I hate to sound like an old man, but having been involved with social media on the business side for eight years now. I’m as much of a veteran as you’ll find. I’ve dealt with international powerhouse brands and mom-and-pop HVAC installers. All had various levels of success (any social media nerd who tells you they’ve only had HUGE SUCCESSES is lying their little hearts out.) Very, very few had instant success – and those were the bigger brands who had already built a following simply through their products.
For everyone else, there was one key factor that made the difference in the ones that became successful and the ones who now sit dormant: personal commitment. YOU have to be the one to log on every day and post relevant content and engage in dialog, which takes some doing. If you find the benefits for yourself first, it’ll be so much easier when you put your brand out there.
That’s why I say the most important first step for any small business owner looking to get into social media is to try it out personally. Sign up for a Facebook and get the full experience of adding friends, liking pages (aka being marketed to), even play Farmville or one of those games. Open a Twitter account, find people you know and celebrities you like. Tweet about your plans for the day or the great TV show you watched last night. Jump on Pinterest and post a bunch of pictures of food and vacation spots. Have fun with it.
I moved to Utah from Oklahoma a few years back and was wildly depressed with my new surroundings. I began writing a blog in 2004, and fell in love with the idea of publishing my thoughts without an editor to scrutinize every word. Then came some networking features on Classmates.com, followed shortly by MySpace. Now I’m paid to help people get on these networks.
Immerse yourself. It’s the best way to learn, and the best way you’ll:
- See how other brands market will help you market your own
- See how crowds behave, trends form and memes pass – will help you understand the different mindset of the social media world
- Learn the language and tricks like hashtags and link tracking in a low-risk environment
- Develop a personal taste and sometimes even an addiction (48% of the 18-34 generation open Facebook first thing in the morning. Crackheads.)
If you find you like it, then logging in every day and spreading the word about your business will be that much easier. One of the great benefits to social media is you can mix the personal with the business, so integrating your personal streams alongside your business streams is something I encourage. Grab Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or another social media dashboard app and mix all your accounts into sorted streams.
Here’s a dirty secret:
The social media gurus who write books and get paid thousands to speak at conferences? They’re just regular people who got in early and devoted themselves to the medium. They didn’t get degrees or special certificates in social media. Most of them are just former PR/marketing folks who signed up for an account, goofed around, then had a light bulb click on. They’re great at putting things into words and marketing themselves – that’s all.
They all started out using social media on a personal level. You should try the same.