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Johnny's performance included singing, jokes and dancing - variety works well with any audience, online or offline

Last night I went to see Cornish comedian Johnny Cowling perform at a hotel in Falmouth.

He’s known locally for his Cornish jokes, risque humour and singing, and he’s best known “up north” (ahem) in London for warming up the audiences for Dancing on Ice and Take Me Out on ITV.

As well as being very funny, he is also a master at knowing his audience and connecting with them.

Here are some lessons in building a loyal online following, the Johnny Cowling way:

Start gently & maintain momentum

Johnny opened the show with typical fanfare and a big entrance.  We knew he’d arrived.

But his act started fairly informally, inviting requests from the audience and telling a few one-liners.

By end of the gig he was in full flow, working the room, getting the audience up dancing, and generally giving us all a fantastic evening’s entertainment, all from a gentle start.

When you first set-up your social media accounts, the temptation is to go crazy for the first couple of days, posting updates every hour, videos, links to blog posts, twenty tweets a day….

And then you lose interest and the Facebook page or LinkedIn account lies dormant.

Be like Johnny – build up to a level you feel comfortable with, whether that’s two tweets a day, one post a week, and stick with it.

This way, your audience know what to expect and you become a reliable resource.

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Share a little of yourself online to build rapport with your audience

Engage with your audience

By the end of last night I knew Johnny was married, I knew where he lived, how many kids he has, where he goes on holiday, and where he shops.

He shared a bit of himself and that helped the audience build up a picture of who was talking to them.

Try doing the same online – of course be careful about identity theft and don’t send a tweet that includes your PIN number, but don’t be afraid to tell others what you’re up to, what you can see from your window, how your desk is looking, what you did at the weekend.

If you can relate it back to what you do, then brilliant, but social media is social.  Be sociable and open up a bit about yourself.  People buy from people, so by showing your human side, you increase the likelihood of people doing business with you.

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Johnny made sure everyone was involved in his Elvis routine, inviting people up to dance and join in the singing

Include others

This wasn’t such a great part of the night for my husband, who happened to be sitting in the front row when he got pulled up to join Johnny in singing “Love me tender” by Elvis Presley….

But the audience loved it.

In terms of social media, think what other bloggers, Facebook groups, Tweeters you could share with your online audience.

Sharing content from other people is a great way of keeping your posts varied, interesting and fresh.

It’s also a good way of doing business – if you do another business a favour by drawing attention to their social media platforms, then they will often do the same for you.

My poor husband wasn’t able to return the favour to Johnny in quite the same way, but he was still smiling about it his moment of fame morning.

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Have a plan for your social media but don't be afraid to divert from your plan to respond to breaking news or industry trends as they happen

Personalise the content

Johnny’s act was peppered with unscripted conversations, where he reacted to someone in the audience, or started chatting to an unfortunate as they sheepishly made their way to the loo.

These ad hoc parts of the gig got big laughs.

If you have a social media plan (and you should have) don’t be afraid to digress to include other timely content.  Look at what’s going on in the news and in your industry and comment on it.

Being reactive to breaking news is a major benefit of social media that many don’t make the most of – get ahead of your competitors and respond swiftly.

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Give your time, share your knowledge, reward your audience

Give more than you take

Last night’s event was in aid of the The Carnon Carers, a group of lovely people who provide companionship and kindness to others in the community who need it.

They volunteer their services all year round, and last night helped raise money for their annual Christmas bash.

Johnny gave his time for free, he performed for almost three hours, singing, dancing, telling jokes, even drawing the raffle and the audience gave generously and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Try and think of social media as a way to give back.

Being on social media isn’t about broadcasting.  It isn’t about telling people about your products.  It isn’t about boasting or sales pitches.

It’s about helping others out with what you know, adding value, and being sure that people have a reason to read what you’re sharing.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you feel it was worth it.

Our night out in Falmouth was certainly worth it, and I’ll never hear “Love me tender” and not see Johnny Cowling serenading my husband on the dance floor!

What are your golden rules of social media?  Let us in on them in the comments below.