Becoming active on social media can seem scary to many people: What will they talk about online? What will other people think of them? What if they do it wrong?
The truth is that the active social media community is a pretty easygoing group of people, partly because they all started out at zero knowledge.
Yes, each and every one of these people had to start off by joining one social media group and filling in the information required. Next came the step of observing what other people were doing on that site. Then came slowly and carefully starting to interact on the site.
Indeed, interaction is the name of the game. Social media is effective as a tool for creating relationships by sharing information. It is NOT a public address system for blaring out why people should buy your products or services.
One reason that fear may be holding you back is that you may unconsciously have a closed mindset to learning new things. You may say you want to learn new things, but your mind says differently.
If this description fits you, get a copy of Carol Dweck’s book MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS to encourage your mind to change to an open mindset to learning new things.
Another important point is that you do NOT have to be on every popular social media site. You need to consider which social media sites are best for connecting with your target audiences and which sites seem to fit best with your personality or time schedule.
For example, to be effective on Twitter it is best to commit to tweeting (one tweet is 149 characters or less – not very long) several times a day most days a week.
Now there are third-party tools such as Hootsuite that can help you do this by scheduling future tweets to go out automatically. Still, effective participation on Twitter does require paying attention to what is going on between your account and the account of others.
Facebook can be good for people who have a lot of friends for their personal Facebook profile and can leverage these friends to encourage engagement on a Facebook (business) Page (formerly known as a fan page.) Facebook also does not require daily updating in order to run an effective social media marketing campaign. But once a week is not enough engagement.
Google+ is the newest major site at this writing, and Pinterest appears to be the fastest growing site at this writing. While I am on both sites, I have not yet personally seen the relationship building that I see happening on Facebook, Twitter and on LinkedIn with groups.
LinkedIn in my opinion is a definite must for any business person starting out. And this is the easiest site on which to start because you can even use LinkedIn functions to upload your resume to your profile account.
Then, of course, you should immediately add a good headshot and start seeking recommendations from people with whom you have worked.
At the same time, start joining groups related to potential audiences for your business or topics on which you would like to learn more. The discussion threads in a group can be very powerful as well as very good exposure for you and your brand. (LinkedIn tip: To create a hot link on LinkedIn you must use the http:// )
If you are not yet using social media to connect with your target audiences, now is the time to start slowly with one site and, as your confidence grows, add another site to your repertoire. When you want a tool for updating several of your sites at once, consider the free or paid option at Hootsuite.
And remember, while you always want to post in good taste (this is your professional reputation), do have some fun with your social media activity. Your target audiences will appreciate seeing your human side.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter and Pinterest) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is the co-founder of the online marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com She is also the author of HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE as well as other nonfiction and fiction books – visit www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com