Social Media is an enormous and ever-changing topic. There are literally hundreds of sites from the general to the very niche. Figuring out how or why to get involved can be paralyzing. I'd like to motivate you to put social media to use, without feeling like you need to become an expert or develop an overly-complicated strategy.
Not every TV advertiser is shooting to win a Cleo award. The vast majority have the simple goal of gaining mindshare among people in their target audience. So it should be with your use of social media sites. Don't get bogged down in the perfect approach, just get busy and "feel" your way through it. First, let's take a look at why people join social networking sites:
Keep in touch with existing friends
I don't know what it is, but I over the years I have managed to always be an email address or phone number behind as my college friends changed jobs or moved around. If you connect with friends through one of these sites, you'll never get left behind when they make a move.
Make connections with people who have similar interests or valuable expertise
Are you an avid equestrian? There is a group online for you. Amateur or professional photographer and like to check out other great pics as well as share your own? Great sites exist for you too. Need an expert to help you with a problem, subgroups are already set up or someone in your network is bound to know the "right" person to assist.
Follow celebrities, companies, or products that matter to them
Can't wait for the next version of Guitar Hero to come out? Hoping U2 will hit your city on their next tour? Now you have a way to be the first to know whenever any news is shared.
O.k., so nothing earth-shattering going on -- just AWESOMELY convenient. It is like the equivalent of having a "friends" button on your phone that ALWAYS knows everyone's current telephone number and will just fire up a conference call for you with one touch. Or instead of just hearing a good joke every once in a while at the office, now you can be notified immediately whenever anyone anywhere says something funny, if you want (not quite to that level, but you get the idea).
How to Take Advantage of Knowing
Why People Participate in the First Place
As you know, unlike TV, print, radio, etc., social media is a two-way deal. While the equivalent of traditional advertising (like pay-per-click) has its place, I wouldn't recommend starting there. You will have a positive effect on your business just by participating (or if you already are, putting more of the "right kind" of attention on these outlets). So what is the right kind of attention? Simple, go back to the reasons why people join in the first place:
- Keep in touch with existing friends
- Make connections with people who have similar interests or valuable expertise
- Follow celebrities, companies, or products that matter to them
So whatever you are doing in your social media communications, you will be most successful if you are helping people in one or more of the above quests -- the very reasons they participate. Chances are slim that you can help them with the first item -- but perhaps you have a product or service that actually ties into social media sites in that way.
It is more likely that you have the opportunity to participate in one of the other two ways.
Three Things You Can do to Put Social Media to
Work for Your Business, and Not Be Annoying
Participating in social media sites opens this opportunity to you in a few ways. Again, I view social media as primarily an EXTREMELY convenient means of communicating -- so use it to do some of the things successful people have been doing forever:
Help people make connections with what they need
Someone that you know able to solve a problem that you notice someone else has? Make the introduction, they will both thank you.
DEMONSTRATE your expertise
Again, nothing new here, just a different means. For many (perhaps most) business owners it is valuable to be positioned as an expert in what you do, or perhaps have your business known as a well-run operation. Long before social media sites existed, this was accomplished through PR, speaking engagements, and the like. Being quoted in a newspaper or trade magazine is still valuable, but now there are many more outlets.
Being referenced or quoted on a popular blog can have just as much impact. Speaking at a luncheon or major conference are, again, still valuable. But now you may be able to get recognized as an expert without leaving your desk. It is a much more "democratic" environment. In fact it some cases it IS a democratic environment. People with issues that they need help with post questions or challenges and others in the network chime in with suggestions. In the end, the requester, and the community at large, can rate the value of the answers provided by the array of experts who gave recommendations.
Asking and answering questions is quite a "mature" dynamic on LinkedIn in particular. If you are not familiar, check out the Answers Section of their site.
Allow your "fans" to follow your company or products
This is a bit more delicate. My guidance is to, AGAIN, recognize that social media is just a MASSIVELY convenient way to communicate, but people haven't changed a bit. If you wouldn't go passing around coupons at your next dinner party, or tooting your own horn at a chamber of commerce luncheon, then don't do the same on Facebook! But you ARE missing an opportunity to make it convenient for the people (customers, partners, suppliers) who really want to or need to stay tuned-in to what you are doing if you refuse to participate.
There is a famous saying from Zig Ziglar that goes something like:
You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
Keep this philosophy in mind with your use of social media sites, and you can't lose! Not sure which site(s) might be best for you? Comment below with your questions or thoughts. I would be happy to help you think through your options. Think this posting would be helpful to others you know? Use the "Share" button below to use (guess what) just about any of the social media sites to share this information.