Dear Lynn: I've avoided social media so far (fear of the unknown), but I realize I have to get in the game...
What would you do first if you were just getting started with Social Media?
Who has the best advice or training for how to use Social Media? I have limited funds but plenty of time. Thanks in advance. -Shawn
You're right. If you haven't already, now is the time to get established across the Social Media networks. For starters, you risk not securing your name or brand on each of the sites if you wait. But there are other reasons to "jump on board" with Social Media right now that could have a huge impact in your online business...
Secure Your Name or Brand Across Social Media Sites
This is the first thing I do when I set up an online business, or a new niche site. It's a smart move, even if you're not quite ready to jump into all (or any) of them just yet. Mainly because you want to secure your name or brand there, but also so that those accounts can start to age and establish.
Another good reason to set up these accounts is because your profiles will contain a link to your website, and they count as the inbound links you'll need to get that site indexed and to improve your search engine rankings.
NOW Is The Time!
If you are not already using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc... NOW is the time to start. And if you have those accounts but you've been ignoring them, NOW is the time to start paying them some serious attention.
There are major changes going on in Search, and around the Web in general. Social Media is playing a big part in how Search is changing, which is moving toward "social proof" instead of "link proof". Going forward "Social Media Rank" will be even more important than PageRank.
Every Facebook share, Tweet & Retweet, Plus One, etc will play a role in how well your pages rank. And even more important - in your CTR in the SERPS. (that's click-through-rate in the search engine results pages)
Your goal right now should be to create Share Bait (instead of Link Bait). You should be giving your visitors easy one-click buttons to share & like your content. You should also be actively sharing your content across Social Media channels, where it can be liked and +'d and shared. And you should have quality profiles and relevant accounts that show your authority in your particular niche...
I've added Gmail to this list for two reasons. 1) Because you may want to outsource email, or go mobile, in the future and Gmail is the easiest way to do that. And 2) so you can set up a Google+ profile from your business/niche Gmail account.
- Gmail, Google Profile & Google+
- Facebook Page
There may be others, but these are the 6 I currently start with out of the gate.
How To Use Social Media
There are two camps regarding Social Media. Those who believe it's for conversions, and those that believe it's for conversations.
Ideally, you will use it for both.
I don't personally recommend any particular Social Media course, or that you even invest in one. In my opinion, Social Media is more about personality... and serving your market. Given the unique elements of your business such as angle, market, product, character, etc I don't feel like there is a "one size fits all solution".
Instead, study the market leaders in your niche and the brands that are successful with Social Media. Take note of what they're doing right, what you like and don't like. Create your own Social Media strategy based on what you learn by watching, and what you learn through trial & error along the way. (You'll learn much more from people in the trenches, than by people creating courses about it.)
4 Quick Tips
1. When you create your profiles use your name or brand, and use your keyword phrase in the description. The proximity of that keyword phrase to the site link in your profile will help the search engines determine what your link (site) is about.
2. Using keywords will also help people who are searching for you (and for what you offer) find you more easily on those networks.
3. Search out the Market Leaders in your niche and Follow/Friend them on each network. Put them in a group where you can easily watch their updates for ideas, and also so you can respond to and/or share their updates.
4. Search your primary keywords on Twitter, and save those searches so you can follow topical conversations. You'll find opportunities to join the conversation, answer questions, and get involved with your market in a personable way.
Know Your Objective
With my sites (generally niche blogs), my objective is twofold. The first is traffic & sales. The second is to increase my reach in that niche, and build a strong readership - which goes a long way with merchants and brands that may want to work with me in the future.
If you have an ecommerce site, your objective may be exposure and customer service. People love interacting with brands and stores online, and getting quick answers & personal resolutions.
You can use Social Media to make direct sales by offering special offers or coupon codes. You can also use it for market research, and reward your followers for surveys & feedback.
Consider all the ways your business can benefit from Social Media. Make a list of what will work best in your market, or with your model, and keep those objectives in mind with every update. And test, test, test.
Social Media Management & Automation
There are tools you can use such as Posterous and HootSuite to make it easier to manage multiple Social Media accounts. Done right, these are very useful and can be very beneficial. With HootSuite for example, you can load up scheduled updates such as daily tips or seasonal announcements.
My advice: If you are going to be on Social Media, be ON Social Media. Respond to questions & replies in real time. Share interesting updates from other market leaders as they happen. Reply to your market while the conversation is hot.
Social Media Content
What does your market most want to hear from you? You should take some time to ponder this question, and jot down a list of ideas that come to mind.
Do they want tips, discounts, resources, ideas, humor, customer service, a combination of these things, or what exactly? You might even ask them!
If you keep up with industry news, keep tabs on relevant holidays & observances, watch the market leaders in your niche, follow relevant the hashtags & conversations, and always keep your target market in mind (who they are, what they want, etc)... you should have no problem coming up with cool content to share.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don't want to always be self-promotional. You do want to share your content, and engage your market about your topics & products, but you also want to share other things going on in the market.
Keep an eye out for great videos, interesting forum discussions, cool Facebook pages etc that you can share on your Social Media channels.
When you're at a loss for what to post... ask questions.
Even better, let them ask questions.
Followers Are Real People
Using Social Media is more about being a real person, or having a personality behind your brand. Imagine being in a room full of people who are highly interested in your topic. If you try to "hard sell them on hello" you're going to get the cold shoulder.
Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc - they are all "rooms full of real people" that read blogs, buy products and share interesting content with their friends.
Always keep that in mind and you'll do just fine.