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This article was first published in the March 2018 issue of British Dealer News.

Generosity may well be its own reward, but the side benefits are invaluable when you apply it to social media interaction.

Imagine for a moment that you’re enjoying a drink at your local pub. The place is buzzing and you’re among good friends. You’re acquainted with many of the regulars, but there are plenty of others you don’t know at all. Maybe you’d like to change that?

There’s no prize for guessing who people are generally most drawn to in that kind of scene. It’s not the person sitting alone in the corner, who keeps themself to themself and never speaks to anyone. It’s more likely the chatty person who’s always getting a round in, making their friends laugh, and who’s probably a reliable font of knowledge on quiz night.

Human nature being what it is, the same is inevitably true on social media. Individuals and businesses that are engaging, informative, and often entertaining, have larger audiences than those who aren’t. People like problem-solvers and a bit of inspiration too.

If you’re relatively new to social media, you’ve perhaps been wondering how to go about establishing a genuine audience in the first place. In much the same way you might make new friends in the pub analogy, you need to let conversation, generosity, and a little common courtesy work their magic.

The conversation part is straightforward enough. Simply keep an eye on what people in your target audience are already talking about in their posts on Facebook and Instagram, and their tweets on Twitter, and then, when you’ve got something useful, constructive or amusing to say, jump in with a comment or reply. Your ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ will immediately start to grow. Hashtags can be a big help with all this, because they let you see conversations focused on a particular topic like a brand, event, product or interest.

In the context of social media, generosity is about ‘Liking’ and ‘Sharing’. Not just talking about you all the time, but freely and liberally helping to spread the word about what other people are posting (when it’s relevant to your audience and not a competitive clash of interest, obviously.)

On Facebook, be generous in your use of ‘Like’ and the range of posts you ‘Share’ on your business page. The same applies on Instagram, though hassle-free sharing requires a third-party app like Repost. You can ‘Like’ tweets on Twitter too, and to share something just hit ‘Retweet’.

Do all this not because you require the favour to be returned when you post your own content (though you certainly hope some will), but because it’ll establish your credibility and demonstrate what people can expect to see if they join your audience. It also helps to develop the perception of your business as an influential or even authoritative voice in your market.

Remember as well that courtesy costs nothing. When someone shares one of your posts, ‘Like’ it and thank them in a comment. The ‘Notifications’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter let you know when anyone interacts with you, so it’s really important to monitor those carefully and respond promptly.

And on the subject of monitoring, it’s vital you measure the commercial impact of your social media activity to understand what’s working and how performance might be improved. The data to help you do that is freely available.

I’ve been talking about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but it’s likely your business isn’t active on all three of them. 90% of motorcycle dealers around the country aren’t, and only about half use the combination of Facebook and Twitter. As I said back in January, it’s madness to ignore significant groups of your audience just because you don’t like a particular social network or haven’t figured out how to use it. Be on the competitive side of the statistic.

You can contribute to conversation, and be generous in your liking and sharing, by investing only a very modest amount of time every day in your social media channels. Doing so will continue to be the basic foundation of your social media activity as time goes by and your audience grows. And grow it will – if you embrace social media as a way to nurture dialogue and interaction with your customers and industry peers.