What should you do first? Which sites are the best ones to use? What do you even say once you get there?
After all, no one wants to waste a lot of time doing things the wrong way for too long. The list in this post is meant to act as a resource for you – providing you with tips and ideas for getting started with social media for business, as well as social media content writing.
Something to keep in mind: while many of these tips are based on experience, everyone’s social media experience is a little bit different. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to figuring yours out. Following some guidelines is one thing, but don’t feel like you could or should get it absolutely right the first day – or even the first week or month. Social media is constantly evolving and changing.
Just because you can jump right into social media doesn’t mean that you should. Do a little bit of planning and researching in advance. You’d be surprised about how it can end up making all the difference in leading your accounts to success in the social sphere. Try out some of these ideas as you prepare to begin your social media journey.
1. Be absolutely certain of what your brand stands for. It’s really difficult to represent yourself on any social media platform if you don’t have a firm idea of what you’re representing. This is something that I wish I would have known when starting out. I jumped right into Twitter with no real idea of what my personal brand was or how I was going to use it. As a result, it was a really slow start for me.
2. Figure out your brand voice. You want this to be consistent everywhere from your social media platforms to your blog and your website. For example, is your brand voice fun and laid back, or is it more formal and straight-laced? Will you show a sense of humor or leave the jokes at home? Know these things going in so that you’re consistent from the start.
3. Make sure you know your audience. Know how they talk, what they do, what they like, what they don’t like, their interests, and so forth. Most importantly, know where they are on social media. How are they using it already, and how can you align your social media objectives with that?
4. Investigate different social media platforms. Do this so that you know which ones will be best for your needs. Twitter and Facebook are probably going to be givens because those are the staples of social media right now. But maybe you’re interested in networking with other professionals or businesses, so you check out LinkedIn. Perhaps you’re interested in spreading your authority, so you check out LinkedIn Answers or Quora.
This is an important step that is often not taken seriously enough. There are countless social media sites out there. When I first started, I made the mistake of joining a bunch of them with no real plan or idea of how I’d use them. What ultimately happened was that I ended up abandoning a lot of those efforts because I wasn’t finding a good use for them. Had I done my research appropriately, this might not have been the case.
Will this take some work? Sure. But take it from me: it’s worth it to do the work now so that you don’t waste time on dead-ends later.
5. Decide on your social media goals. In other words, don’t just create a social media presence because you’ve been told that you should. Take the advice, but also have an idea of what you hope to accomplish with your accounts. For example, are you looking for brand awareness? More followers? Social media-based conversions? Know what you’re looking for ahead of time so that you can tailor your content once you get started.
6. Research other accounts to follow. For me, it helped to consider social media – regardless of what I was doing with it – as a networking activity. I looked for accounts that belonged to the bloggers I loved reading and the businesses I thought were doing great things. What accounts will provide you with useful information? What accounts might be good for eventual collaboration? Who is sharing the best content? Who will interact with you?
Remember: there are a lot of “big names” and self-professed gurus and experts out there. When you first start, a lot of people will recommend those accounts to you numerous times. While many of them are fantastic people to follow, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. Find some accounts on your own. I promise, when you find the good ones, it’s like having a secret no one else knows.
7. Decide what kind of social media content you will create and share. How do you plan to craft your messages? This will be a lot easier to determine once you know what your brand voice sounds like. However, there are still things to consider.
For example, people strategize when it comes to link placement in Twitter updates. They strategize about how long to make those posts so that they can be easily re-tweeted with comments. They choose hashtags carefully. They tag specific followers or other accounts on Facebook. How will all of this factor into how you create your content? Social media content writing isn’t easy, but when done well, the effort and planning pay off through social media-based conversions.
8. Decide how frequently to post. There’s a really delicate balance on social media, and it varies by site. You can post 10 times a day to Twitter and it’s absolutely fine. But if you post 10 times in a single day to Facebook, you’re going to start annoying people.
Choose a posting schedule that works for you, but understand that you might need to tweak it as you get into it. For me, I’ve found that two or three Facebook posts a day are the max. This still elicits a response. If I start posting more than that, I just become noise.
Twitter is something else. You can post there pretty much as often as you like, but make sure you’re contributing something. If all of your posts are pointless updates, no one is going to care.
