Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tips for tackling social media

I've had the opportunity both through my previous post at the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce and more recently as a downtown enthusiast to offer some social media classes.

My seester gets a huge kick out of this, because in late 2008 she was still extolling me to get on Facebook, and I vehemently refused.  Alas, she was right.  Social media speaks to me, and it is a no-brainer for my personality type - I relish keeping up with all the trends.  Because I dove in so enthusiastically when I did take the plunge, I became something of an evangelist.  It also gave me an opportunity to save others the trials and tribulations of figuring it all out by offering a crash course in how to use these tools.  I like nothing more than to see a small business thrive thanks to ingenious use of one or more of these tools. 

And frankly, I find it a smidge disappointing that so many folks are snide about it.  No, we're not all going to stop writing with pens and pencils, forget how to send a handwritten thank you note, forgo all face to face meetings for online connections and stop leaving our homes because we're staring at screens all day.  Yes, it's easy to go overboard, but in an ideal world the very best social media users turn out to be (gasp!) outstanding communicators in all contexts.  Some of my very favorites (examples: @ghidotti, @elisemitch, @guykawasaki, @rahafharfoush, @kylesexton, @chrislmarsh) all turn out to be absolute rock stars when it comes to the various arts of public speaking, top-notch written word, branding prowess and all around great people.

In celebration of the idea that tech tools are a fabulous addition to a marketing arsenal which includes an understanding of how to connect with others, create partnerships, build relationships, appreciate kind works and generally make the world a better place, here are a few of my unsolicited tips:
  1. Hone your social media skills just as you would your outstanding written communication or interviewing skills. 
  2. Don't abbreviate, use excessive acronyms and trendy lingo or speak in a way only a handful of others would understand.
  3. These tools are intuitive.  Don't stress about using them the "right" way.  Just dive in - you'll find yourself able to navigate them with a little time and common sense.
  4. Don't hide or protect your updates.  If you're truly fearful of the world, social media may not be right for you.  It's ok to do this at first while you get comfortable using Twitter, blogs and the like, but then it is time to step out into the real world.  It will be ok.
  5. On Twitter, follow thought leaders.  Connect with these folks via LinkedIn and Facebook as well.  If they're the kind of people who get your wheels turning 90 miles an hour when you're around them or you aspire to meet them, connect with them and reach out to those they admire as well.
  6. Consider social media your daily dose of inspiration.  It's the online equivalent of those tear-away (gasp! the waste!) calendars with a daily quote.  When you hop on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your tools of choice for 15 minutes at the beginning and end of the day, for example, it can redirect your energy and inspire you if you're connected to the right folks and organizations.
  7. Who should I follow?  In addition to thought leaders, try your professional and trade associations, your peers and colleagues, definitely your competitors, people and companies you admire.  Pick an ad agency or two for inspiration, and a handful of news outlets for updates that won't overwhelm you.
  8. These are conversational tools to supplement (not replace) your marketing efforts.  It's fun to see folks at those real, face to face, old-fashioned networking events with their @username on their name tag.  Shake a hand in the real world, and connect with them later online to keep the conversation alive.
  9. What are your goals for social media?  Here are a few ideas: customer service, maintaining awareness of your brand, keeping up with your competition, monitoring trends, providing timely updates, engaging inactive customers or supporters, providing a positive voice and a conversational tone, maintaining top-of-mind awareness of your organization or cause.
  10. Variety is the spice of life.  Please, please, please don't be one of those people who tells me you had oatmeal for breakfast.  While I may love and care about you, I don't care unless it's some earth-shattering oatmeal.  Don't feel compelled to keep your updates "work-related" or on just one topic.  People find you interesting as a human being because of your intricacies, various interests, your job and your hobbies.  Tell that story.
  11. Be humble.  It's not about you (although it really is).  Trust me - folks who mention their customers, post interesting articles and share good news rather than ranting like a car commercial about their deals, their sales, their company and their news have something figured out.  They are intrinsically adding value and gaining a following in the process.  Mimic their success - sincerely.
  12. Be circular.  If you're using Twitter, mention it on Facebook.  Encourage people to follow your blog through LinkedIn.  Place links for all the tools you're using on your website and in your email signature.  No one will find you if you don't offer them a roadmap.  Be shameless in inviting others to follow you, asking for connections and so forth.
  13. Finally, embrace these tools rather than looking at an online presence as a chore or duty.  It will show if you're just doing it because you think it is what you're supposed to do.  Have a little fun with it!
So, for the few who care, there are my unsolicited tips.  Obviously, I believe these things can all be used for good.  Just give it a shot.  Let me know if I can help!