4 Social Media Lessons from Obama’s Google+ Hangout

President Obama Google HangoutRegardless of where you stand politically, last night’s Google+ Hangout with President Barack Obama highlights some important aspects of social media engagement.

The Google+ hangout was diverse with two wives, a group of students, a war veteran, a small business owner and others. President Obama listened and communicated with these Americans and others while effectively leveraging a platform that was comfortable for them and a vast majority of his audience. How do we know this? Before the hangout, a total of 228,094 people submitted 133,184 questions and cast 1,630,369 votes on the White House YouTube channel. This was a successful example of knowing where your audience spends their time. Here are four lessons you can apply to your social strategy:

Be innovative. While Obama has incorporated townhall meetings on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn during his presidential campaigns, this marked the first ever Google+ Hangout with a President. Talk about catering to your audience and encouraging dialogue. You too can be innovative if you know your audience and find a way to connect with them.
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Engage your advocators and face your detractors. Obama faced the difficult questions about the economy, foreign aid, homelessness and unemployment rates head on. While some Google+ Hangout attendees had voted for him, others had not. Challenging questions are inevitable, especially in social media, and your community is judging you based on your ability to handle such questions. Think of this as an opportunity to turn your detractors into brand advocates and to further confirm the decisions of ambassadors. Honest, sincere and transparent answers go a long way.
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Use multiple platforms. If you’re going to host multiple parties, you’d better mix up the venues. In this case, the White House effectively utilized several social media channels. People could submit a question on YouTube, watch on Google+, or follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #askobama. The next time your business wants to engage with your community be sure to know when and where to host the party (or parties!).
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Understand public relations 101. Never turn down an opportunity to sway public opinion. It is important to use every conversation as an opportunity to improve your image, even if that means laughing at an impersonator.
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It can be challenging for a brand to be knowledgeable, educational and laugh at the same time. Social media takes practice and requires companies to take chances. Find the right balance and your community will grow and reward you in return. What did you think of the first ever Google+ Hangout? I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you missed the hangout, watch it here: here.

This post originally appeared on the Radian6 Social Strategy Blog where I contribute to the community engagement team.

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