Remember that old video game called “Pitfall”? You had to leap over pits of alligators and swing across swamps and avoid other obstacles. That might be a great analogy for social media if you happen to be new to it. There are a lot of pitfalls and hungry alligators which could ruin your whole day.
So, I thought I would focus today on trying to offer some advice to those just thinking about starting out in social media. I hope this helps and if you have any tips to add, please comment.
If you have the resources than bringing in some outside expertise to help you ramp up on social media is certainly a sound idea. Of course, not everyone has those kinds of resources and that’s who I’m writing this post for. Even so, outside consultants can provide some guidance and the right tools, but you still have to jump in the water (watch out for the alligators!) and learn how to swim for yourself.
I can promise you that at some point there’s a very good chance someone won’t like something your company has done and they’ll talk about it on Twitter or Facebook. Just leaping into that conversation/rant could backfire and that’s why you should do a little learning and a lot of practicing before you take any action.
So how do you get that experience? Well, that’s a damn good question and I don’t have any magic for you here. Learning something such as Twitter is a lot like learning how to play guitar. Your actual lesson only lasts about an hour each week and the teacher then gives you enough homework to keep you busy an hour or two each night till the next lesson. And anyone who’s ever taken music lessons can vouch for the fact that a music teacher always knows who practiced enough and who dogged it. If you dog it in social you’ll get bitten.
Most of us have learned social by doing and I believe it’s the best way. Even if you have a friend who’s a wiz at social, they’ll likely teach you much the same way as a music teacher would: demonstrate, walk through and practice. You can teach someone where the chords are, but they have to practice to get them to make music together.
OK so you don’t have a friend who can teach you and your boss wants you to get all over social media. Assuming you have a basic knowledge of social, the first step you could take is to create a Twitter personal account for yourself and start following those in your industry who have been doing it for a while. What’s working for them and what isn’t? How are they handling negative or critical comments or tweets? How are they engaging people online? How do they leverage social to help drive traffic and conversions? When trying to learn something new, it’s always helpful to learn from the examples of the old pros. Those examples may well include mistakes because just about all of us have had a few of those. Social media moves too fast to know all or be perfect so, the more people you learn from the better your perspective.
Online, lurking is a tried and true method for learning to walk before running — lurking is the duck blind of social media. Many a person has leapt into a forum, Twitter channel or Facebook page without having a good lay of the land and found out the hard way how vicious and unforgiving social can be. Think swamp and hungry alligators!
As well, there are lots of good and bad stories out there documenting social media #fails by brands – a simple Google search will bring up some prime examples. Learn what others have done wrong and then try your best not to do that. Conversely, you can also search for tutorials, whitepapers and tips on using social for your brand. You’ll get a lot of great sites popping up with great info such as err…this one!
To get you started here are a few basic social media tip posts I’ve written here:
Tips on Handling Negative Blog Comments
Tips on How to Handle Negative Tweets
Finding Corporate Success with Social Media
Tweet Tips: 12 Ways to Tweet the Same Thing