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November 5, 2020

Reading the Room

Kaitlin Hobbes

Reading the Room

Understanding the Conversation

A frequent metaphor in sales, “Reading the Room” is more than relying on what people are saying or doing to help guide the conversation. It also has to do with body language, reading between the lines and understanding the tone of the people around you. Matching your tone with the tone of the room is said to produce a successful sales outcome.

Lucky for us, social media is a lot more definite. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a psychologist to know when things are going to be interpreted the wrong way on social media, or when the conversation is revolving around a particular subject. After all, this is the reason we have “Trending Topics” and Top Hashtags on apps like Twitter. It’s also why “Cancel Culture” has become part of our everyday language and why brands can so quickly receive negativity for something as simple as a Tweet.

Reading the room in social situations is just as important as reading the room on social media. This isn’t always about being “politically correct” or even political at all. While this election week is especially daunting for social media managers, being aware of the conversation on social is a normal part of our day to day, and it’s not unusual for us to have to turn plans on a dime.

Be a Planner AND a Doer

This week in particular is a reminder that schedules and planning ahead are simply a plan B for all social media strategies. That doesn’t mean that one should forgo schedules altogether. Let’s be honest, what social media professional could live without one? It just means that you can’t completely rely on schedules alone.

Preparing a monthly schedule is a great way to determine what topics you’ll be focusing on each day. It’s also a great way to easily communicate ahead of time with brand and marketing managers what will be posted throughout the month.

But scheduling is more about talking and projecting parts of your brand. Social media has and always will be a two-way medium. If all of our time is spent scheduling, we may totally miss the conversation—hence, reading the room. The more we can immerse ourselves in what people are talking about within our social communities, not only will your brand stay relevant, but you’ll also avoid potential social disasters. You also avoid losing brand equity.

It goes without saying that there have been brands on social media in the past and in recent years who did not read the room with their audience. So, how can you be a part of the conversation without crossing the line?

Staying Relevant

It can be stressful especially when managing multiple accounts to jump in and out of narratives online. One of the best ways to stay up-to-date on social happenings is to invest in a Social listening platform. Social listening is a great way to monitor trending keywords relevant (or not relevant) to your brand and figure out exactly what people are saying.

Sample social media word cloud

Using this data, you can better adjust your social schedules to incorporate or avoid subjects pertaining to your audience. And, keep in mind, sometimes staying out of a certain topic can be just as important as joining one. Every year, there’s a brand or several that participate in a trending hashtag just to be part of the conversation, but they end up missing the mark for one of many reasons.

Say for example a brand posts something to their Instagram account to celebrate Earth Day. Supporting the environment and sustainability is great! But then your audience finds out you use wasteful packaging materials and use inefficient production methods to make your products—a big faux pas with environmental conservation supporters. In that case, it would have been better to avoid posting altogether, or to announce a change in your packaging materials in honor of the National Holiday.

Plan for Anything

Outside of social issues and politics, there are ways you can better your social media performance by reading the room more effectively:

Know your schedule, don’t just set it and forget it. Set reminders for times when posts are going out to make sure you can review and analyze.

Pay attention to conversations that are happening in and outside of your brand using social listening.

Be ready for anything. Social media is never predictable (honestly, is anything in 2020 anymore?). Lots of brands have learned this the hard way, and they’ve come to realize reaction time is almost as important as the issue itself.

Understanding and implementing an effective social media strategy can be a lot on top of your regular marketing responsibilities. Spending time reading the room can take even longer and require more attention. For help creating a lasting brand presence, and for help navigating the waters of social media in 2020 and beyond, contact us.