In our world inundated with social media, it can sometimes be difficult to separate fact from fiction.
From folks online claiming that they can get you 5,000 followers in ten minutes (they can, but please–don't do that), to self-proclaimed social media experts giving advice you're not sure you should follow, it's easy to get caught up in trying to figure out exactly how you should get started publishing online.
The good news is–and yes, we're saying this as a company that manages social media for businesses–the main elements of social media aren't as complicated as many people think. The principles behind social media are pretty easy to understand; where the difficulty comes is in execution.
Don't let the excess of information prevent you from getting started. Here are four fairly basic things you should know about managing your social media:
- You need to start with strategy. Everything else you do in your business is (I hope) informed by a strategy, so why wouldn't you treat social media the same way? Don't get on social media without a strategy to help drive all of your actions on social media. At the very least, determine: your target audience, what your competitors are doing on social media (and whether or not you want to imitate them), what you want your key messaging to be, and what success looks like for your business on social media. Your strategy will help construct your day-to-day plans for execution.
- Social media takes more time than most managers think. For managers who are unfamiliar with social media, social media tends to conjure up images of a slacking tool, or a time waste. Throwing together sloppy tweets about #followfriday may not take much time, but daily execution actually requires a significant investment of time. From tweeting a handful of times per day, to posting on the rest of your social media accounts, to following people and managing ad campaigns, and staying up on best practices (not to mention time spent curating good content), social media isn't something you can do for your business in the time between meetings or over lunch. If you want to have a solid presence online, be ready to commit some real time to execution.
- Social media for businesses and individuals are very different things. Is social media great for selfies, hashtags, cute kitten contests, and connecting with friends? Absolutely. But there's so much more to social media than the ability to connect with friends. For business, social media can help with sales, as well as recruiting, boosting brand awareness, and more. If you want to start managing your social media, take time to familiarize yourself with how businesses use social media–you can open up a world of opportunity with the great tools that social media offers.
- Rigor and consistency are essential. We tell clients that it's worse to have a social media page that's been inactive for six months than it is to not have one at all; in such a case, your pages are nothing more than a monument to your inability to follow through. In the same light, tweeting twice a day is better than tweeting seven times in one day once a week. No matter what your business does or what you're trying to accomplish on social media, getting results takes real legwork and consistency. Be ready to follow through even when it seems like an inconvenience, as inconsistency kills otherwise great social media.
While there's certainly a lot of information out there about social media, the hardest thing is getting started and staying consistent. As we've mentioned before here on the blog, social media hasn't fundamentally changed the way we communicate–it's just greatly increased the scope of our communications. If you can take the time to educate yourself (it doesn't take long), you can get started down the path of establishing a great presence for your brand.
Don't let the wealth of information keep you from utilizing the great power of social media. Instead, use it to your advantage, building off of basic principles like those mentioned here and making your social media presence great.
There may be a wealth of information, but it all exists for good reason. Social media really is one of the most powerful communication tools we have at our disposal today.
John started from the bottom with social media. He's Managing Editor at Social Media Contractors.