Becoming an Influencer with Your Audience: Quality vs. Quantity of Content

Regardless of the platform, industry or niche, you became a social media influencer in one of two ways: adopting early or promoting great content.

Early adopters are willing to gamble on a new platform, try an untested strategy or set precedent for other users. The risk is in the understanding that they could fail publicly. The rewards, though, are equally large: the ability to amass a large and active following, build relationships with other key influencers, and succeed in a space that is equally forgiving of a short-term failure.

Social network and media concept illustration of a switch knob with icons

But early adopters also benefit from a little bit of luck. The platform they chose is a viral hit, the audience matches the audience they intended. Compare MySpace to Facebook. Both platforms targeted the same audience, both were at the forefront of social networking, and both showed tremendous growth potential between 2006 and 2009. In Facebook’s case, popularity among college campuses and strategic promotion led it to break out of a niche market and into much greater popularity.

This early adopter strategy, while a fundamental one, is almost always out of the question for federal agencies. These agencies are restricted by policies and by administrations that set a high bar for content with low tolerance for failures.

The second way to become a social media influencer is to create great content. “Great” here does not mean click-bait content, but the kind of informative material that can also build community. Building community does not always equal a large number of followers, but is about being approachable, engaging, and bringing the distinctly human element to a computer-driven world. Such techniques include making sure the information is organized for the reader’s needs, using “you” and other pronouns, and using base, not hidden, verbs.

In thinking about the social aspects of social media, it’s easy for federal agencies to lose their way. When content is good, reliable, and fact-based, it can add value to larger discussions, but such content must be packaged in a style that avoids the equivalent styles of shouting into the void or muttering at the wall.

So which agencies are doing well? One of my favorite agencies to follow is NASA on Facebook. Not only do they have amazing, unique images, but they also keep the content timely, relevant, and personal to their agency. For Super Bowl Sunday they posted a lighthearted image of Robonaut showing off refereeing skills, and their Galactic Grub Kitchen was both professional and homey. The USDA on Instagram is another mix of beautiful media and personal stories. Agency staff members were featured throughout 2015. Finally the #AskFAFSA campaign by the Department of Education on Twitter is still strong after launching over a year ago. Twitter users are encouraged to tweet questions on a theme each month with the answers posted on a FAFSA storify. Partners and education organizations have picked up the hashtag and respond to a number of student questions related to the monthly theme leading to the next month’s #AskFAFSA theme and it is something that my own family has used to get more information.

With the new administration and new guidance on federal social media, I encourage agencies to not lose sight of “social” in their content strategy. Think about posting behind-the-scenes content, candid images, and spending a little time each day listening to your audience on social media. You might be surprised to find new ways of connecting, being social, and building a new and lasting community.Learn more about how agencies are using Social Media, and how to join our various Communities of Practice, like SocialGov, Digital Audio/Video Production and Strategy, and the Web Content Managers Forum.

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