Every week I get asked the question we’ve all asked ourselves when it comes to participating in an ever-growing number of social media networks: “How do you do it?” To many social media enthusiasts, this is often a very personal question, and one we have figured out on our own terms.
After trying to answer the question as it means to me, I’ve figured out that the people who are asking the question really couldn’t care less about how I use social media. What they are asking is how can they get started and use it well.
I’ve boiled down the typical conversation to this list of the first 5 things beginners should do to get started using social media.
1. Set goals: Figure out what you want out of the tool. Do you want to get the latest headlines? Connect with friends? Build your personal brand? Look for career opportunities? Discuss shared interests? Share photos or videos? What you want out of the social media experience will help determine how you approach the next steps.
2. Pick your poison: A common mistake of social media newcomers is they want to play in all of the sandboxes at once: a daunting task for any user. Once you have an idea of what you want to gain from the use of a social media network, then the choice of which one you should join becomes clearer. You don’t need to pick them all; start with one or two and really get to know them. Here’s a great infographic covering the strengths of some of the more popular tools.
3. Sign up and build your profile: Your profile is a great opportunity to share the essence of who you are and what you are contributing to the social media community. If you fail to add a proper photo, background, biography, real (or believable) name, etc., you are limiting the ability of others to find you through the social media tools themselves or search engines. A full profile establishes a level of credibility and trust which encourages other other users to. For example, here’s my @David_Hall Twitter bio:
Communications & PR Pro – P/T Algonquin College Professor – Social media enthusiast.
Passionate about managing traditional & social media for @algonquincolleg
It doesn’t include everything about me, but it gives a good snapshot of my main personal and professional interests that I will be discussing on Twitter. Never underestimate the importance of a full profile.
4. Sit back and listen: Once “you are in” start poking around and experimenting with the tool; see what it does, see what it doesn’t do, and more importantly, observe how others are using it to share their information or content.You will quickly understand the “culture” of the tool which will help your transition to step 5 much easier. Many social media platforms are fantastic listening tools where you are able to crowd-source in real-time to get a good feel of the conversation taking place at any given moment.
5. Join the conversation by adding value: This is where you will sink or swim in social media – It’s all about content and conversations driven by the users. Be real, be relevant, be useful. Share a resource or expertise, ask a question, answer a question, report on breaking news, promote cool stuff, share your opinion on current events, and be sure before each posting to ask yourself “who cares?” If the honest answer is “nobody,” you may want to reconsider.
Final thoughts: Ultimately, social media is about sharing experiences. Pick a tool that best fits your interests. If you want to keep in contact with people you have met in your offline world, Facebook would be a good start. If you are looking for the latest information, breaking news, connections with thought leaders, and a place to share your experiences in a common conversation, Twitter is your first step. Start with LinkedIn to augment your professional presence online; and look to YouTube, Photobucket, or Flickr to share and consume user-generated multimedia photos and videos.
Did I miss something social media newcomers should be aware of? Let me know, add your comments.