When first exposed to social networking, most professionals marvel about how social is “free”. But is it really free?
Sure, you can sign up for all the major services and start interacting at no cost. You can engage without any financial investment whatsoever. But is it truly free?
Simple answer: No.
Social media requires time, effort, and dedication to get right. You can’t just launch a blog and test it out in a week or two, or even a month or two. You have to commit for the long term. Anything less than six months is a waste of time.
Since social media is the product of the interactions, you have to be present and active to get value out of it. What is an hour of your time worth? That’s the cost you invest to participate in social media.
Many small businesses want to ignore the channel altogether when they realize it is not actually free. But that is the wrong answer. Social media marketing is absolutely worth the investment, no matter how little you can commit. If you have no other options, start reviewing consultants or agencies, and vend the entire program out to someone who already knows what they are doing.
For those of you who want to manage it yourselves, the following are five tips to help you dip your toe in the proverbial pool before taking the plunge.
Top 5 Tips for Getting Started with Social Media
Get on one or two services and watch how others interact at first. Over extend it and you will find yourself overwhelmed in short order. Take baby steps before you try to run a marathon.
Do not hard-sell your followers!
What is the best way to get yourself permanently ignored? Get on social media and do nothing but pitch everyone who will listen. There is a time and place for pitching. Casual social media relationships are the wrong places to do it.
Engage with like-minded professionals
Search out people in your industry and see how they use social media. Make notes of what they are and are not doing right. Exchange ideas, content of interest, and even referrals. You will be surprised to see what a little “pay it forward” turns into over time.
Think like a customer
People are not on social media to be sold to. They want to come to you when you say something that piques their interest. Keep this in mind in your interactions. It is also a great way to influence opinion, reinforce your brand or personal brand attributes, and establish expertise in your niche. While thinking like a customer, always think long term as well.
Become a trusted source
People participate in social media for content and interactions. Position yourself as knowledgeable in the space. Share your content and curate that of others. Be the provider they will call when a problem arises – the person who proves his or her expertise when the customer is not ready to buy!
Social Media is important, but it most certainly is not free. Regardless of your experience with it, you simply cannot ignore social as a marketing or relationship-building channel. The five tips above are a basic blueprint for getting started.
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