Something to consider with all of this is when your audience is most likely to be online. Once you know them, you’ll start to figure out when they’re spending the most time on the Web. You can then schedule your posts to suit.
9. Read through the terms of service agreements. I get it – no one really likes to do this. But if you’re going to be regularly using a site, you should really know how it works and what’s expected of you. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently violate the terms of service and have your accounts suspended. That just looks bad for business.
10. Plan for the balance in content. One thing people definitely don’t appreciate in social media is someone who just shares his or her own content repeatedly. Make sure you’re sharing other items of interest, as well.
Consider this: if you post to Facebook three times a day, maybe two of those posts are outside content and one of them is your own. If you research accounts to follow before you start, you’ll already know who is sharing the best content that you can share with your followers (but always make sure you read it first).
Section 2: As You Get Started
You need to understand a thing or two about the art of social media content writing, which is something you’ll get better at as you go. Don’t worry if you feel a little bit like you’re flailing through this first day (or the several after that). Most people feel the same way! Here are some ideas you can use as you go through your first day using social media platforms.
11. Choose personalized account names wherever possible. Keep them uniform from platform to platform (and this includes your website).
Continue reading below:
If you have a longer name, figure out how you can shorten it in a way that still makes sense to people. Another role that I have is that of managing editor for Business 2 Community. That’s a pretty long name and sometimes it needs to be shortened to fit a character limit, but it’s done in a way that you can still tell who we are:
The point is to go with the whole name when possible, but when you must shorten, do it in a way that makes sense, and keep that shortened version the same across platforms.
12. Choose an appropriate default image. If you’re a business, you’ll probably want to use a logo or some other kind of branded image. If you’re an individual, you want a headshot. Ideally, this should be a professional headshot, but I realize that’s not always a possibility. If it’s not, make sure the image is just of you.
Yes, that picture of you and your best friend at the beach might be really nice. If you can crop it so that it’s just you, go for it. But if there’s going to be a random hand, arm, side-of-the-face, or any other indication of another person in that picture, don’t do it.
13. Make your cover photo count. Facebook Timeline gives you the chance to add a cover photo – a large header image – to your profile. This image shouldn’t be text-based, nor should it include your contact info, URLs, or any kind of promotional activity (in other words, no saying, “’Like’ us on Facebook to enter our free sweepstakes to win!’”).
It’s fine to have some text – you’re probably going to want to have your company name on there somewhere, after all. But you don’t want to use that space to write a paragraph or go in for the hard sell.
Need some ideas? Here are a few to consider:
A picture of your team
An expanded version of your logo (be careful doing this if your logo is also your default image, as that is set into the cover photo)
A photo of something created using your product, a la Kraft Foods
Your company slogan set over an image
A collage of brand images, a la Coca Cola
It’s important to remember that Facebook cover photos are 851×315 pixels. You can choose an image that you already have in an album somewhere, or you can create one to upload. Please keep in mind that if you choose an image that isn’t properly sized, enlarging it to 851×315 is going to make it look super pixelated and… bad. Consider adjusting the sizing and enhancing the photos in a photo editing program first.
14. Start adding people. Particularly with Twitter, it’s very easy to go on an adding frenzy. When you look up, you suddenly realize you’re following 1000 accounts.
When you’re first starting out, be realistic about how many people you want to follow at first. Target potential accounts ahead of time so that you know you’re going to be seeing quality information in your feeds. On my first day of Twitter, it suggested a bunch of celebrities to me. I followed a lot of them, and soon found myself scrolling through all of their updates to get to something substantial. Eventually I deleted them all.
Save yourself the time and add quality accounts at the start. See who those accounts are following and use that as a way to discover more great content.
15. Start interacting. When you see something interesting come through your feed, comment on it. Look for compelling conversations that are based around hashtags (these are often specific Twitter chats) and jump in.
Be aware, however, that you might not see an incredible amount of interaction when you first start. There are countless stories out there about people who gave up on social media because they felt like they were talking to themselves all the time. It’s very slow-moving at first and it takes a while to build a following. It took me about five months to break 100 followers, but within a month of that, I had 200, and it kept growing from there.
