We Need to Make Social Media Social Again

three people looking at a computer. Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash
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It’s called “social” media for a reason. In pursuit of getting likes and followers and trying to reach new consumers and clients, we sometimes forget the very core of what social media is all about: connecting.

For small businesses, social media is a quick and easy marketing tool at your fingertips. On your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and more, you can quickly inform your community about company updates, new hires, new products, and everything you have to offer. You can reach new consumers by using the right hashtag, and you can even direct clicks to your website. But as social media has now been around for almost two decades, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out in such a saturated market.

Well, we have a theory over here at Eternity, and our theory is that if we focus on the social aspect of social media, we’ll actually increase engagement, and we will have more meaningful engagements—and create real communities—on our social platforms.

Person holding phone with Instagram open

A History of Virtual Social Connection

Think back to the early days of social media. One of the earliest “social media” networking platforms was Friendster back in 2002. By today’s standards, Friendster was rather simple: The platform allowed you to sign up with your email, make friends, and add them to your personal network. With your personal network you could share videos, photos, and messages.

Simply put, the intention of Friendster was to, well, make friends. The intention was to be social.

In 2002, the ever popular LinkedIn was also founded (did you know that LinkedIn is that old?!). In its early days, LinkedIn focused on professional networking. The platform was built so that you could connect and network with colleagues, business and school contacts, and other companies in your industry. Today, networking is still at the core of LinkedIn.

Just like Friendster, LinkedIn was created on the basis of connection.

These early social platforms remind us of why these platforms we all know and love today were created: To be social with our friends, family, and community.

The history of social media is community building.

Picture of a phone and a laptop on a desk. Facebook is open on the phone.

Social Media Today

Today, social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are our most popular social media channels. Each of these spaces not only welcome individual users, but small businesses, non-profits, corporations, and even advertisers. Social media has become a tool for business—with some channels like Instagram and Facebook even incorporating shopping directly into their platform functionality.

Gone are the days of simple email friends. On Facebook, the average user sees 36 ads per day, and every seventh post on your Twitter feed is an ad. According to data collected by Statistica, 91.9% of companies (larger than 100 employees) were expected to use social media as part of their marketing strategy in 2021.

Think about your own social media. How often do you see an ad or a business you follow posting about a product or service? The answer is often.

One might say that much of our social media has evolved from talking to telling—from talking with to talking at. Businesses telling you about their offerings. Ads telling you about their latest sale. Friends telling you about a holiday celebration through a post.

But what would happen if we went from telling back to talking? If we went back to social media’s history of community building?

A group of friends laughing and looking at a laptop together.

Why You Should Have A Social Social Media Strategy

As a business, it may be tempting to make your organic social media focus on sales and read like an ad. You want people to use your service or buy your product, right? It may feel natural, then, to just post pictures of your latest products and add a link.

But, if you want to get meaningful engagement—website clicks, loyal followers, and brand advocates—that is not all you should do. To increase your social presence and success—and to have engaged followers rather than just followers—it’s as simple as making more room for human content and human interaction in your social strategy.

It’s as simple as building a community rather than selling to a community.

So what does “social” social media look like? Let’s look at a social account our social media team here at Eternity really admires: Penguin Teen’s Twitter account.

Penguin Teen is a division of the American book publisher Penguin Random House, and Penguin Teen does an amazing job of mixing book promotion with being truly social on social media. They are masters of meaningfully using their social media to interact with their fans and build a real virtual community. They don’t just use their valuable social time to Tweet about their new books with a purchase link—they retweet community posts, start conversations with their fans in the comments, tag their community members in their posts, and keep-up with current social conversations trending.

For example, check out these two Tweets.

A photo of two tweets. Both are examples of social language that centers around community building.

While each of these posts are about books, Penguin is not talking about themselves. In post one, which is a thread of dozens of books, they tag and highlight many of their community members while comparing their book covers to dresses. Not only is the post trendy, again, it’s not about Penguin—the post is about and involves their community through a fun post concept.

In post two, they’re sharing about some exciting community book news. While it is a book they are publishing, the post centers its language around celebrating the author who wrote the book rather than the company. Again, they are making the post about their network—about their community. They are being social and genuine.

Finally, let’s look at post three.

Picture of a Tweet about a recently published book.

Here they are directly posting about a book they put out that day, but again, they start the post caption by congratulating the author—the very amazing Amanda Gorman (not sponsored or anything, but we’re totally getting that book). Even while posting about something they ultimately want you to purchase, they are centering their conversation around celebrating the people at the heart of the art.

By always centering their posts around people, Penguin Teen makes their social media social. They are encouraging person-to-person conversations, community connection, comments, re-shares, and meaningful engagement. They are involving you in the conversation, not just telling you what conversation they are having with themselves. That is “social” social media. You want to engage with their posts because their posts are genuinely engaging because of how human they are. In a world of ads, being human is powerful.

And, well, the algorithms don’t lie. In 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to favor “community interaction” in the news feed. That means Facebook posts that promote conversation and commenting are more likely to be pushed out by the algorithm. LinkedIn’s algorithm incorporates what’s called “community-focused feed optimization,” meaning that their algorithm favors content made by people who are active community members, and whose posts may spark conversation. Even Twitter’s algorithm processes your user information based on your comments and replies.

These apps want you to be social, and you will be rewarded with more engagement on your posts if they are structured to encourage meaningful interaction. Plus, if we focus on the community aspect at the root of social media, not only will you find more engagement, you’ll create a more positive social space.

Picture of sidewalk art that says "Say hello to others."

How to Create A Social Social Media Strategy

So how do you make your social media social again? You can start by creating a mix of posts that show off who you are, what you do, and what you have to offer.

In addition to posts about your products or services, heavily incorporate personality and community posts into your feed. These could be posts such as:

  • “Let’s Talk” Tuesdays where you pose direct questions to your community
  • Staff highlights or birthday shout-outs
  • Business partner highlights
  • Reposts of industry news relevant and interesting to your community
  • Office or work-from-home behind-the-scenes pictures
  • Fun-Friday posts like staff hobby highlights, staff pet shares, or nature shares

Even if you are not directly posting about your products or services on social media, that’s okay. Personal, human posts connect you with your community, and building a community is what will get you more meaningful engagement on social media.

In addition to adding in personalized posts, you can even shape your caption language to be more social. Some ideas include:

  • Switching your “I” language to “You” language
  • Centering your caption language around your community rather than yourself
  • Starting your caption by directly addressing your community through a phrase, question, or fun comment (ex: “How are you this Monday? Yeah, we’re a little tired too.”)
  • Softening “sales” language such as “buy now at the link” to “learn more at the link”

Plus, you can even go a step further by responding to each comment you get. By just liking a comment, you are showing someone you saw what they said. By responding to a comment and starting a conversation, you are showing someone you heard what they said. A positive conversation in the comments is truly social media being social.

Simply put, your social media strategy should include personality posts, community-oriented posts, community-centered language, and meaningful conversations through your social comments. Through these practices, you are encouraging community interaction, including your community directly into your social conversations, and you are taking the time to do what social media was invented to do: connect.

So, let’s get social together.

Want to connect with us here at Eternity? You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.