I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with businesses and organizations that are recognizing the need to do something – anything – with social media.
The why is simple: they want to be where their customers are. The how: not so simple. Where do you start? What’s important, and what’s nice-to-have? How do you enter a social space appropriately, and how do you connect with people?
Here are 10 tips for businesses getting started with social media:
- Claim your space
Domainer squatters are capturing all available domain names. And social squatters are doing similar things. So protect your future interests by automatically claiming your brand on any social media site. You don’t always know which ones will become significant remember Pinterest’s amazing growth) so cast a wide net.
- Start by listening
Just like you wouldn’t show up at a party in a foreign country talking at full volume acting like you own the place, start slow. Start by understanding a social network before you try to establish your own presence. Reddit is very different than Facebook. Twitter is not YouTube. And different communications tactics and strategies work in different places.
- Talk to a pro
If you’re new to social, buy some time from a long-time pro – a consultant who does social for a living. Even if it’s just an hour a week, get some tips, get some strategies, and most important, get some quick feedback on your ideas. A small investment here will save big dollars down the road: especially if you do something catastrophically wrong and create a PR nightmare.
- Start a blog
Participating in social networks is like renting: it may make a ton of business sense, but it’s not on your own turf, and you don’t make the rules. Tilt the field a little in your direction by starting a blog, where you own the land and you set the rules. Everything you do here is an investment in your own property.
- Connect with others in your industry
See what your competition is doing. See what your colleagues are doing. You can avoid mistakes that others have made, and you can learn from successes they’ve enjoyed. You’ll need to travel your own path, but you don’t have to do it in ignorance.
- Know your story
Just like coming to a business meeting for networking, know a few things before you go. Who you are (your brand, your story), and what you want (your strategy). People who don’t know who they are or what they’re interested in can be boring … and the same is true with companies and brands. So figure it out before you open your mouth.
- Be able to act on what you learn
As you engage with current and future clients, you’re going to hear some things that are going to need to be acted on. So have good communication lines with people in your company who manage marketing, production, customer relations, PR, and so on. Nothing’s worse than hearing about a major problem at your company that you can’t do anything about because you haven’t built your bridges first.
- Lighten up and have some fun
Social media is … wait for it … social. So reading from the corporate strategy manual is a non-starter. Selling like it’s a TV ad is a waste of time. And keeping the stiff, formal tones of the annual report is not going to cut it. Social is about people, so talk like a real person. Just like you’d want companies to talk to you.
- Be social, don’t just do social
Social is not something you do, it’s a way you live. So don’t just do social for the company, participate in social media yourself. Get as many on your team and company to do likewise. This will teach you the culture and communication styles of tomorrow’s clients and partners.
- Set some goals
Nothing in your company gets done just to get done. Everything has, or is supposed to have, some kind of strategy – some link to what makes your organization successful. Social’s no different. Establish goals and track progress toward them. And, obviously, align your goals with company strategy … but make them realistic given the character of social networks that you’re engaging with.
- And a bonus point: set up monitoring
Set up cheap/free monitoring with Google Alerts or Social Mention (here are a few more options for listing to your clients). Nothing is worse than being ignored … unless it’s finding out that you ignored a small issue that is now a major one. So listen to mentions of your brand and products, and be prepared to respond appropriately.