New Rules for the Social Media Dinner Party

The New Rules for Hosting Your Social Media Dinner Party by Katie Stanton of @thegoodlemon

by Katie Stanton | Featured Contributor

A popular metaphor that I’ve used over the years for social media training is to think of it like a Dinner Party. Here’s the quickie version:

  1. You’re a polite, gracious, vivacious host, and you’re setting a beautiful table with impressive and delicious things. (You started an account on a social media channel like Twitter or Pinterest, you’ve added your branding and your website, and you’re starting to post interesting and relevant content.)
  2. You’re inviting a mix of interesting people who are relevant to you and who you think should meet each other. (You’re following your peers, industry leaders, media, and other people who you know will be interested in what you’re offering.)
  3. You’re sparking interesting conversation around the table, and these interesting people are participating in the conversation with you and with each other. (You’re liking and sharing content from the people you’re following, as well as participating in conversations with your community and your followers, and these folks are talking back to you.)
  4. Everyone has a wonderful time and comes back for your next dinner party, bringing some new interesting friends with them. (New people are finding you and engaging with you by liking your content and sharing it with their friends.)

You can find this metaphor all over the the internet, but it’s popular because it’s easy to understand. We’re talking about how people form relationships. You’re not “doing social media.” You’re making new friends.

So, as you are preparing your editorial calendar, here are a few things to keep in mind.

New Rules for the Social Media Dinner Party

Make your party exclusive

Your dinner party guests have preferences, and you probably could tell me if they’ll think serving sushi and tater tots is awesome or uncouth. The same thing applies to your target customers; you need to know them well enough that you tell me if they are snapping away on Snapchat, or if they think Facebook is still the hippest and hottest thing. Your social media dinner party should be a place where your target customers feel like they’re “in.”

How do you get to know your target customer? Find out where they are already partying. Research blogs, forums, and email groups to actually find people who are similar to your target customer profile and see who they follow. Read the comments, and check out what they post on their social media channels. Use the Google Keyword Planner to see what they’re searching for.

If you’re selling handmade, recycled leather handbags, for example, you can guess that your target customers are probably women who have some disposable income. What might they care about, and why? Are they ethical shoppers, but still like to be fashionable? Who do they follow for inspiration? Do they go to farmer’s markets and consignment shops?

Figure out what your customer likes, what she doesn’t like, and what her life is like, and write your research down.

Don’t monopolize the conversation

There are marketers out there who recommend searching for people who are posting about issues or topics that are related to your brand and then messaging them about… your brand.

Consider how you start conversations with people at your dinner party. Do you start talking about yourself and only yourself? I’ll bet you’re finding topics that are interesting to everyone and asking your guests about their thoughts and opinions. Use the same attitude on your social media channels, and participate, rather than dominate.

Serve something you know your guests will like

An old marketing rule states that a brand has to reach a customer around 7 times before that customer will make a purchase. You can use social media channels to reach your customer in ways that make them feel genuinely valued. Create content on your social media channels and your website that helps a customer who visits your website to really get to know you, trust you, and feel like you really understand her needs and what she believes in. That customer is more likely to become a regular party guest at your table.

Use the Golden Rule

You wouldn’t pull a loudspeaker out at your own dinner party and start yelling about how amazing your food is, would you? The same rule applies to marketing. People are bombarded with enough advertisements and spam on an hourly-basis that entire new businesses are being built around blocking advertisements out.

If you take nothing else away from this post, just take this: Treat your community how you want to be treated. 

Stick to what you’re good at

You wouldn’t serve dinner if you don’t know how to cook. So why are you designing infographics if you don’t know how to draw? Just like how you might get a dinner party catered by a chef, invest in some writing or design help to make sure you’re serving fantastic content to your community. There are tons of great freelancers and consultants (like me!) who can help you with this affordably, or you can offer a work trade on sites like Vendeve.

Put a little investment in and the results can go far, especially if you present something so creative and so delicious that people can’t stop talking about it. As Julia Child wrote, “…[N]othing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”


Katie Stanton Headshot - She Owns ItKatie is a co-founder of the digital marketing and communications firm The Good Lemon. Passionate about community building, the Internet, and putting words together, Katie has been a part of the digital non-profit space for over seven years. She has built digital communications programs for national organizations dedicated to women’s leadership, social justice and global change, such as the YWCA USA and Vital Voices Global Partnership. She has also work with and consulted for globally-known entities like the Allstate Foundation, Bank of America and the State Department.

Katie holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from George Mason University. She is a global traveler and loves to explore new cities and cultures (follow her trips on Instagram), and is an overly-enthusiastic home cook and aspiring ukulele player.

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