You’re overwhelmed. You think you have it all under control, but you don’t. You’re confused, frustrated, and you’d just as soon give up as go on, because you’ve signed up for every friggin’ social network there is, and you barely have enough time in the day for bathroom breaks let alone checking in on your 15 nephew’s activities on Hi5. If you’re in this boat, please stand up. (Don’t really stand up. I can’t see you. Technology hasn’t advanced far enough.) You’re standing up because you don’t know where to start.
The answer is simple – start with what you care about.
I know, I know – I think it’s a peachy idea to “claim your name” on a bunch of sites, making sure you have consistent info and pics on each, but that doesn’t mean you have to run yourself ragged trying to keep up with the Joneses on 50 different sites. Engaging in social media is the kind of thing you have to want to do. If you treat it like a chore, it’ll quickly fall down the list of other “tasks” you feel forced to do. It’s really cool thinking about how many different ways we can listen, communicate, engage and influence online, but for heaven’s sake just slow down.
Think about it in terms of two key things:
1. What do I enjoy doing?
2. What do I care about?
Social media is a buffet. It’s cheap, it’s loaded with choices, and there’s no right way to eat – you’re not going to make yourself a plate that looks the same as the one made by the morbidly obese guy with a mullet and a Molly Hatchet concert tee with the sleeves cut off. Since you’re not going to eat it all (at least not right away), start with what you like. If you like taking pictures, start with Flickr. If you like Facebook, learn more about what you can do on Facebook.
By playing to your strengths at first, you’re going to find after a while that you WANT to experiment with other sites so you can expand your experience (which will, in turn expand your ability to connect, build trust, and earn influence – bonus!). Bottom line is: If you don’t enjoy using it, you’re not going to use it. (notice how the bold font “important-izes” it? That’s by design, so you can take better notes!)
Once you’ve found your “in”, begin thinking about what interests you. What can you connect with people about? Maybe it’s sports, or movies, or where you live, or where you went to school, or your love of David Hasselhoff. More than that, maybe you care about what you do (You do, right? Don’t make me look stupid). No, I don’t think you should be all business all the time, but if you love what you do, you’re going to talk about it, and it’s going to be a part of your interactions online (I didn’t want to bold this whole sentence but it’s important). How business-oriented you are is going to depend in part on how much you care, and also to a certain extent on the culture of the site you use. How you interact on LinkedIn is not how you interact on Facebook which is different that how you interact on Flickr/Youtube/Twitter.
Let me be clear: this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strategy if you’re doing this for business – you’re not skipping through a field of pretty flowers. You’re networking, building relationships and adding value. Social networking (or any networking, for that matter) requires more day-to-day effort than traditional marketing methods – you’re constantly monitoring/responding/engaging (this doesn’t mean every second, but you do have to spend some time. Yay time management skills!). If you’re not interested in doing it, you won’t. Social Media CAN’T be something you HAVE to do – it must be something you GET to do – more privilege and responsibility than chore. It’s all about having the proper mindset.
Right? (This is the part where you provide feedback below).