Social media is all the rage and buzz across product and service industries alike.
This "new" way of using online communication is actually not new at all, but is certainly a daunting and sometimes overwhelming activity in both time and resources.
So, where is one to begin?
Outlined below are some steps for entering into social media. These tips present the notion that social media''s biggest offering is the sharing of information among professionals, customers and potential customers.
The key to social media: Think less about the creative and focus instead on the conversation.
Social media is two-way conversation, period.
And, if you find yourself talking at people, then you aren''t being social.
The following is information gathered from one of the oldest social media companies in the nation.
Do a "listening campaign" to find peers and opportunities. Go to www.google.com/reader after setting up a Gmail account and begin to put searches and really simple syndication (RSS) feeds — found by going to search.google.com and performing searches, then pulling the RSS uniform resource locator (URL) into the reader where it says "add" — into the reader in order to monitor conversations. What should you monitor? Your company name, your industry terms, competitors, etc., and illative things such as "carpet cleaning tips" or "need help restoring XYZ." Once the feeds are pulled, you can check in daily and see what the real chatter is all about and chime in. Be sure to add a live link to your signature in the comments to drive them back to your website.
Establish a core-messaging document. Now that you know the conversations, you need to create a baseline document of agreed upon responses and commentary.
Set up a Twitter account and begin to follow those in your industry. There are many of follow tools out there like www.TweetAdder.com, www.WhoShouldIFollow.com and www.search.twitter.com that will help. Remember: Follow those you share interests with inside and outside your industry. People on Twitter like to have conversations about many things and will appreciate banter that isn''t direct selling.
Set up a WordPress blog. It''s quick and easy and allows for immediate communication. If you are more zealous, get some hosting and a cool URL so that your blog shines and has its own place to live. Blogs should be updated once per week, and you can preload posts easily into the WordPress templates.
Now that you have basic tools, you should begin to talk with people.
Remember, people do business with those they know, like and trust.
When you engage with someone in a conversation with a shared interest — automobiles, for example — you build interest and trust.
Do not sell them — they will learn what you do from your profile and go from there.
Think of social media like a networking event or a party.
You would never nametag surf — so don''t be concerned with who is following you — and you wouldn''t walk up to someone and go into a sales pitch — "Hi, nice to meet you, buy this" — so don''t do those things online either.
Socialize 60 Minutes Per Day
Managing your social media should take about an hour a day.
While downloading your e-mail, log into your feed reader and see what conversations you can participate in.
When you have a few minutes of downtime, log into your Twitter account and see what people are saying and begin to participate.
Do that two to three times a day and you should be golden.
Be sure to pay attention to the "@Username" messages and the direct messages because those are specifically meant for you.
Facebook should also be checked a few times a day and updates posted regularly.
Super users of social media have tools that make these tasks easier.
Just don''t solely rely on them — remember the two-way nature of social media.
You can also tie your Facebook page into your Twitter updates so you only have to post in one place.
There are also tools available like www.Commentful.com that track your comments so you can see where people chatted back at you.
And, there are, of course, numerous companies that do this all for you for a premium.
When playing in social media, keep these tips in mind:
You should talk to everyone with interests you share — much like networking, you never know where a lead will come from
You should participate in industry blogs, forums, chat rooms and articles in order to showcase your brand and industry knowledge
Don''t ever protect updates in Twitter or secure your Facebook page — it defeats the purpose
Remember: Once you say it, it''s out there
If you don''t use social media to market your brand, your competitors certainly will — and they will capture market share
Social media is highly collaborative — industry professionals share information openly online and you should as well
Social media isn''t for kids: Twitter skews in the 30s/40s age range because teens/20-somethings text more; Facebook is aging as its core population ages
Don''t get boggled in the technology. Though it may seem overwhelming initially, fret not — it''s just a conversation.
You converse everyday. Best of luck to you and happy socializing.
Amanda Vega is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Amanda Vega Consulting. She is the author of "PR in a Jar" and a contributor to "The Social Media Bible." For more information, please visit www.amandavega.com or www.amandavegablog.com.