First, let’s simplify the name. Social media is nothing more than a conversation. It’s an opportunity for you to jump in at any point in time and connect, engage and offer something of value to both people you know and those you’ve never met.
Imagine walking into a bar or a cocktail party and striking up a conversation with a few people. It’s the same thing with social media, only it’s done virtually. And with social media platforms you actually have the ability to connect with hundreds if not thousands more people than you would in person.
Danah Boyd, a social media researcher for Microsoft, said it well, “The way you can understand all of the social media is as the creation of a new kind of public space.”
I see so many people shying away from these platforms because they don’t understand them or they’re afraid they won’t “get it right.” These are the same people who complain to me that marketing is too expensive or time-consuming, and they don’t know how to attract clients in a cost-effective manner.
Let’s be clear. Social media is one of THE most cost-effective marketing tools available to you today. It’s free! All you need are a few guidelines and a little bit of time daily (seriously, you can do this in 20 minutes a day).
So if you’re willing to commit the time, then I’ve got the guidelines. Follow these and you’ll be on your way to building authority in your industry and your very own tribe (see Seth Godin for more on Tribes.)
Here’s your social media primer in 10 steps:
1. Pick one platform to start. So many people make the mistake of jumping in to too many platforms at once, only to abandon them after a few weeks. There’s nothing worse than landing on someone’s Facebook page or Twitter stream, only to realize that no one’s been home for ages. Commit to one platform for 90 days before contemplating another. (Tip: I have found that Twitter is the most entrepreneur-friendly medium, while Facebook tends to be more personal and LinkedIn, more corporate.)
2. Give your new hub some bells and whistles. Keep in mind that your social media platforms are an extension of your brand. Treat them as if they are your personal websites (because they are). For example, if you’re on Twitter, customize your background page and make sure your 160 character bio is clear, authentic and inviting. On LinkedIn, you have even more space for your bio, client recommendations, blog posts, Twitter stream and much more. Use the features for each medium to your advantage. In other words, pimp it out, daddy-o. You can find plenty of information in each platform’s help area.
3. Post often and consistently. Ok, so you’ve signed up, uploaded your photo, bio and more, and you’re ready to rock n’ roll. Or are you? Posting twice a week isn’t enough. And even once a day ain’t gonna get you any action, girlfriend. You really have to jump in and engage. If your intention is to establish authority, build a tribe and attract more clients, then you’ve got to get active – consistently. I’m not advising you to get all spammy on us, but updating your Facebook status three or four times a day, or tweeting 20-30 times a day is NOT too much.
I realize you may have just cringed at the idea of tweeting 20-30 times a day, but bear with me here and read on…
4. Create your brand content strategy. How do you want to make your clients feel? How do you want to be remembered? These are important questions to ask yourself when coming up with ideas for posting on your social media platforms. For example, if you are an acupuncturist specializing in women’s health who lives in Los Angeles and loves yoga, you might decide to post about the following topics: acupuncture, health tips, yoga, women’s empowerment and your life in LA. This doesn’t mean that you can’t post about other things, it just gives you brand guidelines and a construct for developing your content.
5. Start engaging. It can be particularly daunting at first to come up with your own content. Here’s a crucial point: if you’re not sure what to say, then don’t force it. Instead, the best thing you can do it respond to and shine a light on others. Comment on others’ status updates on Facebook. Retweet their valuable comments and insights. Leave a comment or a recommendation on a LinkedIn profile. You can’t expect others to engage with you if you’re not willing to put yourself out there. (Tip: Follow or Friend ten people a day for a month and engage them in a conversation – ask a question, respond to them or retweet them. You can also look at their Twitter streams and Facebook status updates to see how others are engaging.)
6. Don’t be boring. Post or tweet when you have something meaningful, valuable, interesting or humorous to say. I’m not interested in what you had for breakfast for the fifth day in a row. Feel free to curate others’ content and share with your friends/followers. This is a great way to start, especially if you feel paralyzed by what to say.
7. Don’t be a spammer. Don’t only promote yourself and your business. Spamming your business and its offers down your followers’ throats is the fastest way to get unfollowed. Instead, share knowledge, ideas, resources and compelling experiences with them. (Tip: this is especially true on Facebook, where biz related posts are much less tolerated than on Twitter.)
8. Help others. Simple, but true. When you consistently provide easy-to-digest, actionable content on social media platforms, you will quickly position yourself as an authority in your industry. Ask and answer questions. Ask questions to engage; answer them to be of assistance and get known as a go-to resource.
9. Experiment with social media tools. The basic tools are the platforms like Twitter and Facebook. However, there are multiple tools (both in software and cloud-based form) that can make both your interface and interaction more enjoyable. A few that I particularly like include TweetDeck and Hootsuite for scheduling your tweets and updates, and YouTube for video sharing.
10. Stay in it for the long haul. Social media in the short term does not work. You must be in it for the long haul and be persistent, consistent and committed. Unless you’re Julia Roberts or George Clooney, you’re not going to get a million followers in week. Be patient, follow these guidelines and your tribe will continue to grow.
If you follow these steps and stick with it, social media marketing has the power to bring traffic to your website, build a buzz around your brand, improve your search engine ranking, bring in new client leads and instill trust and loyalty in your tribe.
With so much potential and such a low cost of entry, how could you possibly be too busy to get social?
If you’re looking for more social media instruction, I find Laura Roeder’s products, Your Backstage Pass to Twitter and Zero to Facebook to be excellent resources. You can find them at www.lauraroeder.com.
SheBrand’s Build Your Buzz Online Bootcamp also contains helpful chapters on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Putting Your Social Media on Autopilot. It’s available at www.buildyourbuzzonline.com.
© Liz Dennery Sanders 2011
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