In their chapter on Social Media, Deirdre Quinn-Allan and Emma Bennett tell us that when a user logs on to social media, they are essentially ‘seeking a connection’ (2014, p. 172).
Could this be why it’s a tricky space for organisations?
The word ‘connection’ implies some two-way communication, and although Web 2.0 has expanded the potential for two-way communication on the internet, it is not really possible for a very large organisation to engage in a two-way dialogue with each of its millions of followers on Facebook or Instagram.
The value of social media for a large organisation may not even come from building strong individual connections at all, but rather from having a large number of superficial connections. Business Insider describes Facebook as ‘just a huge popularity contest‘ that all comes down to how many likes a business receives. Businesses generate these likes and shares by holding competitions, creating shareable stories or asking rhetorical questions to try and engage users with their site.
But does this mean that the business has a ‘connection’ with the individual user? Not really. And pretending that it does only makes the organisation seem awkward and fake.
It’s also unlikely that users themselves are seeking to build two-way connections with these organisations on social media. Most users do not expect a large corporation to engage with them individually. When organisations do this, it can be such a novelty that the result goes viral.
This man needs 18 million retweets for a year’s supply of nuggets
Instead, users engage with social networking sites to make connections with people they know – their friends and families – by tagging or sharing content.
To be of value to users of social media, organisations can provide this content – the videos, pictures, articles or stories – for making connections with others. Quinn-Allan and Bennett argue that strategic use of social networking reaches out to new publics through their current followers (p. 172). Social media tactics should focus on raising awareness, and encouraging collaboration and sharing, rather than pushing fundraising or profits.
After all, users do not log on to see advertising, they log on to make connections.
Quinn-Allan, D & Bennett, E 2014 ‘Social Media’ in J Johnston & M Sheehan(eds), Public relations : theory and practice, 4th edn, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, pp. 163-185