Whether it is YouTube subscribers, Facebook likes, or LinkedIn connections, nearly everyone is trying to build a larger network. The skill it takes to be successful at social media is found directly in its name:
Social – the ability to communicate with others.
Media – the ability to use different platforms to communicate.
It is a highly demanded area of expertise, and is one of the fastest growing industries in history.
The methods we use to communicate change constantly. Regardless of what you use – language, letter, phone, poster, email, commercial, or social network – it is essential that you don’t lose focus on the fact that you are a communicator, and you are communicating to people.
Your network should know who you are. Why do millions of Twitter users follow a celebrity who posts few things of substance? That’s simple – it’s because they know who that person is, and have deemed that person worthy of their attention.
One of my first experiences with Twitter was with a friend at my apartment complex. I walked outside to check the mail, and out of nowhere, she stopped me and said “Guess what! Mariah Carey is eating a sandwich right now!” Never had I seen someone more excited about something so useless. My friend was captivated by the hollow words, not because how it was said, but who said it.
Your followers want to hear from and engage with a person of value. This doesn’t mean you have to be a celebrity. The most important people in your life right now probably aren’t famous, but they are someone who you are familiar with, respect, and value. Be a person or business that your network knows and can engage with. Achieving this goal can be as simple as updating your profile, or messaging individuals personally, and not with an automated message.
Just as important as sharing who you are, is knowing your audience. It has become a cliché in business, marketing, and networking to “find your target market” but it is absolutely essential. Are your followers older or younger? Are they interested in articles, or tutorials? Do they want to hear about news, or discounts? Take note any time a particular post you make gets a good response. Keep track of what your followers are talking about and who they are listening to.
The most significant aspect of your social networking is your content. What you say and how you say it – this is the indispensable aspect of having social success.
Post content that matters to your followers, something they can use and that benefits them. People and business often think from the wrong side of the conversation. A mentor of mine once told me “when in doubt in a conversation, talk about everyone’s favorite subject – themselves”. It may seem vain, but people very much look at the content you are posting and immediately ask the question “what can this person do for me?”
Your content should educate, inform, or inspire, not based on what you want to share, but what they want to hear. For example: “I just read an awesome quote by George Washington – what a great leader” vs. “This quote by George Washington is inspirational, insert quote here” Can you see the difference? One is based around yourself, the other around your audience.
The goal of all this is to make your content shareable. Making sure your content is shareable, is the biggest tool for your growth. Let’s do the math on that, shall we?
If you have 100 followers who each have 100 followers of there own, how large is your potential network if your direct followers decide to share your content?
The answer: 10,000 people.
A good indicator that I use to see if my content is good enough to share is the question: “Would I want to share this with my friends or family?” Don’t fool yourself. Just because you have a particular interest in your product or thoughts, doesn’t mean your network will. Think from your audience’s perspective. Are they energetic or tired? Do they want to read a novel, or just the headline? The ability to put yourself in the mindset of your audience is an irreplaceable key to good communication.
Also, never forget to make sharing your content as easy as possible for your viewers. Include links, embed videos, attach files, whatever you are trying to spread, always ensure that your viewer goes through the least amount of steps possible to view and share your content.
When and how often you post content varies based on your audience. If you aren’t using one already, I recommend utilizing analytics tools such as Socialbro to help you find out what time and day of the week is best for you to post content.
Over-posting or under-posting can hinder you; keep in mind there are 2-sides to the coin. I have often heard that too many posts annoy your network and people will ignore you. On the other side, there is the famous saying “out of sight, out of mind”. I tend to lean towards the latter. If you are sharing good content that your followers want to hear, than you can be frequent in your posts. With that, space out your posts so you don’t overwhelm your audience, and they are able to read and interact with each one.
There are dozens of social networks out there, each of which has value. My rule: Go where the people are. There is no harm in expanding to multiple social networks, so long as you can manage them. An often ignored network by businesses is Google Plus (despite it’s hundreds of millions of users). Keep in mind that while some websites and networks are less popular, there is significantly less competition, which lets you stand out much more.
Different people use different media. If you are a photographer or graphic designer, and you are only on Facebook and Twitter, I would strongly suggest that you expand to where your craft is appreciated, such as Instagram or Dribbble.
Get specific with your social networks. For example, one my favorite websites is logomoose.com, a website dedicated to only logo designs – that’s it. Find networks as specific or as broad as you’d like, but keep an open mind about each of them.
Consider areas you haven’t thought of, and forms of content you haven’t used before. Communication doesn’t always have to just be in written form. Consider uploading videos onto Youtube and Vimeo, or images on Pinterest and Flickr. Expanding your use of media will drastically help you communicate to more people, more effectively.
A mistake I have found in most of my clients is they don’t connect their networks. In the name of all things good and holy – connect them! Your LinkedIn should lead to your Facebook, which should lead to your Youtube video, which should lead to your website. Make your website or one social network your central hub, and (along with a solid profile on each of your social networks) include a link back to that hub. This in turn can direct them to any and all of your other forms of media you have available.
I have heard it so many times from people that “you need to manage all those social networks? Who has the time for that?” Truthfully, if you set things up properly, it doesn’t need to be a part-time job managing your social media. Use as many tools as you can find to save yourself time. A website can be coded to automatically share your updates on your social networks. Tools such as Tumblr or Posterous (a personal favorite) let you create one message, and have it automatically post to multiple social networks.
How do you build a large network? – One person at a time. Building a solid network will take time and effort. Often people have to start with their friends and family, and market themselves out in the real work (yes, there is a life away from your computer) in order to get started.
I love social media. Despite Internet “trolls” and “know-it-alls” who insist on correcting my grammar, I very much enjoy engaging with people through social media.
Social media is a powerful tool, a great way to promote your business, get connected, and to share your thoughts with the world.
In time, I will be sharing more on the hands-on ways to improve your social media skills, but for the time being I hope you have found this useful… and shareable.
Check out our previous articles!
- Create Passive Income With YouTube Videos
- Facebook: Redefining Human Relationships
- The Haze of the Blog-o-Sphere
- Google Hangouts – A Creative Way to Increase Your Small Business
- 5 Ways to Earn Money through Social Media
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