) can support your visibility by retweeting or mentioning you, opening up new pathways for communication.
Don’t be afraid to crowdsource new contacts, simply by tweeting to ask if your followers have any recommendations for you in line with the work you do. This is not very different than asking your friends to introduce you to people with similar interests at a party. The #FF (Follow Friday) hashtag can also be a fun way of suggesting new contacts to your list.
2. When you start a conversation at a party, you stay around to watch it develop; you don’t merely suggest a topic and leave.
Yes, apps such as Hootsuite can tremendously support your online outreach by helping you to schedule tweets and track comments in advance, but only if you show up throughout the week to check and respond to feedback.
Chances are you are already using a smart phone; enable notifications so that you can respond to comments in a timely manner. Of all social media channels, Twitter is perhaps the most real time and unforgiving: a comment a day late is a comment too late.
3. Have something to offer; don’t be a wallflower.
Many of us feel more comfortable doing the work than discussing it, both in real life and online.
Yet if you want to network successfully, the harsh reality is that you have to strike a balance between modesty and transparency. If you spend the whole party listening to others, chances are you will not be remembered by the next day.
4. Talking a lot doesn’t make you popular; you also have to listen.
If you want to engage your friends in the long term, you strive for the perfect balance between talking about yourself and listening to them.
If you want to generate followers on Twitter, you want to build a web presence that does not center around your stories, your accomplishments, and your needs.
In the context of social media, this may mean checking your feed regularly, favoriting tweets that matter to you, replying to comments in a relevant and timely manner, and retweeting anything you think your followers may find useful.
5. Don’t be awkward (how and where you talk about yourself matters).
You can’t show up next to a group of people discussing Justin Bieberand start talking about peacebuilding; they simply won’t listen to you. Instead, you want to make sure you are talking about the subjects that matter to you with people who also care about the same topic.
Give your subject a context. This is easier on Twitter than at a house party: simply use the relevant hashtags. We at Mahallae find #tech4peace,#innovation, #inno4dev, #genderIT and #Cyprus particularly useful to amplify our work and use them often. Don’t simply tack them at the end of your tweet – find creative ways to work them into your sentences. Don’t use too many (best practice says more than 2 hashtags in one tweet is simply too much.)
6. Move up the social hierarchy: Help make connections.
Being in a position to introduce people at gatherings is a wonderful way to create a presence for yourself. This works exactly in the same way online, too.
Making connections between people, projects and organizations can help you become a more central figure in your small Twitter universe. Use the previously mentioned #FF tag on a Friday to showcase some of your favorites. Amplify other people’s voices: encourage their efforts, congratulate their successes.
7. Look good. Or at least, presentable.
You don’t need to look like a model, but you don’t show up to a house party unshowered and badly dressed, do you?
When new followers click on your name and come to your page, their initial impression of your organization is important.
Do your logo, banner, or overall colors reflect the character of your idea, project or organization? What do your aesthetics communicate about you? Are you approachable – if you were a stranger to this organization, would you feel like you could talk to them? Would you feel like following them would make a positive impact on your life? We know from research that people are more frequently inclined to share positive stories than negative ones; it wouldn’t be much of a leap to say that people are more inclined to follow people with a positive feeling around them.