In my experience as a global head of digital engagement, the concept of an audience is a somewhat tricky idea to pin down when it comes to social media. With most media sources, the audience can be viewed as directly active -- individuals directly seek information and entertainment, or other defined content, from that specific website, newspaper, or radio program based on preferences that can be influenced in various ways. In the realm of social media, content is consumed in a more lateral fashion, that is, it happens along the way while users go about their primary activity of socializing on their favorite platforms.
This is an important distinction for a digital marketing director to remember when initiating a social media campaign. Your brand will be stepping into the consumer's digital home, so to speak, and so your team should ideally create content that inspires in-depth consumption where they are, without requiring them to leave their chosen social platform to visit external websites. Whilst every post should spark engagement on some level, whether this is a 'Like' on Facebook or a '+1' on Google+, it is preferable that they maintain a healthy level of additional interactions, such as comments, linking, conversation threads, retweets, word-of-mouth advocacy, and shares, all without having to journey outside of their social networking world. For these purposes, it is better to view the objective as forming relationships with your consumers and enriching their digital experiences rather than seeing your goal only in terms of building an audience.
Everyone involved, from the VP of digital to the content moderator, should make sure that they are aware of this unique dynamic. Rather than waiting to be invited in, brands must develop engaging and exciting online personas that encourage consumers to take the first step and open the doors to their digital lives. Once they have achieved this, companies should keep in mind the social aspects of the medium and always work to keep the conversation accessible to the audience where they are, engaging with them on their terms. Becoming part of a consumer's everyday activity across social networks is paramount. To accomplish this, brands should create content that fans can relate to by offering a non-intrusive social media experience that blends seamlessly with their existing habits, whilst providing complementary material to reward their participation.
Additionally, once a consumer has allowed your brand to enter their sphere of social networking, you shouldn't take advantage of this vote of confidence by radically altering previous approaches, obliging them to visit external areas, or posting content that could be viewed as invasive, aggressive, or overly commercial. Since you are now operating within the audience's space, a certain level of decorum and politeness should be maintained, as you would with all personal interactions. With this in mind, a thoughtfully developed tone of voice can be vital. Whilst establishing a suitable online identity, your tone of voice also ensures that the most attractive characteristics of your brand are accurately and appropriately represented.
In effect, successful social media campaigns create an appealing public personality for a company that can then form relationships and socialize with people where they are, just as if it were one of them.