I’ve already made the case WHY leaders need to utilize social media, and WHO specifically needs to be representing their organization. Chances are, you comprehend the WHY and understand that the YOU is well, you.
Let’s talk about how to get started. This isn’t going to make you an expert, but it will help you start out the right way.
First, Figure out who you are. I’m not getting all existential on you here, but you need to start with a clear sense of identity. Understanding who you are and what your message is all about is key because social media is about both listening to others and communicating your message. Every blog you post, every photo you pin, and every tweet, status update, and vine clip is communicating who you are. Everything is cumulative; think for awhile if posting those funny cat pictures is really who you are or want to be.
Start Small. Large organizations and famous people generally have a well oiled communications machine going online, with a presence on several social networks and a website that looks amazing. They also probably have access to tens of thousands of dollars for developers, graphics, and staff to manage their accounts. You on the other hand, are probably going to start with… less. The good news is that “less” is probably all you need. So start small. Start with maybe one social media account, like Twitter or Facebook and start listening to people and sharing your own story. Don’t overreach. Here’s why…
A consistently updated account becomes a place people go. And an account that sits idle for weeks gets unfollowed, ignored, and otherwise not taken very seriously. My favorite people online aren’t all famous people. They are people who have caught my attention because they post on a consistent basis and their content matters to me. This is true on every type of account: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, a blog, etc. This is another reason to start small. What good are a bunch of social media accounts if nobody, including you, ever looks at them? Never underestimate the power of out of date information. If the IRS website had last year’s dates on their website during this year’s tax season, you’d be concerned. If a car company was advertising older model vehicles instead of the newest models, you would steer clear. If a church handed out bulletins from a few weeks or months ago on a Sunday morning, you would think they were not a place your family needs to be. Keeping your online content up to date is not an accomplishment. It is the bare minimum.
Actually respond to the nice things people say to you online. Ignoring a compliment is just as bad as arguing with every random internet troll who posted a poorly spelled negative rant on your blog or Facebook timeline. Society doesn’t always sling compliments around as much as the throwing of online Molotov Cocktails. When someone compliments you, show appreciation. Say “thank you” on a regular basis. Seriously, if you’re too busy to say “thank you,” you’re either wildly successful, or terribly unhealthy. People will generally connect with someone who is “listening” to them. So, in case we aren’t clear: reply to tweets, engage on Facebook, respond to blog comments, and always, ALWAYS answer your email.
Share what you want, when you want. Just make sure it makes sense. Hold off on the cat pictures and avoid arguing with strangers. Unless cat people are your audience. Figure out who you are, use your social media presence to communicate it to your audience. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the restaurant business, the medical field, a pastor, a mechanic or whatever; you can tell your story and engage your audience. Notice that I said YOUR audience. Daily Star Wars jokes, quotes from Doctor Who, and other nerd humor will resonate with a specific audience. Pictures of healthy food, motivational photos of joggers, and pictures of your favorite tofu recipes will likely connect with another specific audience. Share what you want, when you want. Just make sure it makes sense with who you are.
And Do It Right. Typos make us all (at some point or another) look really stupid. We’re conditioned to give more grace for some typos than others. A typo in a blog post can be overlooked. But if you spell your organization’s street incorrectly on the website, you’re doing it wrong. Dead links and incorrect email addresses in a tweet or Facebook update can be explained. But the same mistakes on the “Contact Us” part of your website will show us you need help, and we’ll forget all about seeing you as the expert. You absolutely cannot have typos in your personal or company bio. That shows us that when you’re at your best, at the very core when everyone is watching, you’re not really paying attention to what we see. Do it right. Use the freaking spell check. And have someone else proofread. If you find a typo on my blog, I will address it and give you credit. If someone finds one on one of your sites, will you do the same? Or will their comment sit there for a few months until you log in…
This isn’t going to make you an expert, but it will help you start out the right way. Start connecting with people and telling your story!