As social media professionals, we’re used to thinking about how people are interacting with social media. Are they tweeting during TV shows? Are they using Instagram to capture their entrées at restaurants? These questions, however, leave out a key piece: the why that created these habits initially.  And, if you’ve forgotten that why, your communities may be suffering. Help get back on track by answering these questions and going beyond how they’re using social media to interact with you.

Why did they decide to follow you?

Did an ad campaign promise to offer exclusive deals and tips? Did a promotion align your brand with an edgy, comical personality? No matter the reason, if you’re not delivering the things your audience was initially attracted to you, they’re going to disconnect.

Consider your brand, and its position in its industry. If you’re a food brand, for example, people likely expect you to inspire them in the kitchen with things that look good and sound appetizing. Are you delivering? If the answer is no, why did you steer off course?

Hint: Looking at Facebook? Pull the External Referring Sites data from Facebook Insights to see what’s driving traffic to your page. Use that as a jumping off point to uncover why fans may be flocking to you, or flocking away.

Why would they want to interact with your content?

Communities surrounding a cause may interact with your content because it hits an emotional, personal note. Lifestyle brands may have content that provides entertainment. Are you empowering your audience to feel smart? Are you showing them an innovative way to use a product? Are you making them look like a hero to their friends by giving them access to exclusive content?

Interactions with social content are often linked to the fulfillment of psychological needs of the people taking actions. Think about it: receiving likes on a witty comment validates the poster’s sense of humor. Retweets of a customer’s smart insight boost self-confidence. What needs should your content fulfill?

Hint: Pull demographical data about your audiences. Then, combine it with research to build personas that represent the major players in your social audiences. Knowing what’s under the hood makes it easier to understand why certain things are happening.

Why do they think of your brand outside of social?

At the end of the day, most brands that play in the social space make their money outside of it. Having a social presence in 2013 is a necessity for reaching customers, but can seem disconnected from the actual business purpose if it strays too far away from the brand’s platform. Figuring out why people are thinking about your brand when they’re not thumbing through social posts will help you play on your strengths and actually reach them.

Let’s stick with our food brand example from earlier. Here are a few reasons why people might think of you offline:

  • Because they’re hungry
  • Because they’re going grocery shopping
  • Because you’re serving your product at an event

Now, how can you use those insights to tie back into your social channels?

  • Because they’re hungry: share a recipe
  • Because they’re going grocery shopping: post a coupon
  • Because you’re serving your product at an event: make the cost a tweeted testimonial or photo

Each of these questions highlight the importance of going beyond how people are interacting with you (though, sometimes that influences your strategy). The best part of understanding the why behind your audience's actions? It helps you create content that provides real value, something that’s lacking across the board when it comes to branded social media. So start asking a few questions, and get those communities back on track!