Getting Started with Social Media

Wat Arun temple

Let me say this loud and clear – I am not an expert on social media. Neither are most of the people who are charging high consulting fees and proclaiming themselves to be so – just read Rob Bowen’s excellent article on the subject and you’ll understand what I mean by that.

Social media is new. It’s developing. Companies are growing and failing daily in this arena. Nonetheless, there are some things I’ve observed having been active in social media for a year and a half now (longer than a few other “experts”).

I know that freelancers, companies, and organizations are lining up for information on how to get involved – I talk with them quite often.

If your knowledge doesn’t really extend beyond email, here are some of what I would consider to be your “next steps…”

1. Don’t put all your eggs in the basket of social media. I start off with this one on purpose. People online like to talk about the “social media revolution” and that this is the “wave of the future.” True. Social media may kill newspapers after all, but the reality is, you probably still have a large customer base not on Twitter. Keep marketing in the ways that work – you can be a student of the future at the same time.

2. Visit the following four sites and complete the following five steps on each (where applicable)…

  1. Twitter
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Facebook
  4. Friendfeed

and the five steps…

  1. Join. Pick the same username at every place, and make it match your brand if possible.
  2. Set up your profile and don’t be arrogant. Be personal and touchable.
  3. Link them together and link them back to your main site as much as possible.
  4. Join groups (particularly LinkedIn and Facebook) that pertain to your niche and add some friends with similar interestes.
  5. Observe for a minimum of one week. Don’t sell. Don’t link to anything. Watch. Listen. Learn.

feed3. Subscribe to feeds. It’s easier than it looks. Sign up for Google Reader. Then when you’re on a site that offers valuable information about your niche, look for the universal sign of an rss feed’s presence, the feed icon (see the image on the right). Click it and “subscribe” in Google Reader. Now every time you open Google Reader, that site’s new content will be waiting on you. It’s like email, but so much better. You don’t have to read it all and if you get in too deep, “mark all as read” and restore the sanity to your life.

4. Start giving. That doesn’t mean you have to give stuff away, it just means that you need to establish yourself as a giver, in general. Pass along helpful and meaningful information. Add value to the lives and livelihoods of others. Support people. Help people. Encourage people.

5. Build a community (aka, a tribe). After you’ve observed quietly, and after you’ve contributed something to others, then and only then do you have my permission (though I’m really not an expert…) to ask for anything. When you start asking for support, be reciprocal.

Here’s an article with some tips for connecting with more people on Twitter

6. Explore the vast and wide-open space that is social media. In time, you’ll understand why I “share” Google reader items, “stumble upon” great links, bookmark resources in “delicious,” and pass along inspirational things via “Posterous.” But all of that will come in time.

7. Have fun. He who dies with the most friends on Facebook should have had more of an offline life… and yes, he still dies.

By the way, I could be dead wrong about all of this, but it’s what I did about two years ago. I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference… or something like that.

photo credit: wirralwater