In content marketing, how you conduct yourself online and on social media – your online persona and tone of voice – are highly important.
I’m going on a field trip to upmarket, leafy Surrey tomorrow night where I hope to gather valuable insight into making a useful contribution to online conversations.
I appreciate this is not the usual sales pitch for a football match between Woking and Chester FC, but for the vast majority of you who consider a relegation battle in the Skrill Premier League (the fifth tier of the English league structure) to be the ugly side of the beautiful game let me explain…
A football crowd is a remarkably close real-life equivalent we have of conversations that take place online. Every one of the 1500 or so spectators at Kingfield tomorrow night will be drawn to the stadium by a shared interest, yet many will adopt different personas to get their voices heard above the roar of the crowd. OK, I concede that the ‘roar’ produced by the fans attending a Woking v Chester FC fixture on a midweek evening in January will be a distinctly lower volume than the digital noise generated by online conversations, but you get the picture.
Football fans, like people taking part in online conversations about topics they are passionate about, use a variety of tactics to express their views. Some will start a chant in the hope of encouraging others to join in; some will shout provocative comments at the referee, opposition players and fans or even the manager of their own team in the hope of getting a response; others will join choruses of approval or disapproval; a considerable number will even go off-topic at some stage during the 90 minutes of play; and some will remain silent throughout the whole 90 minutes of play because they are content to merely listen to the opinion of others – just like a typical online conversation.
But where lower league football matches provide the greatest amount of insight into making a useful contribution to online conversations is during the half-time break and in private forums (also known as the pub where fans gather for a post-match pint).
One example of how not to join a conversation that springs to mind occurred at Braintree Town FC earlier this season. Chester were 3-0 down at half-time and two opposition supporters went off-topic and started a discussion about what colour to paint their daughter’s bedroom. To the couple’s surprise, a third supporter – who was in earshot of the conversation about interior design trends – turned round to them, handed them a business card and said: “My name’s Bob. I run a painting and decorating business. Give me a call.”
I hope Bob doesn’t take part in too many discussions on the web because his inappropriate sales pitch goes against all kinds of online etiquette.
But he’s not the only one to fail to get to grips with online conversations. Here’s Southerly’s guide to six personas you’re likely to meet during online conversations, from which you’ll learn how to get your contributions heard above the digital noise.
What is your content marketing online persona?
Helen has five years’ experience in her sector, but fears she doesn’t have as much knowledge as her peers. She visits a wide range of online platforms relating to her sector, but rarely listens to the conversations taking place. She thinks that saying yes to everything – and liking every post – will raise her profile, but what she doesn’t realise is that she is more the thorn in everyone else’s side. Her compliments will dilute in value the more she gives until she is viewed as nothing more than a sycophant desperate for attention.
Mimi is new to her sector and doesn’t have a great deal of knowledge of the industry. She sticks to engaging on one network by butting into conversations with comments that reflect what has just been posted. Mimi is gaining a small following, but this is probably due to the fact that her profile contains a particularly attractive picture of herself. She does, however, always include her contact details at the end of her postings (just in case they generate new business).
Michael spends much of his day (and night) imparting the wisdom he has gained from 20 years in his industry. He visits a wide range of forums and online conversations, but spends most of his time listening to conversations, rather than jumping into the fray. But when he does choose to join in the conversation, his input generates praise and thanks. Michael is a mysterious figure because nobody else on the online forums he visits can discover who he works for or how to contact him.
Darren has a background in sales and never misses an opportunity to raise his company’s profile on online forums and conversations. He rarely listens to what has been said higher up the feed, instead adding his increasingly familiar comment: “For all your digital solutions, please visit www.digisells andproducts.co.uk. Don’t forget to ask for Darren.”
Robert doesn’t like online conversations, preferring instead to use the telephone. But he knows digital engagement is the future and spends large amounts of his time scouring the internet for conversations that he can make a valid contribution to. While the majority of his posts generate a response, his boss has accused him of sounding like an automated machine.
You won’t find Eric contributing to many online conversations. He prefers to act as voyeur to everyone else’s engagement and believes he is superior to anyone who broadcasts any sort of idea, belief or opinion. However, he does have strong opinions on other people’s conversations, and will very occasionally chip in with a cutting comment, if only to point out a grammatical error in a previous post.
Did you recognise yourself or anyone you’ve come across online (or in real life) in our infographic? Forgive me for sounding like Darren Sellers, but interacting with life’s different personas is an integral part of any successful content marketing strategy. For more advice on rising to the top of the content marketing league, download Southerly’s free whitepaper containing invaluable advice by clicking on the link below.