Social media 101 – How to get started in social media

Does your company have a social media strategy? If not, don’t panic. I’m going to give you a primer on crafting your very own social media strategy. I promise it’s not that hard to get started. The hard stuff comes later, but don’t worry about that right now.

What do we mean by “social media”?

To get started, let’s quickly think about a definition for social media. You can look up ‘social media’ online and get lots of definitions, but to keep it simple, when we’re talking about social media let’s think of it as a technology platform for sharing ideas and opinions with a group of people. That group can be large or small, or if you prefer, think “community” or “tribe”. By this definition, email might be considered as social media, but it’s usually not included because it’s not a good platform for engaging lots of people in co-creating content over any extended period of time. Group emails might be useful for an hour or a day, on a single issue, but really if you have a large group all being cc’d on every remark going back and forth on an email string, it gets tiresome pretty quickly.

Some examples of popular social media networks today include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. There are many, many more, of course, but just because they exist doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be there. If your company is advertising on a social network like LinkedIn or Facebook, that alone does not mean you’ve got a social media strategy going on, because our definition of social media includes “sharing”. Ads – those billboards on the information highway – aren’t about sharing because they are not a conversation, they’re a monologue.

Before you post, P.O.S.T.T.

POSTT is an acronym for:

People (who) – what social activities are your customers participating in?

Objective (why) – apart from being able to say, yes, we have a social media strategy, what do you want to accomplish with your social media strategy? Even if you’re still uncertain about how you might use social media, you need to have some idea of what results you’re hoping to see. You can adjust them later as you get more experience.

Strategy (when) – how will social media change your relationships with your customers, and what will you need to do to prepare for that?

Technology (where) – once you’ve decided who you want to share with and what business objective you want to achieve, you have to identify the social networks that your customers flock to. Are they Tweeters, Facebook fans, LinkedIn users, or…?

Tactics (how) – As you implement your specific tactics, be prepared to learn, and refine or change your tactics. Social media is still very new and evolving rapidly, so what works for you today may not be so successful tomorrow. That’s ok, just pay attention.

Where is Everybody?

Once you’ve got an idea of who, why, when, where, and how, you’re ready to step up and go find the people you want to be in touch with. Where do your customers hang out and what do they do there? Kaila Colbin expressed it well when she suggested we need to “find the kitchen”. At a party, you know how people tend to hang out in the kitchen? If you’re all alone in the living room, you’re going to miss the party. It’s the same thing with social media; you need to be where your customers are.

How can you find out where your customers are online? In B2B, take a look at LinkedIn and pay attention to groups that are relevant to your industry. Most industries have several different groups you can join. For a quick introduction, take a look at the LinkedIn video introduction to groups. You can also try a search at http://search.twitter.com to look for terms in your industry and see what people are talking about.

Those are just a couple of examples, and once you get there, the next step is to listen and learn. That’s right, once you find “your people”, don’t just start blasting messages at them. That’s the online equivalent of someone you’ve never met walking up to you at a party and launching into a monologue all about themselves. The correct approach is to listen, follow the conversation, and then participate when you have something of value to add to the group.

No Money Down

You can get started without investing any cash up front, but be prepared to invest some time. There is a lot to learn, and everyone else is trying to figure out the best way to take advantage of social media too, so now is as good a time as any to jump in. If you start small you won’t be overwhelmed.

If you have any questions or comments about your company’s social media strategy – or lack thereof – take a small step now and use the comment box below to ask a question or share your ideas. We’re listening!