Social media is more of an immediately human process than SEO. Its all about direct communication between individuals who share a passion or interest. For this reason I think it has a lot of similarities to another medium that has been around for much longer than the internet itself. And that's talkback radio.
Of course talkback is voice, when social media is primarily text based (although it can involve sound and vision in sites like YouTube and Google Plus Hangouts). The other main difference is that radio is a broadcast medium, while Twitter, Facebook and the like are narrowcast.
Other than these differences, identifying what makes a good talkback presenter and applying it to your own approach to social media will be useful.
Firstly, you can't be silent! Remember that if you're tuned into your favourite broadcaster and no one's calling in, he has to keep talking himself. If he doesn't the channel is totally quiet. Obviously, it's very bad for ratings if this happens even occasionally.
Similarly, if you're on Twitter and have a break for a week or two, well you're as good as not being there. Some people may find you via lists, etc. But your following won't grow much, if at all. And while the people you've connected with already won't forget you completely, you're probably going to get unfollowed by quite a few of those newest in your network. So, clearly you've got to keep popping up in their streams, if not daily then at least a few times a week. (On the flip side you don't want to go overboard in the other direction. Still, that is hard to do on Twitter, and easier on Facebook.)
Another thing that good talkback hosts do is to be topical, and ask good questions about these current issues. Local ABC personality Geoff Hutchinson, for example, starts his show framing the subjects he wants to discuss, then asking listeners to respond.
If you're on social media keep an eye on trending topics and post thoughtfully about them, including questions to increase engagement. If these stories have their own hashtags, be sure to use them.
Hutchinson also polite to callers. He lets them have their say. Being affable and welcoming, his popularity is assured. This approach should also be taken when interacting with your networks online.
That said, not all talkback hosts are like this. Some have become successful by being rude. But that's an unpleasant way to achieve success. Who would want to do it?
I suppose it is possible to achieve some sort of notoriety by simply being unpleasant all the time on social media. You could become well known as an uber-troll. But while you might achieve a kind of infamy, it certainly wouldn't be useful if you wanted to promote something aside from your own obnoxious personality!
While it's important for broadcasters to be polite, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be controversial. You can do both. While this approach is rare in Perth's radio landscape, there are many examples of this in Sydney. The so-called "shock jocks" Alan Jones, Ben Fordham, Steve Price and Alan Bolt are all good examples of this. Hardly shocking, they just politely call things as they see them. And more often than not their view is politically incorrect.
Social media users should heed this example. While controversy can be much more useful in a field like political commentary, it can also be a great way to lift your profile in any other online niche. The key is to be polite and sincere. Don't just say things to offend people and attract attention. Be thoughtful, critical and also be prepared to defend your arguments when they are opposed. That way you'll stand out from the social media pack, lift your profile and also garner respect, even from some of your opponents.