Thank you very much to Darrell Hail and all my friends at The Houston Business Connection for inviting me to speak at their breakfast meeting this morning. A year ago this group asked me to give a Social Media 101 presentation to introduce them to Social Media. They’ve come a long way with their social media proficiency since then so today they were ready for more! Read on to see the highlights…
Dont’ forget to blog
Often when we think of social media we forget one of the most important parts – blogging. One of the main reasons to participate in social media from a business perspective is to establish yourself as an expert in your field so that your contacts view you more as a consultant than someone trying to sell something (and really, don’t we all feel that way about ourselves anyway?). Blogging allows you to share information with your readers that will not only be helpful to them, but establish you as the person to turn to when they have a question regarding your area of expertise. And because blogs are more interactive than websites, they allow your customers and prospects to interact with you and give you feedback.
Now that you have started your blog, you need to create meaningful traffic i.e. you need to get your clients and prospects visiting it regularly. Obviously traditional SEO (search engine optimization) is one way to generate traffic, but often the more organic methods are not only cheaper, but more effective.
Visit other blogs of people who you would like to have recommending your product or service and leave relavent and interesting comments on their blog posts – you almost always have an opportunity to include a link to your blog when you do so.
Make sure to bookmark articles off other great blogs using Digg, delicious, stumbleupon, kirtsy or another bookmarking site where you can develop a following. Not only will other bloggers appreciate your plug for them, but you will show your followers that your main concern is to help them – not just to plug your own stuff.
Mark Schmulan of NutshellMail posted a great article discussing the continued popularity of email especially among social media participants. If you already have an email newsletter, consider using links to your blog posts instead of including the entire article in the email. This practice will generate traffic on your blog site from people who might not normally think to look there. You should also use a third party mass emailing service like Constant Contact (see Arrow-Tip #7 Mass Email Campaigns) so that your domain does not get blacklisted as spam and you can track statistics on who clicks through which links in your newsletter.
Now we get to the glamorous side of social networking: twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – all those great sites you most often hear associated with social media. I recommend starting with LinkedIn if your customers are businesses as opposed to consumers since it is the most professional who’s who site. Facebook is a must for business to consumer interaction and it has the added advantage of amalgamating feeds from several other sites. Twitter will feed most other social networking sites and it is especially easy to update from your smart phone or browser, but you have to be patient since it takes a while to get the gist of it (see My Twitter Strategy). There are also many great industry specific social networking sites which you might want to check out for your customer profile – if you sell running shoes, you might want to participate in DailyMile for example.
Whichever social media site you become active in, remember one golden rule: DO NOT PONTIFICATE! I rarely follow a twitter profile that does not have @ replies in the feed stream (replies to other people’s tweets). Remember social media is about conversation and interaction – if you use it like traditional push marketing, you will be disappointed with the results.
There are Only 24 Hours in the Day
Social media can be very overwhelming and if you let it, it can become a huge time-sink! You absolutely have to have a strategy i.e. a set of goals of what you want to get out of social media participation and a set amount of tactics to reach those goals. Set aside a period of time each day or week to participate in social media and then be disciplined about logging out.
One great resource I use to condense my social media research is Nutshell Mail. Nutshell Mail allows you to combine emails and other communication from social media sites as well as things like saved searches on twitter or twitter list streams into one email sent to you at whatever intervals you choose. Since I maintain profiles for multiple clients as well as myself, it has been a life saver for me.