I’m sure it’s obvious from the Black Hole comment in my last post on this topic, that I am definitely NOT and expert in Social Media Marketing. I am only interested in passing along what I’ve found so far. Also in that post, I mentioned I’d share some tools to help with Social Media. There are “tons” of them and they are growing every day. So this post is not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination. I’m sure that some of you will already find other tools as or more useful. My intention is to share with you what I’ve found so far and leave any “improvements” for future posts. After all, that’s what this is all about, right? Sharing useful information.
I’m going to switch gears here a little bit. In Part 1 of this post, we were focused mostly on who’s on social media and spoke a bit about how employees and customers are using social media. The implication was a “larger” organization where there are a fair number of employees about which we might have some concern over the aggregate time spent on the internet and social media. In that kind of organization, there may well be a person or small team of people who are assigned the task to develop your social media presence and who can manage the content for you. The switch here is that I now want to address the smaller firms, like my own, where I will have to either do the work our outsource it to another company. In my case, I choose to outsource some of the design work, and then to do most of the ongoing work myself, partly to reduce the expenditures, but mostly because I like doing the work. For me it’s a challenge and it’s fun!
As I listen to all the “experts” (have you noticed there are Social Media experts everywhere now?), the start to all this is no different than any other marketing or advertising campaign – you begin by defining your goals and strategies. For me that meant deciding what I wanted for a look and feel (brand) for what I put in public. Then start with a website. Get some help if you’re not good at design and communication. Remember this – it’s not about you on a business site, it’s about the customer. So if you don’t like a particular layout or way of doing something, and the professional designer has discovered that your target market does like that kind of layout – guess who wins! If, like me, you’re doing this on your own, then you will have to learn as you go. Now if you need or want a robust e-commerce site, you will want to have it designed by a professional in a separate package like Dreamweaver, Joomla, Net Objects Fusion, Expression Web or some other highly flexible package. If this is a simple site and you are doing it on your own, you may want to consider one of the packages above to author the site or you may even want to consider using a Blogging software such as WordPress. Most Blogging software will allow you to put up “pages” that are static and simple – home, about, etc. So a simple site can take advantage of that and the Blog itself becomes your website. Either way, think through your goals and strategies and get your website up and to your liking.
The next step is to get a Blog up and running. Here is where the fun, and danger, begin. I have not done extensive work reviewing all the various blog software packages. I use WordPress and like it very much. I’m told that it is by far the most popular of the packages out there and I can see why. Whatever package you choose and use, the fun of blogging is that you get to write about things that interest you and about which (hopefully) you’re passionate. That’s also the danger. You can find yourself spending lots of time if you’re not aware and watching. For some folks, this is just like a gaming or gambling is for other folks. That could definitely be the problem for me. That’s why the “black hole analogy.”
I won’t go into an elaborate discussion about what you should blog about. In a business context, I believe the blog should have useful content. Something that people will find interesting and useful in their own business. In my case, I try to share what I’ve learned about business leadership, management, personal growth, etc. Your business may be based on products and so you can share about the industry around that product, perhaps some unique ways the products are being used. Remember though, this is useful information not an advertisement. Stay away from tauting your own features and benefits. The best way to get a feel for this is to read a bunch of blogs hosted by your competitors or folks in similar industries that are already up there on the internet.
If you have the bandwidth, consider doing a simple, useful monthly e-mail newsletter. Again, there are many ways to do this. Constant Contact seems to be very popular. I use a free package that requires some technical savvy to install, but once installed I can send e-mail newsletters without the monthly fees. I don’t recommend my way of doing things to most people though. Instead, choose a package that is simple to use and doesn’t require too much technical expertise. What goes in the newsletter? I find I can expand on topics from the blog or invite colleagues to guest write an article. I read a great deal, so I do book reviews on business and leadership topics. It’s fun, creative and I hope at least somewhat useful to those who bother to read it.
Okay, so now you have your web site designed, perhaps a newsletter and a blog hosted on the internet. An aside: a true business entity (in my opinion) has it’s own domain. An AOL e-mail address, or ISP address (like @cox.net, or @sbcglobal.net) do not cut it. You must have your own domain – firstname.lastname@example.org. In WordPress, I can work on a post, get it the way I want it and then schedule it to post sometime in the future. I have chosen, for entirely arbitrary reasons, to post twice a week – Tuesday and Thursday. So as mentioned, I try not to take time out of the productive work day to do this. Instead I work on weekends or other “off hours” at my convenience. Yes, it’s still my time regardless of when. And yes, it’s still costing me because of that. However, like most small businesses, employees (including the owner!) wear multiple hats. I choose to look at my time as investment in branding/marketing, and I choose to do it myself rather than to outsource it. You can choose to outsource it if you like, but you (or an employee) will still need to invest the time to provide content, edit, etc.
What’s next? Your site is up and your blog is up. Most professionals will need to be on LinkedIn. Think about the public image you want to present. Most social media sites request/require a profile. So far, everyone I speak to who has some sense of what’s going on in this space suggest that you have a common, consistent profile on all the sites. Especially for those persons in transition, you don’t want to have a different image presented from Facebook to LinkedIn. As mentioned, many if not most of the professional recruiters and retained search firms will look up candidates on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites to see what they can find out about them beyond the resume submitted. You will want to be there and be found. As a business, you will want to be there and be found. And remember that the internet never forgets. So be thoughtful about the image you create for yourself on this very public medium.
Twitter. What the heck is that? Well, many folks describe it as a “mini-blog.” A person is limited to entering 140 characters, so you can’t say much. People choose to follow you and you follow others. You will want to pick a “serious group of people to follow” if you’re doing this for business. That will in turn generate “serious followers.” What do I tweet? How often? The answers to those questions will be up to you. For me, I stick to sharing links to useful information I find when I’m reading news on the internet (I no longer read printed news on a regular basis). I try not to point people only to my own material – this is not selling! You will find what suits you, but you will have to spend some time reading and “lurking” on the various sites to get a feel for what you might want to contribute.
Personally, I have limited myself to web site, blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and a once per month e-mail newsletter. I have tried to be as consistent as possible with the profiles. You can choose more sites if you have the interest and bandwidth. For “branding purposes,” I was also able to match the look (background) of WordPress, e-mail newsletter and Twitter to that of my website. Unfortunately, it seems to not be possible to alter the look of Facebook and LinkedIn.
Whew. Enough for now. Next post will be about some tools I’ve found to help me minimize the time and work keeping all these things current with new content.