Build an audience by keeping it real

Whether your social media audience is large or small, how can you be sure it’s authentic? Are your followers real, engaging people or a lot of robots that make your numbers look good?

Alissa Carpenter discussed how to gain an authentic audience and keep it that way. She is a millennial workforce expert and consultant, speaker, Forbescontributor and has been featured as a Millennial coach and team-building expert by CNN Money, ABC, CBS, MonsterCollege Recruiter, Healthy Lifestyles and others. She is also host of the Millennial Playbook Podcast at Everything’s Not OK … and That’s OK.

She talked with marketing entrepreneur, podcast host and Twitter chat moderator Madalyn Sklar about audience-building best practices.

For entrepreneurs, Twitter gives you a higher, broader profile than you had before. Getting well known — with the good vibes that come along — places you front and center on customers’ radar.

“People do business with people they know, like and trust,” Carpenter said. “Starting conversations on Twitter can lead to virtual coffee chats and in-person meetings. This can help build rapport, trust and grow your business.”

Contact and connect

The platform has a knack for making contacts, according to Sklar.

“Twitter is known for being a place to connect and share with people, and what better place to do this than a Twitter chat?” she said.

The chats work on the basis of what Sklar calls “know, like and trust,” which Carpenter said leads to real conversations.

Establish rapport with your audience by being available and engaging. Become a valuable source by listening to their needs and offering valuable solutions.

“Being social on social media is key,” Carpenter said. “Engage and share their content. Provide opportunities for conversation on things you’re working on or interested in exploring. Share articles and information your audience is interested in learning about.”

Sklar talked about the visual aspect.

“The best way is using video,” she said. “This is why I started last summer. It’s a great way to connect with people on a more real and authentic way.”

The easiest way to create authentic relationships with your audience is when you see something, say something — to them. Don’t sit back and wait for your audience to come to you. Reach out to them.

“Be a giver,” Sklar said. “Nothing sets yourself apart more than by giving to your community and helping others. Show you care. Step back and listen.”

Open and honest

Carpenter said entrepreneurs and everyone else should be honest from the start.

“To create an authentic relationship, you have to be authentic,” she said. “I am a firm believer in being honest, open and real about where I am in my journey — not of the ‘fake it till you make it’ mindset. Also spend time engaging and sharing your audience’s content. We can learn so much from each other. Creating the space to help them grow their audience and message is important.”

Twitter has great listening tools. Search by topics and hashtags. Create lists and add people who speak about particular topics or who fall into certain categories. You can learn more through lists rather than by wasting time getting lost in your main timeline.

“I am trying to do more polls to get a gauge on the content and information my audience is looking for,” Carpenter said. “This is a great, quick way to see what I might be missing and areas my audience wants to hear more about.

“I also like to engage in twitter chats with guests and audiences who I can learn from,” she said. “This gives me a better insight into untapped potential, and I get to know people I may not have ‘run into’ virtually. I’ve met so many people who have linked me up with other people — for business or personal — reasons. I don’t know if I would have found them on LinkedIn.”

Sklar also likes polls.

“I regularly use Twitter polls to gauge the needs of my community,” she said. “In Twitter chats, I’ll ask questions. We have a captive audience here on Twitter. Use it.”

It’s important to be authentic when connecting to your audience, which means keep automation to a minimum. You can’t converse with people if you constantly broadcast. Be there for real to talk with them.

“Show and share that you care,” Carpenter said. “Have they posed a question on Twitter that you can help with or know someone to connect them to? Have they shared information that you could share with your audience?

“I’m starting to do more ‘pop-in’ videos with quick tips to take the social relationship one step further,” she said. “My audience has sent more messages and emails in response to the videos with additional questions, and that has led to business.”

Sklar added, “Just be you. Be your authentic self. Use video because you cannot hide behind the screen. You are real and vulnerable. People will see that you care.”

Offline follow-up

Don’t forget to take connections offline to continue building authentic relationships. Plan with a few of your Twitter friends to meet on a social road trip. You’ll be surprised how many people are available. Meeting in person adds depth to relationships.

“I have met so many incredible people through Twitter,” Carpenter said. “There’s something about this platform that gives you the space to have back-and-forth conversations to start to get to know people in a ‘safe’ environment.

“After I’ve had open conversations on Twitter — and a few direct messages — I usually send them a link to my calendar to set up a 15-minute virtual coffee chat,” she said.

Sklar recalled meeting people in person at conferences and events after she got to know them online, especially through Twitter.

“Biggest fail is using automated direct messages, not being real and authentic, and using a fake account,” she said. “Be real. Be you. Period.”

Not one night

There are other fails when nurturing online relationships. Lack of follow-up or abandonment is a big fault online or off. Social media is not a one-night stand.

“It really isn’t,” Carpenter said. “It’s about building that relationship and connection over time — virtual or in person. If someone hasn’t gotten back to you, give them time and then reach out again. Be persistent but not insistent.

“Stop selling, and really nurture and build the relationship,” she said. “If we haven’t ‘met’ on Twitter, please don’t try to sell me your business or product. Let’s talk first, then go from there. Relationships come first, business might be second.”

Anyone who wants to build authentic relationships online or in person should not try to have many personalities. Be the same person online and off. It’s easy when you don’t have to think about which role you’re playing.

“The first step is to be yourself,” Carpenter said. “Be vulnerable, open, and share relevant and useful information. Let your audience see you and build trust, and your audience will grow.

“Also find out where your audience is,” she said. “Do they attend a certain twitter chat, go to certain events, volunteer with non-profits? Hang out and provide value there — virtually or in person. Ask for introductions. When someone introduces you to someone else, they are more likely to respond and start the conversation. Start small, and ask for a video or phone call or a quick cup of coffee.”

Whatever outcome, Sklar emphasized not to be someone you’re not.

“At the end of the day, it’s about being your real, authentic self,” she said. “Let it shine online and offline.”