"Everybody wants to be relevant. We want to be relevant personally. We want to be relevant in our businesses." -Rick Warren TED Talk
Businesses are told to stay relevant and it's implied that you can do this via social media. So what does "staying relevant" even mean? And how do you do it? Let's look at "relevancy" together.
First, let's look at the Urban Dictionary
I mean ... they're not usually WRONG ...
"the most amazing group of people ever, having to do with things that are real and that matter"
The Urban Dictionary's definition revolves around a person or business wanting to stand out and make a difference, be heard. This is how most people think of "relevancy" and they definitely are not wrong. However, this definition can be a major turn off to a small-to-medium sized business who is just trying to keep in touch with their customers and not wanting to march in protests or host public talks ... and definitely don't want to post about private information - along with almost-nude photos - like the Kardashians. So let's keep looking ...
Next, let's look at Dictionary.com
Let's have a look-see at the actual dictionary's definition - they're never wrong.
"bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent:
a relevant remark."
Whew, this is getting complicated. It's starting to sound like too much work, right?
Don't worry it isn't. To understand what it takes to stay relevant, maybe we should first look at WHY we want to stay relevant. Then I'll show you how a small-to-medium sized business can go about doing that.
Put your video camera down, luckily you won't need a sex tape, an activist tape, a parody video, or an extreme-sports video. Let's look at an example of relevancy on a personal level ...
Let's read a story
When I was younger I hung out with a girl ... let's call her Katie (that really is her name) ... we lost touch throughout high school and college, but then one day I saw that she was following me on Instagram. So I followed her back and was alerted to the fact that my "request" to follow Katie was "pending". And then I forgot all about her.
A couple months later I ran into her in public and was excited to see her - I mean she DID follow me on Instagram and I think maybe I was following her back? (I couldn't remember if she accepted my follow request or not.) So I ran up and said "hi, how are you?!" and she looked at me like she's never seen me before. So I told her who I was and she said "yes, I remember you," without offering up conversation or asking how I was or even answering my original question and telling me how she was doing. She seemed really put out about having to talk to me. I left totally confused!
A couple months later I saw that she liked one of my photos on Instagram so I clicked on her name to see her profile. It said I had to send a request to follow her. Again. So I did. Again. I mean ... maybe I got it wrong and our public face-to-face awkward reunion was all in my head? Maybe she thought it went smashingly? So I sent another request to follow her and was again told my "request" was "pending." And then I forgot all about her. Again.
A couple months later I ran into her in public. AGAIN. And we had the EXACT SAME exchange! Needless to say I was confused and a little pissed. Out of curiosity I went back into Instagram to see if she ever excepted my request to follow her - she hadn't. I could send it again if I wanted to. I didn't want to.
So why am I telling you this? What's the moral of the story? The moral of the story ... is WTF! Don't ever act like this! Katie's actions are turning people away, not helping her connect with them. She still likes my photos on Instagram and basically hides when she sees me in public. I probably would have went through life feeling indifferent toward her, but now I'm bordering on not even liking her that much. If she were a brand, I'd stop buying. I now consider her less of a social connection and more of an annoyance. She might come out of hiding to "like" a photo of mine (ohhhh, some would call that "engagement") but she won't actually connect with me on Instagram AND more importantly, she won't connect with me in real life.
Doesn't this sound awful and like completely bizarre behavior?
Well, what if I told you that unfortunately, some businesses act like this too. They're "pulling Katies" left and right - taking minimal effort to "engage" with a customer but don't follow through and aren't acting like they care that much. "Liking" a customer's content but not providing a way for the customer to engage with them. Or even worse, not replying back to comments a customer is leaving on their own posts.
This is the opposite of staying relevant, but it's also what a lot of companies are doing right now.
How can you stay relevant?
It's pretty simple. You can start by actually BEING THERE. Join a conversation, start a conversation, support conversations. You don't need to start controversial conversations - they can be simple conversations, but make sure you're having them.
The dictionary can't help us define relevance. YOU define it by jumping in and understanding your audience, joining their conversations, taking simple actions and following through with what you say. That's it. That's being relevant.
Now that we've all agreed to stop "pulling Katies" let's look at tips you can use to get started and stay relevant.
Tips for Staying Relevant
1. Become more aware
Get in the habit of continually taking a step back and assessing everything.
This helps form a picture of where you're currently at and where you should be going. Follow your prospects and clients so it's easier for them to connect with you. Don't make them find you ... because they probably won't! You need to find them and meet them where they like to hang out.
Take advantage of trends. What's going to change the way you communicate or do business in the next 6 months?
Get ready for it today.
2. Find out where your customers are & join them
Where is your audience hanging out online? That's where you want to be. Pay attention to:
Start following conversations that are already happening. You'll learn about their wants, needs, expectations, and more. Start by monitoring:
Once you start monitoring the conversations you can jump in, too. Start talking about what everyone else is talking about - just join the conversation. Now you're connecting with your audience in a way they want to connect!
(Psst ... keep an eye out - this is a great way to start planning your messaging and marketing content. You'll get a feel for what kind of content you should be creating and even how to word your headlines so they stand out to your audience.)
3. Join the conversation as a business
78.6% of sales people using social media to sell outperformed those who weren't using social media. Response was 23% higher! - Source: fastcompany.com
Who stays relevant?
The person or company who stays in touch, reaches out, and includes others.
Who doesn't say relevant?
The person or company who only reaches out when they want to get something out of it. Those whom you never hear from, never see active on social media, until they need something.
Moral of the story? Stay engaged. Don't pull a Katie. It's all about two-way communication now!
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First, I'm the mother of three crazy, sassy, sarcastic, hilarious children. Second, I work in the world of social media, email, digital marketing. Third, I'll probably try to tell you what to do.