Have you ever seen a famous celebrity in person and felt like you actually knew them? This may sound crazy but it is more common than you might think. The idea that we could see Daniel Radcliffe on the street and feel as if he’s a friend thanks to his long stint as Harry Potter. The phenomenon is called para-social interaction, and there are tactics that celebrities and influencers use on media platforms to generate these feelings of connection and even relationships. Let’s connect with the audience.
Para-social interaction creates a relatively one-sided relationship. One interaction in which the celebrity shares posts for a targeted audience but the relationship between the celebrity and the viewer only goes one way. Viewers feel like they are connecting with celebrities when they use a social platform to share messages. The Viewers can see and interact with celebrities directly.
This technique is not exclusive to celebrities. Brands can implement the same principles of para-social interaction on social media to facilitate connections with consumers they don’t personally know. In doing so, they can deliver a message and influence their audiences to complete a specific goal, such as engaging with a post or even making a purchase. Here’s how.
Ask questions to engage users.
Unsurprisingly, para-social interaction is highly prevalent on social media. With a platform such as Instagram, your brand can market itself by adopting a person that you present to an audience or fan base. Ask questions that align with your brand to engage your audience. For example, if you’re in the cookware industry, ask your audience, “What is your favorite recipe?”
Whether that question is presented in a caption, via the text on your Instagram story feature, or as a verbal ask over a video post or IGTV, leaving the conversation open-ended invites responses and engagement. Make viewers feel like they can directly respond to your brand.
Tell stories across multiple platforms.
The construction of an online identity is not limited to one platform, as people often use multiple platforms. Telling stories across multiple social media platforms creates an overarching narrative that can be cross-promoted. And with the exchange of enough para-social interactions, a para-social relationship will develop. Another advantage of using multiple platforms is that you are exposing your brand to a wider audience.
Use the unique features of each social media platform (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to create a well-rounded presentation of your brand. Be sure that the look, tone and feel of your brand is unanimous across all platforms — this helps to consistently convey the same message.
Each social media platform has its own unique features, so it is important to explore the best way to share your message while maintaining consistency. For example, Twitter has a limit of 280 characters per Tweet, so you would share shorter content and save your long captions for Facebook and Instagram. Instagram and Snapchat are highly visual platforms, so you could share videos that convey a sense of your brand (behind-the-scenes content, interviews with executives, fun product demonstrations, etc.).
What does this look like in practice? You might announce that a new product is being launched on this date on Twitter, share a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming product via Instagram video and host a live Q&A session to answer user questions about the product on Facebook.
Social media provides a free and universally accessible space to share your brand with consumers. When you consistently deliver content that engages users, your followers will begin to feel that they have a relationship with your brand. The more you do this, the stronger the relationships become.
Make consumers feel like they are on the receiving end of a conversation.
Para-social interactions are most effective when users feel as if they are on the receiving end of a conversation. That’s why I believe the most effective features to use on each social media platform are the ones that most represent a conversation in real life. Features like Facebook and Instagram Live help promote this feeling. Users can submit questions that you answer in real time, which feels like a conversation. If enough content is shared with open-ended and engaging language, users that are frequently exposed to the content will begin to develop feelings of familiarity.
Vlogging is a popular technique, with many individuals leveraging it to become micro-celebrities via YouTube. Film yourself talking about your brand to share on Instagram, Snapchat and/or YouTube. This allows users to process the dialect in a conversational way, Also allows to visualize your brand by putting a face to the name. Essentially, over time, your brand persona molds to the user behind it.
As a final tip, be sure to create and share content frequently. You don’t want to go overboard, but you do want to be a frequent presence on your audience’s feed. This serves to promote the consistency of your brand and continue to develop para-social interactions, and thus, relationships.
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