Not everyone has the time, energy or inclination to keep up with what’s going on in social media. So if “everyone” is telling you that you need to be on social media, here’s a primer on where to start.
Facebook is the gold standard for most businesses. One billion people are on Facebook as of October 2012. If it were a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world. It’s quick, easy, and FREE to set up a Page for your business (though it’s NOT free to maintain an effective social media presence—it takes time, energy, and professionalism).
Pro tip: PLEASE DO NOT set up your business on Facebook as a personal profile. It’s against Facebook’s Terms of Service, and it doesn’t offer you the business features that a Page does. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, do a search on Facebook to see if a placeholder page already exists. If it does, you can click to “claim this page.”
Twitter is not the “flash in the pan” that many business owners anticipated. Imagine publicly broadcasting your text messages, and you’ve got Twitter in a nutshell. Although each tweet is only 140 characters long (about as long as a standard text message), they can be very powerful. Twitter is a great way to build relationships: you can start a conversation with anyone who has an account. Tweet chats are hugely valuable: imagine a virtual mixer centered around a topic that’s relevant to your business; many users come away with valuable new contacts, people who they may never have met in real life, and who go on to be important influences on the way they do business.
Pro tip: When you’re starting out on Twitter (with all social networks, actually; they each have their own culture), it’s important to LISTEN first before jumping in with both feet. Use the search function to look for keywords relevant to your business and personal interests, like “Norwin,” “real estate,” or “marketing.” You can also search for authors and influencers, and follow their tweets.
Google+ (Google Plus) is the relative new kid on the block. It’s Google’s answer to social networking. While some complain that “nobody is there,” compared to Twitter and Facebook, it’s not necessarily the case. On G+ it’s easier to do a deep dive into the subjects that interest you. It’s tightly integrated into Google Docs, Gmail, Gchat, and YouTube. The most powerful feature of G+ is Hangouts. It’s a video chat that can include up to ten participants. If more people want to participate, you can do a Hangout on Air, which streams the hangout live and records it to your YouTube channel for later viewing. With these tools, Google is well-positioned to master social business. You’re able to have a team meeting with people no matter where they’re located, share and work on Google Docs together in a Hangout, and record it all on YouTube for team members who can’t attend live.
Pro tip: Even if you’re not ready to take advantage of these powerful features yet, there’s one very good reason you and your business should be on Google+, especially if you want prospects to Google you: Google prioritizes G+ users in their search results.
LinkedIn is the social networking site for business. Connections lead to information and opportunities to help your career grow. When you join, you’ll be asked to fill out your profile. It’ll be useful to have your resume on hand as you do it, because you’ll be using a lot of the same information. The more complete your profile is, the better, even if it takes several sessions to get it filled out completely. LinkedIn users can endorse and recommend one another, which shows other users what a valuable asset you are to any team. You can even highlight any volunteering you’ve done, special projects, or publications. Once your profile is set up, start searching for connections: former co-workers and employers; people you volunteered alongside; teachers, classmates and professors; neighbors and friends. Some people choose to connect with anyone and everyone on LinkedIn, but my personal preference is to connect with only those who I have met in person or whose work I am familiar with.
Pro tip: To help establish yourself as knowledgable in your field, find the “Answers” section under the “More” menu across the top of the screen. You can find the questions people are asking and answer the ones in your area of expertise.
Pinterest is the newest social network darling. Imagine a bulletin board where you could pin all those little things you wanted to remember that you liked: recipes, gift ideas, vacation destinations, favorite quotes, those curtains that would look FABULOUS in your dining room. Now imagine that you don’t have to look at actual bulletin boards cluttering up your walls: they’re all online! You can create boards according to any system you’d like (color, topic, type…the sky’s the limit). As you navigate the interwebz each day, if you come across something you’d like to remember, virtually collect, or file away, simply “pin it” to the board of your choice. You can also create “secret” boards (by default, boards are public), which would be a great way to organize ideas for a surprise party, for example. You might be wondering how Pinterest could POSSIBLY be of value to your business. If you have a product that is well represented in beautiful photos (food, travel, or fashion, for example), you want to be on Pinterest. Even if your product or service doesn’t lend itself as well to photos, you can still use it effectively to mirror the lifestyle of your customers (Whole Foods is a great example of this). Seventy-nine percent of Pinterest users are women. Users spend over twice as long perusing Pinterest as they do Twitter, and over six times as long as they spend on Facebook!
Foursquare & Yelp are location-based social networks. Users check in when they arrive at a location using an app on their smartphones. They’re able to upload pictures, tips & reviews. Maybe you’re at a restaurant, and you see a hipster at the next table pull out a smartphone and snap pics of their recently-delivered entrees. Chances are, they’re posting those pics to Foodspotting and/or Instagram. Mobile is crucial in social media marketing, and those that are reluctant to embrace it will suffer. People use their smartphones and tablets to decide where to eat, shop and play, and you want to make sure that your business is represented in a positive light. Spend some time checking these websites out to see what people have posted about your business.
Pro tip: offer discounts to people who check in at your place of business.
Every time you post on social media, it puts your name out to your audience, which keeps your business top-of-mind. Also, realize that people will judge you based on your online presence, so be sure to select high quality photos, use correct spelling and grammar, and treat your social media profiles as outposts of your own business. Think of each comment, like, +1, and share as if someone stopped into your place of business to communicate with you. Comment back, and thank people for engaging with you. Remember the words of Maya Angelou: “People will never forget how you made them feel.”