Social networking is not a tactic or a quick fix. It’s an ongoing strategy, a conversation and a form of community. It’s relationship building – and it takes time. I do not have a silver bullet or a crystal ball that will give you results. But, I am going to tell you how you can get started and how you can maintain your efforts without the crash and burn that I see so many people experience. Follow these steps to get going!
Identify your target and your goals. Who has an interest in the product or service you provide? Which geographic location are you targeting? Any specific industry or skill set? Take the time to drill down. This is critical for breaking through the noise! Also, consider your goals - what do you want to accomplish on social media?
Determine your social media channel (s). First, consider which social media channels you already use – and how you can leverage them to find your target. If you’re a LinkedIn user, you may want to join some of the groups or try to play around with the search tool to see how your target may be using the channel. If you’re a Twitter user, try typing a few items in search or research a popular hashtag for your target. Set up some lists and start watching what’s being tweeted.
If you’re not currently active on social media, have no fear! You may want to do a little research and see where your target audience spends their time. Also, consider that you can also search by keyword of any of the social media channels and monitor the conversations. With enough effort, you’ll find where it is you may want to start.
Get your profiles in working order! Make sure that your social profile(s) are up to date and complete! Be sure you have a recent photo and accurate contact information. Try to complete the profiles as much as possible, so that contacts will have a sense of knowing who you are, before they’ve even met you.
Build your community and integrate! Did you go to a networking event recently? Meet someone new? Consider sending him or her a LinkedIn connection request or following on Twitter. This is a simple ways to integrate offline marketing with social media and build your audience.
Engage! This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s time to get active on the networks by becoming a member of the community and providing thoughtful contributions. Here are just a few ideas:
• Participating in relevant discussions on LinkedIn
• Monitoring and responding on tweet chats
• Reading, sharing and even commenting on the blogs you subscribed to
• Tweeting about and tagging companies that are relevant to your target
This takes time and effort. How much time? Well, that depends. It’s easy to push it off and it’s just as easy to get sucked in. Start with 10 minutes a day and monitor the interactions.
Once you feel comfortable and you’re starting to gain traction, go ahead and rev up to 20 or even 30 minutes. A word of caution, though - be careful not to spend more than an hour (in one sitting) on these activities or you could risk sacrificing progress and productivity. There’s a lot of eye candy on social media and it’s easy to get distracted. Set a time limit for yourself, if you need to, but do get started! Relationships don’t happen overnight, but the sooner you dip your toes in the water, the closer you are to generating sustainable relationships that will lead you to your end goal.
Keep at it! It’s easy to get busy and forget about social media, especially when there is no tangible or immediate result. The key here is to track your progress over time – and stay the course. You may have to make multiple shifts in your approach, but you’ll know when you’re making leeway and when you’re just wasting your time.