When looking at using social media as a marketing tool it is important to remember that just as Rome was not built in a day, neither can social media instantly deliver you hordes of customers ready to buy your product or service.
Marketing using online communications in general and social media specifically requires persistence and dedication.
It is important not to over-reach yourself, setting up expectations that cannot be met further down the track. Starting small, with regular though infrequent, updates is the best policy.
So with that in mind what the top 5 things you can do today to get started on Social Media?
1. Decide which platforms you are going to use. There’s a lot of social media platforms out there and it is unrealistic to assume you’re going to be able to be present on all of them (without using an automated system of some kind and remember every time you do that, a unicorn dies. Not pretty.)
Most people start out with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ but it depends on your personal preferences and where you believe your audience will be. If you’re going to be creating a lot of video content for example then you want to be on YouTube whilst Facebook is great as a photo sharing service, especially now that they own Instagram.
2. Choose the username that you are going to use on each service. You may find that you need to get slightly creative with the name as many usernames have already been snapped up – just remember to keep it as relevant as possible to your actual business and to use the same one where possible across all the services.
3. Choose the image you wish to use. A photo of you or your team (yay for you having a team!) is a much better choice than your logo. People do business with people, especially in the solo entrepreneur or micro business arena and having a photo of a person (not your cat!) is a great way to add that ‘likeability’ factor.
Remember to have the photo as professional looking as possible – it might sound self-evident but the number of people who put a cropped photo from a night out with friends online as their professional photo is just staggering. It doesn’t have to be by a professional photographer but it is worth looking out for someone with a good eye and a good camera who can pose you properly (and maybe even run a bit of PhotoShop later).
By the way, this infographic on the different sizes of images needed for different social networks is incredibly detailed and incredibly useful – definitely worth printing out.
4. Decide how much time you are going to spend on social media. Social media is incredibly addictive and it is not uncommon to spend several hours on there a day without even realising, especially if you’re on several different networks.
A good rule of thumb is to put aside 2 hours a day – 1 hour in the morning and 1 in the afternoon – to post updates and respond to comments. Remember that although you don’t have to be on social media all the time to be engaged and responsive you do have to be there at least regularly.
There is probably nothing sadder in the social media world than a business account that has been left to wither and die online unless it is when someone uses an automated service to post the same update across multiple networks, causing unicorns to die horrible deaths.
Be aware of how much time you can put into social media and start small with just one network to get the feel first before expanding out. You may decide not to expand out and that is fine too – every person’s use of social media is different and that is what makes it so cool.
5. Download the appropriate software for your networks onto your phone or tablets or whatever device you’ll be using when you’re not sitting at your main computer. All the main social media networks offer apps for iOS, Android and Blackberry (Windows 8 is catching up but isn’t quite there yet) that allow you to check your comments and replies and post updates including video and photos.
With these apps at your side you can take advantage of otherwise dead windows of time – waiting in line at the bank (argh) or for the doctor (double argh) or for the hairdresser (not a problem because she gives me coffee).
So there you have it – 5 quick and simple tips to get you online with social media and well on your way to being an awesome social media person (just don’t use the word maven, guru or ninja please. They’re over done and really not at all credible names but don’t just take my word for it ).
Not the be all and end all
It is important to remember that number of fans or followers does not necessarily equate to a successful online strategy. I know we all want to be popular and we all want to point to the large number of followers or fans that we have as validation that we’re doing the right thing, but believe me when I say:
It is infinitely better to have a small number of fans/followers that engage, interact, recommend and share your content rather than a large number of passive, disassociated readers.
After all, you’re ultimately in this game to not just attract an audience but to engage them to such an extent that they are converted to, if not rabid raving fans who buy everything you ever produce (though we can all dream of that happening), customers who are willing to stay with you for the long term.
So work on creating your engaged fan base that engages with you on Social Media but comes back to your homebase to carry on the longer term conversation. Because you and I both know that with these ‘free’ Social Media sites – if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product right?
Don’t let the owners of those sites dictate what you can and can’t do with your audience. By all means take advantage of the ability to connect there but always, always, always have a website that you own and control to return to.
And if you’ve followed the steps above and are now out and about on the various channels, why not let us know your usernames in the comments below so we can connect with you there?