How to go from newbie to natural at social media

by | Dec 15, 2009

Social media is everywhere these days, even in the comic strips. It seems there’s a new social media site every week, and the pressure to get connected can be intense. How do you know which sites to join and where to begin?
Start with the skills you already have.
Believe it or not, you can master social media with skills you already have. If you can talk over the fence with a neighbor, you have what it takes to get connected and develop valuable relationships online.
The first thing to decide is where to hang out. Your social media choices are wide ranging. Should you be on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn? Do you need a Ning site? How about Flick’r and Ecademy and Plaxo?
The simplest answer is to choose one site that seems appealing and give it a try for a month or two. Start by spending a Saturday morning exploring the help section of the site. Click around and find out how things work. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn in a couple of hours without distraction, and this will make the entire experience more enjoyable.
When you feel at home on one social media site, you can add another, or not.
How to choose the right site.
It only makes sense to choose a site where you can be comfortable. Odds are that you have friends and clients on one site or another. If people like you are hanging out somewhere, that’s a pretty good indication that you’ll fit in there, too.
Each social media site has its own culture and style. Twitter is all about speed, brevity, and immediacy. Some people find it irritatingly random and distracting. If you’re one of them, you probably don’t want to start here.
Facebook, on the other hand, has a, to me, bewildering assortment of ways to connect including videos, photos, walls, pages, groups, and networked blogs, to name a few. On Facebook you can post longer and more varied updates than you can on Twitter. Many prefer this site because they feel it lets them connect more fully.
LinkedIn has the most professional feel of the “Big 3” sites. If you want a more buttoned-down atmosphere in which to meet and greet, it’s a good bet for you.
And yes, there are countless other options. Unless you have an existing network at one of the other sites, I suggest you stick with one of these three for starters. Then, as your network grows, you will naturally gravitate to additional communities if they make sense for you.
How to grow your network.
One of the nice things about social media is that you get to choose the people you hang out with. You can search for people you know by name or email address. I suggest you begin by searching for a few friends and clients. In time you can add other people you meet through these connections.
(Note: Many sites allow you to import your entire address book and will search to find matches. In addition, they will send invitations to everyone who is not already registered at the site. Be careful here, especially if you have a large address book. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you send out hundreds of invitations. It’s also easy to look like a spammer if you invite people with whom you have only a cursory connection.)
What to do after you’ve joined a network.
When you’ve opened an account and made a few connections, it’s time to join the conversation. Set aside 15 minutes a day to check in, read posts, and add something of your own. You can lurk for a while, but do chime in as soon as you can. Your little contributions will add up in time.
One of the most important questions you can ask yourself in social media is, “How can I help?”
Social media is one area where the more you give the more you get. And fortunately there are many ways to give. You can answer questions within your area of expertise. You can share resources. You can post inspiring quotes.
Another way to give in social media is to support your friends and followers. Is someone looking for an accountant? Forward their request to your network. Has one of your friends posted a new blog post? Take a few minutes to read and comment on it. When you concentrate on helping others make a good impression, you gain in trust and credibility.
Finally, share some personal touches. Letting people know what you’re cooking for dinner or where you’re going after work can put people at ease. That’s an important step toward building trust and credibility.
You don’t have to be everywhere all the time to succeed at social media. Start simply with one site. Learn it well. Post at least once a day, and be yourself. Soon you’ll have social media “neighbors” aplenty and a lively network to enjoy.
For more help with social media, I can think of no better resource than Nancy Marmolejo. I purchased and used her materials to help promote The Self Employment Telesummit this year and am very happy with the results. To see what Nancy has to offer, click HERE.
(Disclosure: I am a proud affiliate for Nancy and earn a commission on every sale through this link. Thank you!)