We all nurture important relationships every day – with family, friends and work colleagues mainly, but rarely do we need to engage daily with complete strangers. Until now.
Social media allows access to an almost limitless audience to hawk wares or spin a message. As a result, hastily-anointed "social media managers" with little social media experience find themselves staring at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, wondering what the hell to say to engage this faceless group, get them to tell their friends, and even dip into their hip pocket.
It's this bewildering interface, asserts social media strategy expert Gina Lednyak, that is more than a little bit like the black art of courting a love interest.
The founder and managing director of L&A Social Media is a veteran of numerous social media campaigns for the likes of Samsung, Stoli Vodka and nudie juice, and believes the conventions and faux pas of romance can produce similar results when applied to social media strategy.
“From finding and wooing a suitor to maintaining their interest, a brand must use the same tools to tap into emotion and affection to be truly successful,” she says.
Here are Lednyak's seven golden rules for using dating conventions to win the heart of your social media audience.
1. Know your conquest
Falling in love is no coincidence. Connections are made when we enjoy the same interests, share mutual goals and understand each other's way of thinking. If you don't understand who your consumers really are, you're likely targeting suitors with nothing in common, and you can rest assured they won't stick around after the first date.
Knowing and understanding your brand's key audience means you can tailor your online activity - including what networks you use, your content strategy and your tone of voice - directly to your audience.
2. Take it easy, Romeo
Ask any woman what the not-so-silent slayer of a budding relationship is and they'll probably describe a stage-five clinger. Brands that act desperate, come on too strong, or flood feeds with meaningless content almost always see their relationships endure a grisly demise.
Don't rush in, never try to hit it out of the park on the first date and always remember; relationships don't happen overnight.
3. No-one likes a narcissist
You wouldn't show up to a date and spend the entire time talking about yourself. So many brands spew nothing but brand news and other self-serving content at their audience and before they know it, it's over. Ask questions because, much like a date, social media is a two-way conversation. Remember, no-one ever dates a narcissist twice.
4. Banter goes a long way
Looking good and offering up marginal conversation is rarely the foundation for marriage. Brands that fail to offer anything of real value to consumers seldom see a one-night stand turn into a long-term relationship.
Originality, humour and passion are the backbone for a good date, but also for a great social media strategy. Adding value should sit at the core of your strategy; true value happens when you deliver content in which your community is interested and wants to engage with daily.
5. Beauty on the inside doesn't get you free drinks
Without physical chemistry, romantic relationships lack that intimate connection. Your brand needs to put its best face forward. This means having well-put-together social networks, beautiful photos and designs, and quality content. Don't be afraid to let your quirks and personality shine through, because you'll be loved all the more for it.
6. Don't play (too) hard to get
We all know one. The couldn't-care-less serial dater who suffers from a severe case of commitment-phobia and a tendency to come and go as they please. Sure, they're fun initially, but no-one sticks around for them. Likewise, it's brands that avoid answering curly questions that end up alone and miserable with an empire of broken promises.
Posting content is only the first step; it's the conversations following that are the real heart of social media. They'll often be positive, but at times they get personal. When they do, make sure you're ready to engage and answer.
7. Popping the question
You've managed to avoid getting friend-zoned and things are looking rosy. But when is it time to put a ring on it? In other words, when is it OK to ask your customer to do something for you?
Once you have an active and engaged community you can begin to talk to them about your sales message and call to action. It will be different for every brand, but whatever it is, be sure to do it in a fun and creative way.
Having a positive, ongoing relationship with your followers is a continual value exchange. Your job as a brand is to create a community where members can connect, engage with interesting content and feel more involved with you. Your community adds value back to you by helping you spread brand news, which eventually drives sales.