So be patient and don’t give up. For every story out there about someone who quit because they felt like no one was listening, there is another one about someone who waited it out and saw a breakthrough. Keep at it. Keep trying to engage others in conversation (to a point. If you try several times and don’t hear as much as a peep from them, move on to someone else). Eventually, with time and consistency, you will see that breakthrough.
16. Use tools to help make sharing content as easy as possible. Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and BufferApp are all great places to start. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to manage several accounts in one place, as well as to schedule posts ahead of time. BufferApp allows you to create a queue of posts to go out at pre-set times so that you’re never without content to share. You can also install a bookmarklet to make it easy to add content to your queue from anywhere on the Web.
17. Start sharing content. Pace yourself, though. We already talked about finding the kinds of content you want to share and the balance between your own and others’, but also remember to pace yourself. If you’re posting all of your content at one time in the morning, you’re alienating followers that live in other time zones and may not be at their computers when you post. And the sad truth is that not many people scroll back very far in their Twitter streams to see what they’ve missed – especially if they’re following hundreds or thousands of people.
Don’t be afraid to repeat posts throughout the day to accommodate those in other time zones or those who may have missed the post the first time. Make sure, however, that you’re mixing your posts up. If someone checks out your account as a potential one to follow, they’re probably not going to want to see that you tweeted the exact same thing out four times in a row, back-to-back, over a span of twelve hours.
One more thing: when you’re sharing someone else’s work, make sure you give them credit, as well as credit to the site where you found the material, if possible. For example, if you share this post on Twitter, you might write something like this:
“23 Things for Day One of Social Media by @writingrenee via @content_money.”
18. Be present to follow up. This is one of the worst mistakes social media users make. They spend a ton of time crafting content, creating posts, and taking time to schedule them. Then, when someone comments, they’re nowhere to be found in order to respond. They were presented with the perfect opportunity for interaction and engagement and didn’t take it.
This is especially important to remember if you’re using automated tools, such as the ones I mentioned above. While those are helpful in managing the content that you wish to share, they won’t take the place of actual interaction with your followers. Make sure you check in at least a few times a day and write back.
19. Thank people who share your content. There are a few different philosophies on how you should do this. Some people think it’s acceptable to tweet to each person individually. This could take all day if you have a lot of re-tweets. Others say it’s fine to send a tweet to a few people at a time and thank them. And then there are those who say you shouldn’t make your gratitude public, lest you appear to be showing off. Those people say you should send private messages. The problem there is that not everyone who shares your content is following you, so that’s not always possible.
Sharing their content is also a great way to say thank you. Whatever you decide to do, stick with it.
Section 3: As You Go – Preparing for Day 2 and Beyond
I know, I know. This post is about Day 1. But what better time to consider Day 2 and beyond? Remember: all of this gets easier and smoother over time. The more organized you are in your efforts, the simpler it will be.
20. Add some personality to your accounts. We talked about establishing your brand voice already, but know that you will continue to develop this and figure it out as you go. Don’t feel like every post you share has to include a link. Ask your followers a question. Comment on an event that has nothing to do with your business. Show that you’re a real person with other interests, too. Even as a company, how will you respond to the world around you?
21. Finding time. We all get swamped with work and find it difficult to find time to sleep, much less maintain an active presence on social media sites. If that sounds like you, build the time into your schedule. Take a few minutes in the morning, a few over lunch, and in the evening to catch up and reply to any comments or messages. “A few minutes” can be as long as you like; it will still make a difference.
22. Investigate other social media platforms. I mentioned that Facebook and Twitter are your staples. As you become comfortable with them, you will likely want to build a social media presence elsewhere, too. Investigate sites like LinkedIn and Google+ – two other very popular sites. Look into SlideShare or Storify. Learn how to create a channel on YouTube for your brand purposes. Read up on social media so that you have an idea of what will be the most useful channels for your purposes.
23. Remember your life outside of social media. We’re quickly becoming a culture that, because so many of us work online, has a difficult time putting work away and quitting for the night. There’s always something else to do, something else to read, another post or email to write or respond to. If you want to be effective with social media, you have to allow yourself some time away from it. Otherwise, you’ll get burned out in this fast-paced world.