Recently my seven-year-old son, Will, participated in his first science fair. With overwhelming fairness, his school does not offer prizes or rank the projects in any way. Comment sheets are set out with each project so that others can write something about the experiment.

I was struck how, even at seven years old, Will was super excited about the comments he received. And how many he received. I recognized the feeling. When I have posted something funny on Facebook, written a blog post I’m particularly proud of, or even find just nailed the perfect tweet, I have waited with baited breath for the positive feedback my awesomeness would surely generate.

My conclusion is, (hold on to your hats!) no matter what age, or what we’re doing, humans are simply wired to want and need positive reinforcement. While this isn’t a groundbreaking revelation, it bears remembering when you’re strategizing your social media outreach efforts.

When you’re planning your social media program, or really any marketing program, there are probably a few whales you would really like to get. Social media works really well for those whales. Here’s how you can leverage that positive reinforcement thing to land those whales:

  • Comments for bloggers are like crack. Wield them often at the right targets. If your whale is a blogger, this is a good place to start. But if not, she likely frequents some of the well-known blogs in her field. Find them and start commenting with thoughtful ideas. This starts to get you out there and could build a relationship with that well-known blogger to boot.
  • Follow your whale on Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, etc. Or at least follow the company if the person doesn’t show up in those places. Re-tweet, re-post, add unique commentary and reply as often as possible without getting stalker-ish.
  • Your comments, retweets etc should never be solicitous. Only helpful. Do NOT be one of those trolls in the comments who says nothing of value but urges everyone to read their blog, follow them on Facebook etc. Nobody likes those guys.

How did the science fair turn out? Pretty well. Will got 6 comments that he was over the moon about AND he’s so proud of his project that the board is a permanent fixture in our living room. Home run.