You’re in a room with hundreds of people you don’t know very well. You’ve come to this conference on business, and you don’t do this often. It’s hard to know what to say to people, or who you should even talk to. Sometimes the vast amount of social networking going on these days can have the same level of uncomfortablity, and we’ve all been in this situation.
Every new social media network is like meeting people you don’t know.
It can seem so daunting to even think about approaching them. Who has time to cultivate an audience on one site, let alone the hundreds of others that are out there? How do you decide where your audience actually matters?
The answers to these questions, I’ve found, is much the same as a good approach in new social situations. You have a lot of people to communicate with, limited time, and not much knowledge of who (or which, in this case) to approach first. Our topics today are social media, networking and cultivating a target audience.
The Social Media Conundrum
The best manner to approach the problem of social media is by identifying the aspects that you struggle most with. The next step is also a realization that networks like Facebook or Twitter are not just devices for casual communication, and you’ve probably seen how businesses take advantage of the opportunity. Website and content owners can do much of the same, and may even have a better social media advantage than a typical business.
Because while typical businesses are attempting to specialize in marketing themselves online, you have so-called share in what exists online because you’ve created some of it. There’s a lot of power in what you publish on your site, so it’s just about beginning to find out where and when to make it known. In this article I’m going to introduce you to strategies and tools that turn social media networks from foreign lands to a comfortable home.
Let’s talk briefly about how to get yourself in the right mindset for working with an audience online. These are tips to keep in mind throughout the tenure of your social media use.
Your Biggest Network isn’t Always Best
Chances are, you’re already on some social sites. Whether or not you’ve begun utilizing them for your business isn’t really important. What matters is how you can do this most effectively. Most people believe that their biggest networks are inherently the most successful ones. While this is usually the case, I would encourage you not to assume.
Let’s say you’ve got 2,000 followers on Twitter, and 500 friends on Facebook. You really like Twitter and share your content there all of the time, but no one really notices. Facebook, on the other hand, garners “likes” on everything you do – from life events to simple updates.
In this scenario, you always want to begin speaking about what you do to the audience that already gives you the most back. In other words, if a large audience isn’t an engaged one, it isn’t worth much.
Be a Professional
When it comes to thinking about becoming a true force in social media, you have to start by envisioning yourself in that role.
What do you dislike about how some people conduct themselves online? It’s easy to post anything on a network, but should you really?
You’re not going to get anywhere with an audience if you don’t begin by acting like you already know what’s important.
For our purposes as content curators, we are responsible for using concise and intriguing language, exhibiting knowledge in our fields and working hard to avoid alienating others with unnecessary opinions or provocation.
It’s simple. Know what you’re talking about, and be aware that others are using these tools, too.
Making Social Media Transitions
Once you master certain areas of social media, you’ll find yourself not only becoming more comfortable but looking for new challenges. It’s easy to become complacent, but if you’ve become really successful on one network, you can certainly do it on another.
You’ve already acquired the right skills, you’re going to know a lot more than you did before about how to begin; and in general, the top social media sites have a lot in common. Don’t be afraid to make that jump when the time comes, because you’ll only spread your influence when you do.
Tackling Social Media
Let’s get right down to the execution of social media marketing now that we’ve established a good train of thought for each network. The actual practice of using them will vary, as you’ll establish approaches that work better for different platforms.
Facebook, for instance, is a different beast than Twitter or LinkedIn.
Let’s talk about some strategies you can use to cultivate an audience on these three networks. To keep things within reach, it’ll just be networking basics for each.
Following each will surely allow you to grow your influence and your audience, respectively.
Just remember that tackling social media one network at time will be the most productive, as you won’t overstretch yourself early on.
- Create a page dedicated solely to your endeavors. It can relate to your business directly, meaning you can have multiple pages for each of your projects, or you can cover all of your bases as a public figure with numerous projects all on one page.
- Market these pages to your friends by sharing your goals, the content you publish and promotions that allow people to easily become involved and interested in the things that you do.
- Connect and make partnerships with other businesses or projects. This means reaching out to pages like your own. Making connections like this creates a cycle of positive feedback and inspiration. Another plus is that those competitors that you assist can help you in your own endeavors. Try sharing some of their content when it also relates to your own and see if they reciprocate. There’s also nothing wrong with contacting the page administrator and asking if they’d be interested in cross-promotion between brands.
- Make a decision about using a personal profile, business profile or both. Each requires specific attention, and if you’re trying to save time I would recommend balancing your personal tweets with content from your site. Think of it this way. The more profiles you have to manage, the harder it is to capture the engagement of one audience. If you are going to set one up for your website alone, be sure you are actually posting there with meaningful updates that connect with your followers.
