Social media can create a real sense of community around you and your brand. The key is not to see it as a promotional tool but as a way to build relationships.
Social media can help with:
Reputation: Both building and managing it.
Positioning: Making you the go-to source in your niche.
Your profile: Helping you get "found" easily – for the right reasons – and actively managing your content.
- Which platform?
There are so many social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, Google+ – the list goes on. Should you be on all of them?
If you are new to social media, pick the platform that is the most popular across your industry and start there. Then chose the platform that most resonates with you.
Commit to learning those two platforms. Set written goals on how often you update and interact. The more often the better, but if you are less active, be regular. And that is better than nothing at all.
- What's your strategy?
Take the time to stop and think about what you want to accomplish. It's pointless to create accounts for every social media outlet without a clear understanding of your objectives, and why.
Are you joining to make more contacts within your industry? Do you want to build on your relationships using an online medium? Would you like more engagement from your current customers? Do you want others in your industry to know you're up to date with the latest trends?
Write your reasons down in your (one-page) strategy document, which will also include your goals.
- Actively build your reputation
Reputation is the new currency and it's all about building trust. Here are some ideas for building your online reputation.
Start a YouTube channel offering tips. Write guest articles on blogs your "influencers" read. Offer free, amazing content on your website or blog. On social networking sites, offer helpful information, share interesting links and content, and interact with people.
- Join the conversations
Putting your brand out there will provoke debates, opinions and comments that might not necessarily be all positive. On the flipside, if you aren't on social media these conversations may be happening without your input, without a chance for you to defend yourself or your business.
- It's about creating connections
Don't just connect with people you know. Identify key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.
Share your brand information with them, in a genuine way. Engage with them by retweeting their tweets or growing your LinkedIn network.
- Give people a reason to talk
People won't share your content if it isn't useful or interesting. So good content, interesting visuals, and relevant information are critical. If you don't have time to produce your own quality content, search for sites that produce interesting, free content and share it around.
If you are creating interesting and valuable information such as articles and tips, don't be afraid of people stealing your intellectual property; the more you share, the more people will recognise you as an expert.
- Listen to your excuses
If the first thing that comes to mind when you think social media is "I don't have time", recognise it as an excuse.
Don't let "lack of time" be a social media deal-breaker. Watch others, start slowly, ask for help, have no fear, find a mentor, use Google to get useful tips and see your end goal. It's a marathon not a sprint.