How do I get started in social media?

As the presenter of The Social Media Show, this is a question I get asked a lot.

The main thing to realise is that social media is a doorway to connect with people, not a way to bang out cheap marketing. It’s not about mass communication.

Many businesses approach social media as a way to get more sales and that’s why 60% of them get no results at all.
The very best form of marketing is word of mouth. These are recommendations from people who trust you, to people who trust them.

If you approach social media as a way for people to get to know, like and trust you, it will work.

Treat it the same way you would face to face networking and you’ll get the best results.

This means that you have to be you, a real person with a real face and a real character, personality, beliefs and values. It’s not about brand awareness so forget the logo and bland automated messages. Be real and you’ll attract people who like you and want you to work with them.

While you’re using social networks you can listen for opportunities to help people, either by offering your own services or recommending other people in your network. You can keep an eye on your competitors. You can connect with existing clients and provide fantastic customer service. If you attend events you can use the hashtag the event organisers suggest for the event and connect with other attendees and form relationships.

More than anything it’s a great way to demonstrate your business ethics and values and create trust, the pre-requisite for any sale.

Social media is not about mass communication. Most people join social networks to have fun and talk to friends, not to be sold to. 90% of people who “like” a Facebook page never see that page again so think very hard about investing time and money there. Instead, use social networking to draw people onto your own website by having great content there.

Large organisations that report success in social media are those that encourage all employees to use their personal accounts to connect with other people in the organisation as well as with customers and to use social media in exactly the same way as a business owner. This requires a high degree of trust and the adoption of an “open” business culture. Look out for more and more businesses adopting this strategy.

Don’t throw away your natural advantage as a small business owner by trying to be “corporate” when large businesses are trying to be more personal!

Ann Hawkins is the owner and presenter of The Social Media Show and interviews the world’s most successful social media strategists.

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