Neo was right. If you die in the Matrix, you die in real life.

Right now, your digital presence is who you are.

With everything happening these days, your digital presence is either your most prominent asset or your most obviously-neglected marketing liability for the foreseeable future.

People have now been stuck at home or afraid to come see you for months. Many are planning on staying home for a long time. That makes your digital presence more important than ever. And yet, what we’re seeing in the meantime isn’t reassuring. Websites and content are going without updates. Social media feeds are trailing off into nonexistence. Community involvement is as shut down as all the canceled public events.

Neo was right. If you die in the Matrix, you die in real life.

You can’t afford to let your digital presence falter. People need to know you’re alive, well, and still human. The only way to tell them this is to keep those lines of communication open.

We talk a lot about websites, but as important as a website is (and it really is), there’s more to your digital presence than your url. The hard truth is, no matter how fresh, accessible, and convenient your website, people don’t hang out there.

YOU have to go to the places online where people actually DO hang out. Yes, I’m talking about the daunting, unpredictable giant elephant in the room: Social Media.

Now I know this isn’t really news to anyone, but social media use has only grown in the past ten years. (And all those statistics are pre-COVID-19, so imagine how big they are now.) So, I’m always amazed to find out there are CUs who still aren’t doing it.

So I thought it would be good to give some tips on how to keep your brand alive in the Matrix

Produce content, not product.

The bane of marketing departments everywhere is that people find ads intrusive, and as a result, we’ve all gotten better at ignoring it. This is especially true for Millennials, which means that Gen Z is probably making memes about your ads before you even publish them.

The good news is that it doesn’t matter, because ads don’t matter. Content does.

Show your followers how you’re helping. Let them know you offer solutions to their problems. Show them you’re investing in the community. Post about your co-worker’s cat that appears in every single Zoom call.

Show them who you are, what you stand for, and how you can help.

This means showing them real, actual faces or real, actual people – not stock photos. Making short videos of people saying “Hey, how’s it going?” Longer videos where you help them solve a problem. This definitely means answering questions, and replying to comments and messages.

Which brings me to…

Be interactive, not reactive.

It’s in the name, Social Media. People love being part of an online community, sharing ideas (even ones we wish they wouldn’t share) and generally just participating. Well, some do. Unfortunately, a lot of your followers are just going to silently watch and judge your content.

The problem is, you can’t just ignore those people or tell yourself that there’s no point. Their unspoken opinions of your brand are very real and drive real-world behaviors. You have to keep reaching out if you want to have any hope of ever actually hearing from them.

If you don’t, they won’t.

You can’t rely on going ‘viral’ with a clever post. The internet influencers that do have massive followings, regardless of their chosen platform, largely accomplished this by continuing to create content even when they thought no one was watching.

The key here is to keep producing content and driving forward. Keep reaching out and asking for opinions, and quickly get back to the people who do respond. Make those conversations public as often as you can, so that people see that you’re really there and really listening. Your followers want to see a real person, with real responses.

So, it’s important to…  

Speak authentically, if not always candidly.

Authenticity is the most important quality for your social media content to have. Followers often don’t react to polished voiced-over video as well as they do a person’s face on a front-facing camera. The difference is all in the personality.

When you’re making content, you should always be asking yourself, does this feel real? Does everything, from the image to the copy, feel like a real person is sharing this? If anything feels like mass-produced, cookie-cutter content, you should really think about trying something else.

Take a moment, as a team, to think about what is important to you and what you’re interested in. Why do you do what you do? If the answer comes back to money and profit, I’m not sorry to say that no one is interested.

However, authentic doesn’t need to mean low-quality, so don’t throw out your high-resolution videos just yet…

Match your content to your platform.

One of the best things to help you get started is to create a strategy for what you want to post, and where. Your followers on Facebook aren’t looking for the same things as your followers on Instagram. Your connections on LinkedIn probably don’t want to hear every single thing you feel like tweeting.

There are obvious differences: No one on Instagram cares about content that’s not visually appealing. No one goes on Twitter to read a several-thousand-word essay. No one should read YouTube comments, well, ever.

Beyond these more-obvious differences, the demographics across these social media sites varies dramatically. Facebook is still primarily young people, but the Boomer population has more than doubled since 2012.  We have a bit of a younger crowd on Instagram. Plus there are more women than men, whereas more men are on Twitter and YouTube.

You can’t expect them to come to you, so…

It’s up to you to start the conversation.

Social media has been around for about as long as Gen Z has, and both are here to stay. If anything, social media is only becoming more important to the public at large.

If you try to opt out, you’ll be quite literally left out of the conversation.

Need a silver lining? There has never been better time to connect to your members virtually. From shopping to exercise classes, people are quickly moving their lives online.

It’s time to re-download those social media apps and find that sticky note where you wrote down your passwords. Have a conversation about what you stand for and use that to choose topics for your content.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. There are lots of cool apps for making videos on any device, and more than a few of them are free. Everyone is using Zoom these days, including talk show hosts like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon. So why not you?

Most importantly, start posting.

If you hit a roadblock, look at what other people are doing. Find a brand whose social media feed appeals to you, and figure out what they’re doing right. Then, figure out how to make it yours.

If you still aren’t sure what to do, ask for help.

In the end, there’s only one way you can be sure to fail, and that’s if you do nothing on social media. Don’t take that risk.

Sam Dicken

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