When it comes to social media one of the most common mistakes is to see it as ‘the answer’ - set up a social account and website visitors or customers will come flooding, post some information and the very people you want to attract will immediately see it and respond - Sadly, much as I’m an advocate for social media, this does not happen without a lot of time and effort.
Even before this point, the question ‘why use social media’ is asked all too infrequently. The tendency is just to jump in! It’s free. It’s easy to use. Let’s play!! After that interest sometimes wanes. ‘Why use social media’ is just one of a number of questions that should be asked before launching yourself onto a social platform.
As George Harrison once wrote:
"if you don't know where you're going, Any road will take you there".
My first piece of advice is to forget social media. Start with your objectives, whether they be personal or for business. Whatever your situation set goals, and determine the objectives by which you will meet those goals. Once that is done then you can start looking at social media as one of a number of tools for you to use.
Firstly, ask yourself what social media you should use. Each offers different opportunities as well as the need for different kinds of content, but all will regularly demand some of your time. How much time do you have to spend on social media or, if you're running a business, should you look at employing someone to take care of this on your behalf? It’s not just about posting a message, you need content. That means images, video, or at least links back to your website. To do that you’ll need an engaging website and tools to design, create and edit imagery.
There are many, many different social media channels that you could use, but which will be most effective for what you are trying to achieve? Start looking at the major players - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It is not essential to have a presence on all major social media sites as you will just spread yourself too thinly so my advice is start small.
Dip your toe in the water with a personal Twitter account. See how it works by following people and subjects that are of interest to you. Look at what they're doing with Twitter and who they're following. Post messages and respond to posts you see by others. See how your Twitter network can grow with your engagement and participation.
When (if) you’re ready to apply what you’ve learnt for your business then set up a branded account. Make it visible on your website to encourage your customers to engage with your business, and follow businesses you work with directly, as well as related businesses and individuals. Encourage engagement and look for ideas to help you. It's pointless simply copying content, but ideas provide inspiration. People will only engage with your social media if you are providing useful, informative and occasionally fun content to keep them coming back so be prepared to put the time.
There are no short cuts to having a strong social presence so take your time and know what you’re trying to achieve before you start the journey.