By {grow} Community Member Jennifer Kane

Successful social media engagement is about more than content. It’s also about communication – the ways in which you initiate, nurture and conclude conversations with others about your content.

And yet, this second part of the engagement puzzle rarely gets talked about.

That’s a shame, because it’s the art of communication that can make your social media engagement ultimately flourish or flounder.

“Let me show you to your table.”

In social media, you are much more than the wait staff at your brand’s content buffet – you are also the maitre d’.

It’s your job to not only serve up information for audiences to consume, but also to nurture each person that walks through your virtual door and escort them to the next destination in the sales funnel.

The way you do that is by opening doors in your conversations, wherever possible.  For example, the following – while all effective, clear and appropriate responses to something posted in a social channel – are “door closing” statements …

  • Thanks for your comment!
  • LOL!
  • That’s a great suggestion.
  • Too true!
  • You can find that info on our website.

Each of these responses says, “Yes. I have received your communication transmission, and am responding in kind.”

What they DON’T say is, “What else would you like to talk about?”

It’s as if your clients or customers had called you on the phone to tell you how awesome they thought you were, and you said, “Hey thanks!” and then hung up.

In social media, your audience can’t see that you’re actually still standing there waiting for the next engagement volley. “Thanks!” pretty much says, “We’re done here,” so they move on. In order to get them to stick around, it’s up to you to add cues or prompts to your initial answer to keep the conversation moving forward (now, or in the future).

For example these are door opening comments …

  • Thanks for your comment! What’s the link to the post you wrote on this topic?
  • LOL! Next time you’re in town, let me know. I’d love to buy you coffee.
  • That’s a great suggestion. What else can we do to improve our site?
  • Too true. You have such great insights on this. Ever consider guest blogging?
  • You can find that info on our website. Are there any questions I could answer for you right now?

What IF I HEAR crickets?

Yes, in some cases, a door opener cue will not receive a reply in return.  Not only are audiences not accustomed to companies ever asking them what’s on their minds, many will not have their social channels set up to be notified of additional comments in a conversation thread.

But that’s no reason not to try.

Although the resulting silence may sometimes make you feel like you’re standing on stage, naked in front of a stone-faced audience, the reality is much more benign. In social media, people are used to the fact that sometimes conversations … just …peter … out. The last person standing usually looks more like an empathetic soul with an open ear than a social leper, from which everyone is running away.

Also, just like the maitre d’ doesn’t seat every couple that walks through the door to the finest table in the house, you don’t need to add a door opener cue to every comment you see in your social thread. It should feel and sound natural, and not all exchanges will provide that opportunity.

But it’s good to get into the habit of looking for those openings, and a skill that nearly everyone can stand to practice.

Start by looking at your own social feeds and auditing your interaction to see how often you’ve been closing conversational doors. How might you have continued those conversations? What kinds of questions would feel natural for you to ask and what feels forced?

Then, start to crack open some doors in your social conversations each day.

I can’t promise you that an amazing lead will always walk through them. But, I can promise you some will walk away if you never try.

How are you opening up YOUR conversations?

Jennifer Kane is a social media marketing and digital communications strategist, educator and speaker and Principal of Kane Consulting. You can connect with her on Twitter at @JenKaneCo

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