We’re On Twitter: Now What?
Five Tips to Get You Started with Social Media

We hope you’ve taken our earlier missive to join the social media conversation to heart. If so, then congrats–you’ve taken the first step towards making your business more connected and more relevant. But it doesn’t stop there. Simply having a Twitter account and a Facebook Page isn’t enough to reap the benefits of social media.

Chris Brogan kicked off a great conversation on how to use Twitter for business, and one particular point stands out strongly: “Without a strategy, it’s just typing.” That’s a common criticism of social media and it holds true. Letting your Facebook or Twitter account lay fallow 95 percent of the time except for an occasional Tweet about the awesome latte you just had is about as useful as the Nordic Track collecting dust in your garage.

There’s no one-size-fits all approach for getting the most out of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But there are a few key steps that you should take in order to close the gap between idle chitchat and real social media strategy.

Participate in Relevant Conversations

The main Twitter stream is a giant melting pot of everything and nothing. It’s a million conversations on a million different topics from a million different perspectives. Hopping in and chatting about your sector at random will be dismissed as nonsequitir. Instead, take time to familiarize yourself with trending topics and identify strong voices in the discussions you’d like to join. Oftentimes, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to get the conversation rolling in a direction that’s relevant to you and your product or cause. For example, if you’re into home improvement, it makes sense to see what’s happening with @HomeDepot before trying to stir up a new, competing conversation.

Show Your Human Side

While branding is important, you can’t have a conversation with a company logo. Avoid keeping things strictly professional on the social media channels. Feel free to share pictures, brief updates on social happenings and a funny story or two about your family members. Talk to people about their interests and chat about your hobbies outside of work. This shows that you’re actually engaged in the community and that you’re listening and talking back on a personal level.

Build Relationships Now

It’s completely disingenuous to pop up on the scene just in time to announce the launch of your new product or website. It’s a bit like introducing yourself to your neighbors for the first time in eight years and then following it up by asking them to watch your dog over the weekend. Followers and fans have to believe that you are invested in them before they’ll be invested in you. Start reaching out to customers, associates and other organizations in your field now, so when you do have that big news you won’t seem like a shill.

Promote Others

Karma isn’t perfect in the social media sphere, but it helps to get on the radar. Give unsolicited praise where it’s deserved and be sure to promote people, ideas and articles that you enjoy. First of all, it’s beneficial to the conversation at large. But just as importantly, it encourages others to pay it forward. The next time you crack out a gem, they may be more inclined to give it a thumbs up and help spread the word.

Analyze Return on Activity

It’s hard to tell if all of these hours of tweeting and Facebook updates is really worth it. In some ways, it’s a bit like putting a message in a bottle and sending it out to sea, hoping someone, somewhere reads it and heeds it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are valuable tools for analyzing the traffic and conversions that your social media activity garners, such as URL shorteners, campaign trackers and goal analytics. Use them wisely.

Summary

Social media isn’t a silver bullet for Internet marketing, and if it were one, you’d still have to aim carefully and pull the trigger. Taking initiative and signing up for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites is a commendable and important first step. But the next step is to forge a strategy, execute it and analyze your returns. Otherwise, your social media presence will be nothing but a stationary bike in your attic–without a strategy and a routine, you’ll never see results.