- Retweet, follow, rinse, repeat.
- Retweet – You should be on the lookout for content that is similar to your own and you should be promoting it. This is much like making connections with other pages on Facebook, only Twitter might be more advantageous because it is a community where people are more often aware that someone has helped promote them. The potential for them to help you in return is much greater in this arena.
- Follow – The dynamic here is quite similar. Follow those with similar interests, and give back to the people who have retweeted you by following them. You will find that the more people you follow, the more likely people are to return that favor. It’s best to keep your follow ratio at 2:1 at the most in the early stages. For example, if you have 250 followers, you should only be following 500 yourself, which leads to our next point.
- Rinse – Twitter has a problem with spammers and undesirable content, at times. It all depends on what you want to be associated with. Check your follow list often to be sure you have only connected yourself with accounts that are active, appropriate and professional to some degree. Obviously, not everyone is promoting their business on Twitter, but you should be aware of who you’re connected to.
- Tweet often. I cannot stress this enough. The key to Twitter is consistent activity, and this goes for all aspects of its capabilities. The more you’re involved with a network, the more it happens to grow – especially when you’re actually engaging them.
- Make use of your profile description. Make sure it has a link to your website and a hashtag or two you’d like to be associated with in relation to your content. Finally, include a link to your other Twitter accounts if you have the room. It’s a short amount of space to work within, but you’ll also become better at communicating in a 140-character environment.
- LinkedIn is sort of a combination of Twitter and Facebook. It’s maintains the more developed profiles that you see on Facebook, but has content similar to Twitter. Because it is a “professional” network, you’ll want to make sure you make lots of connections. You never know when the right person will see your work.
- Fill out your profile. It does matter in the long run, because people are more likely to connect with a person who took the time to develop their information effectively. This can also benefit you greatly because LinkedIn allows you to feature work history, projects you are involved in and areas of expertise. Take advantage of the opportunity to brag about your accomplishments in a respectable manner.
- Join communities. Something slightly unique to this network is its social groups. I never really see people talk about them, but they’re oh so important – arguably one of the better features the website has. Use them to your advantage by joining open groups that are related to you and your work. Additionally, join social media groups that allow you to share your content or promote your pages. I cannot stress enough that that these groups have huge audience potential, and will help your network reach other professionals in the same content areas. Share new articles to these groups often, as they are added to a stream that all members can see.
I recommend starting with the network you are most comfortable on. This allows you to break new ground without also trying to learn how to navigate a new social platform. Your transition between networks will then be much easier.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Good.
I don’t blame you. I do, however, believe that a few hours spent exploring at least one network with big audience potential is better than constantly wondering how to begin.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you’re in too deep. It means you’re ambitious, and it means you’ve got a lot you want to accomplish. You just have to set priorities and divide your goals.
This is the time to take advantage of everything in front of you. Here are some basic questions you can ask other people when starting a network. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
- Could someone help me construct a Facebook page?
- Do you think my Twitter profile could use improvement? How can I make it better?
- What’s missing from my LinkedIn page? Anything people should know about that I haven’t included?
- What experiences does everyone have with social media in an online business? Any tips?
- What are some “best practices” for general social media management?
The purpose of questions like this are about more than simply answering your own concerns. They allow people to see that you want to improve your brand, your content and your attention to detail. The more people you can involve in your success the more they’ll promote your cause. It gives people the chance to say, “this matters to me.” That’s the power of social media.
Taking Your First Step
If you’re this far along and you’re feeling like you’re ready to begin exploring the potential of the social media realm, remember that obstacles do not mean failure. The more you reach out, explore and attempt to engage the more you will receive attention that is both positive and constructive.
Challenge yourself today by beginning this journey. You can create, apply knowledge and improve your communication with an audience that could very well become the backbone for feedback, traffic and growth on your website. As you make progress, be sure to start including links to your networks on all platforms.
Promote all of them on your website and mention new ways to connect as you develop your networks. The more each platform becomes intertwined with one another, the more developed your networking skills will be.
I realize how much information this is, and digesting all of it at once is no easy task. Take a break now and do something fun. When you resume your life online, try something new and see where it takes you. You can only learn from doing something differently than you’ve done it before.
Think of this as your breakout conference, where instead of worrying about who to talk to and not knowing anyone, you go out there and make connections that matter. Who knows, you may end up like me, one of those crazy people who actually enjoys this stuff.
Got questions, concerns or personal experience with social media? Tell me in the comments below! I’ll do my best to offer help or feedback on your situation. Happy networking!