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Don’t Be Anti-Social

Do you feel like everywhere you look you’re seeing another story about social media? Are you overwhelmed by the number and variety of social media networks that you can engage with? Do you worry that your business is not keeping up with the requirement to post, post, and post again?

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Let’s face it, we’re in the equivalent of the Stone Age in terms of social media, and who knows how wide and far the trend will spread? But rather than viewing social media upkeep as yet one more chore, look instead at the opportunity that these networks offer: social media is an easy way to communicate directly with your customers, and perhaps even more importantly, for them to communicate back to you. The challenge is to post relevant, thoughtful and consistent entries without it becoming a part time job in and of itself.

Here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

  • Be selective: Which social media vehicles to be active in depends somewhat on your type of business. At a minimum, you should have a Facebook business page (either linked from your personal page, or as a completely separate entity). Facebook launched in 2004 and surpassed MySpace years ago as the leader in the field. The interface is extremely easy to use, and allows for all types of posts, from texts, to photos and videos. Facebook is the main network your customers will visit to learn about updates (everything from a new location, to the special dinner entrée of the day) and to interact with you. It’s also very common to see the little blue Twitter icon on many business sites. Even though Twitter boasts millions of users, and is the second-leading network behind Facebook, it might be tougher to defend why you should maintain a business Twitter account. This comparison from Information Today is spot on: Twitter has been likened to a giant party where you know no one but wish to make many friends. In contrast, Facebook would be a wedding reception filled with family and friends. Read the very enlightening article Facebook vs. Twitter: Battle of the Social Network Stars if you need help understanding how each vehicle is different.

It may not make sense to have a Pinterest or Instagram account if the nature of your business is not visual. But these networks are quickly gaining in usage, and it’s always smart to be in on the ground floor of any new technology. If there anything remotely visual about your business, posting an occasional (say, once per week) photograph to Instagram or a favorite “pin” to Instagram will keep your audience engaged with your business.

Other popular networks should be researched to determine if they are worth the time to stay active in them. Other networks to consider are LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+, Vimeo, Vine and YouTube.

View recent (as of 2014) usage statistics of the top five networks put out by the Pew Research Center: Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms.

  • Create a social media calendar: The most important thing to do regarding your social media networks is to stay active! It reflects poorly on your business if the last time you posted to Facebook was six months ago. If your presence isn’t updated on a regular basis then your followers will have no reason to visit your site or to follow you any longer on Twitter.

So, how often should you post? You don’t want to clutter your space with superfluous or irrelevant posts in an attempt to say something new every day. But a weekly post, at a minimum, should do the trick. If your business has a new project, product, employee or line of business, let everyone know! Share photos and videos of anything exciting that’s happening. If you have nothing to share directly about your business, think about trends and news in your industry or community and share a relevant link or two.

Put together a simple calendar to remind yourself of when you need to post to each of your networks. Adjust the timing of your entries as necessary if the responses that are generated happen organically. Before you know it, you might not even need to follow a calendar.

  • Watch the competition: Take a look every so often at what your competitors are doing. In addition to regularly checking out what the other guys are doing on their websites, be sure to also look at Facebook, Instagram and other social network sites. Not only might you get some good ideas of what to share on your own accounts, but you also could learn what new improved product or service the competition is offering.
  • Keep it professional: Be mindful that social networks are not forums to espouse political, religious or other personal views unless they are your line of business. It may be tempting to send out at Tweet in response to an action of your local congresswoman or the city council, but it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself. It’s okay to post a respectful comment or thought about a famous person, but digs, insults and attacks are off limits.
  • Talk back: Make sure to always answer any comments or questions that warrant your response. Remember, social media is a way for your valued customers to connect with you and if they have taken the time and interest to reply to or comment on a post of yours, or ask a question, you must in turn either thank them or otherwise respond. That’s the whole reason it’s called “social” media. Naturally, you’ll want to ignore anything disparaging or negative that appears on your feed (it does happen). Whichever networks you use, program the settings to notify you of new activity, unless you have the time to check the feeds at least once per day (more frequently with Twitter).