How to Get Started
Jonathon Crow commented when he first started going onto networking sites “It feels like I just went into a single’s bar and shouted ‘will someone be my friend?!’”
It can be scary getting started.
It can also be a disappointing experience, taking a lot of your time for very little reward.
However, you need to remember building relationships online is no different to building them in the real world. It takes time to find people you like and trust, and then it takes more time to get to know them.
1. Have a Business Goal
Before starting out you must ask yourself “why am I doing this and what do I want the results to be?” Be clear about your commercial goals. If you don’t have a website which sells something or promotes your services get one setup. Try these services:
• Website publishing tool with built-in membership, paid subscription, ability to display ads, simple shops and affiliate links, try SubHub (www.subhub.com)
• For an ecommerce service for selling physical products try Volusion (www.volusion.com)
2. Build Your Profile on the Most Important Sites
Build your profile on Facebook and LinkedIn. These are the two most important sites for the business community. Start building your list of friends by contacting people you know well.
3. Start a Blog
Get a blog up and running and make a commitment to yourself that you will keep it updated at least once a week, preferably daily. You don’t need to always write long feature articles, but make sure what you do write is valuable to your audience. Make your blog posts highly focused on your niche subject. Don’t dilute the content with stuff about your family and hobbies.
Make sure your blog links to your commercial website without promoting it too aggressively.
Services you can use for your blog include:
• WordPress.com – www.wordpress.com – the world leader. Simple and flexible (paid)
• WordPress.org – www.wordpress.org – free software you can use to set up your own blog. Needs some technical expertise (free, but you will need to pay for hosting)
• Typepad – www.typepad.com – fairly simple. Blogs look professional
• Blogger – www.blogger.com – free and very easy to setup … but inflexible
4. Start Becoming Visible
Once you’ve got your website and blog set up it’s time to get visible.
Start by participating in the most relevant blogs and forums. Make thoughtful comments which build your credibility. If appropriate, link to articles on your blog.
Whenever you make a comment ensure you link to either your blog or commercial website (or both) in the signature.
5. Settle into a Routine
Don’t try to conquer the social media world in a week. Get into a routine with your blog and a few key sites. Start networking and building your list of friends.
6. Monitor Your Community. Expand Your Visibility
Remember it is better to participate regularly is a few sites rather than spread your expertise thinly across a lot of sites. However, you should continually keep an eye on what is happening in the broader community that impacts your niche.
The best way to do this is to set up tools that help you monitor a lot of blogs, forums and websites, with the minimum of effort. The tools you should consider are:
• Netvibes – www.netvibes.com – create your own home page with feeds from your favourite sites
• Google Reader and iGoogle – www.google.com/reader – a single place where you can setup your own page with information from lots of online sources
7. Focus on Your Credibility
Once you have started to make your presence felt you will start to build a list of followers. This is the time to focus on credibility because you have people who will listen.
• Take articles from your blog and publish pages on Squidoo, Hubpages, Wikipedia and eHow
• Setup a Twitter account and start Twittering
• Join and become very active in any directly relevant communities
8. Enjoy it!
The reason why SMM has become so successful is because so many people enjoy being part of these online communities and mixing with people around the world who share their passion.
Evolve your SMM activity in a way that ensures you enjoy what you’re doing.
Most SMM etiquette is common sense:
• Never spam
• Help others with advice and support
• If you’ve got nothing to say, say nothing
• If you don’t like the direction of chat, either be constructive or walk away. Avoid arguments and insulting people
• Remember, whatever you publish on the web is there forever. Think before clicking ‘publish’
SMM is important, but it is not some sort of magic bullet that will suddenly propel you or your company to stardom.
In fact, it is dangerous to call it marketing. It is closer to customer service, than it is to marketing and sales. It has to be driven by a real desire to help others, with no guarantee of receiving anything in return.
You can’t jump in and out; it requires immersion and continual participation.
Most people underestimate the resources, time, dedication and passion it takes to build relationships across multiple communities.
But, if you persist, you will be rewarded.
Reputations take time to build, but once built they become opportunity magnets. As the old saying goes ‘success breeds success’.
Lastly, it is worth saying; social media is not a passing trend.
It will evolve and change, but online networking will become as much a part of people’s lives as the phone and email. You and your business will have to embrace it one day, so you might as well get used to it now.
Appendix 1 – A List of the Most Popular Social Media Marketing Websites
I have mentioned in this article the sites and services that I think you should focus on. However, if you want to have a look around the web at what is happening in the social media space, here are some further sites to look at.
Publishing Websites and Services
• Flickr – www.flickr.com – Photo publishing and sharing website
• Twitter – www.twitter.com – Micro-blogging service
• WordPress – www.wordpress.com – Managed blogging service
• WordPress (free software) – www.wordpress.org – blogging software
• Typepad – www.typepad.com – Managed blogging service
• Wikipedia – www.wikipedia.org – world’s biggest user-created online encyclopaedia
• YouTube – www.youtube.com – video publishing and sharing website
• Google Groups – www.google.com/groups – online groups covering thousands of subjects
• Squidoo – www.squidoo.com – site for publishing expert articles
• Hubpages – www.hubpages.com – site for publishing expert articles
• Yelp – www.yelp.com – online review website
• Amazon – www.amazon.com – eCommerce site with the ability to write reviews
Sharing Websites and Services
• Slashdot – www.slashdot.org – news site for techies
• Digg – www.digg.com – bookmarking and aggregation site
• Socialmedian – www.socialmedian.com – bookmarking, discussion and aggregation site
• StumbleUpon – www.stumbleupon.com – bookmarking and recommendations site
• Newsvine – www.newsvine.com – news aggregation site
• Skirt – www.skirt.com – news site for women
• Reddit – www.reddit.com – bookmarking and aggregation site
• Fark – www.fark.com – news aggregation and networking website
• MySpace – www.myspace.com – world’s biggest social network. Tends to be more focused on younger generation
• Facebook – www.facebook.com – world’s second largest social network. Older member profile
• Bebo – www.bebo.com – social network. UK focus with younger members
• LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com – networking site. Business focus
• Eons – www.eons.com – social network for older generation
• Gather.com – www.gather.com – social network
• Hi5 – www.hi5.com – social network
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