Few disciplines create more words – or add meanings to existing ones – than social media.
Blog, website, tweet, post, like, avatar, bookmark, tag, hashtag, lifecasting, link, troll, klout, podcast, mashup, meme, etc.
I’m adding a new one to that list: sparketing.
Sparketers ignite love affairs between themselves and their audience. They don’t simply use social media, they master its incredible immediacy and personal connectivity. While many online marketers promote products, sparketers promote relationships. While marketers covet sales, sparketers covet shares and retweets. Marketers work hard to get you to know about them; sparketers work equally as hard to get to know you.
Sparketing requires more than branding strategies and captivating posts. It demands a willingness to perform unheralded, time-consuming tasks. In doing so, sparketers separate themselves from their competitors and move closer to their target personas.
Here are five steps you can take to become a sparketer.
Practice patience. The immediacy of social media can be a siren’s song. We want it all and we want it now, only to be disappointed when our expectations aren’t quickly met. Always keep in mind the best relationships take time to develop. Be patient. And remember that slow and steady wins the race.
Follow the followers. Marketers too often take an aggressive, it’s-all-about-me approach to selling. Don’t go that route. Instead, search for posts from your target personas. Visit forums to learn what your potential customers find important. Use this information to create compelling content that sparks interest.
Look for leaders. Every market has online influencers with devoted audiences. Find these leaders and start courting them. Your goal is to eventually be seen as a source of useful information, perhaps even an authority. Once that connection is made and the influencer shares your content, you have a whole new audience.
Return favors. Any solid relationship is a two-way street. If someone is kind enough to share your content or refer to you in a post or podcast, return the favor. No matter how busy you are, find the time to share or discuss what others have posted.
Be responsive. Your latest blog elicits comments. Your business gets mentioned on Twitter. You receive an invitation from someone on LinkedIn. Don’t just ignore these situations or put them on the back burner. When appropriate, acknowledge them with suitable responses as soon as possible. The key word here is suitable. Don’t get sucked into an online debate or lash out at a critic. Always take the high road. Your goal is to spark relationships, not win arguments. And that LinkedIn invite? A polite “no thanks” goes a lot farther than no response at all.