Twenty Ways to Make Social Media Work for You

What are social networks?

Social media is a term used for various web-based platforms designed to connect people, organizations, and businesses through social interactions. Users can interact using text, images and audiovisual media.

Major social networking sites include:

* Facebook
* LinkedIn
* Youtube
* flickr

Traditional media (such as radio or newspapers) present a one-to-many paradigm. Social networks present and facilitate a many-to-many paradigm. While the many-to-many paradigm gives individuals and businesses unprecedented ability to reach large numbers at very little (or no) cost, it also means having to compete with many more “publishers” of information. One also has to be particularly sensitive to the different forms of social interaction allowed on each site and the level to which users want to be “prospected” by one for a commercial reason.

making it work

This article will walk you through the basics of making social media work for you and/or your business. Different social networking sites vary in what they offer, their intended use, and etiquette. Here we will explore twenty generalized strategies that can be applied to most forms of social media.

1. Provide useful content

People will find you and let you into their networks if you provide useful content. YouTube, for example, has become a notable source of home “how to” videos, covering everything from how to tie a Windsor knot to how to assemble your own computer. Nobody cares if you promote yourself within the context of those videos or within the context of your YouTube “channel” page.

2. Avoid direct sales

Who among us hasn’t experienced the disappointment of being invited to an acquaintance’s house for an intimate dinner only to find out that the dinner was a way of forcing you to stay to talk at length about why you should join her? multilevel marketing scheme. People join social networking sites to make new friends, communicate with old ones, and discover new and interesting things. A Twitter feed or Facebook news feed that is purely promotional or even a semi-veiled promotion will appeal to few.

3. Don’t let your content get stale

Nothing hurts a business like a “spider web” site, a site that obviously hasn’t been updated since 1998. The same goes for social media. Before attempting to establish your presence on one or more social networking venues, make sure you have realistic resources for updating a Twitter account or your own Facebook fan page.

4. Lurk for a while and then find out

Before you jump anywhere on social media, lurk around for a while. “Stalking” means spending time consuming content provided by others, but you’re not providing any content (messages, posts, “tweets,” etc.) and users may not even know you’re part of their community. Lurking allows you to absorb user culture and avoid etiquette violations that seem obvious to experienced users. After lurking around for a while, you’re ready to “unmask,” which means making it clear to other users that you’re an active member of their community by joining discussions or providing your own content.

5. Make your content portable

Portable content makes it easy for others to spread your message. Consider sites that allow others to distribute your content via RSS or embed code. Be sure to properly watermark your content so others can follow you back to your site for updates or similar content.

6. Use humor

A good and appropriate sense of humor is a great way to raise your profile within a network. Naturally, what is funny to some people may be considered highly offensive to others. It is best to maintain a conservative and respectful mood.

7. Don’t ignore labels

If a social networking site supports tagging (entering keywords), make effective use of the tags. Tags allow others to discover content based on tags (usually simply by clicking a tag) and you’re ignoring a potential source of traffic.

8. Pass on compliments

Instead of telling people how great your product or service is, tell others how great your efforts are. Social media is all about building trust levels. It’s very easy to trust and like someone if they like you first.

9. Ask questions

Who does not like to demonstrate their intelligence in front of their peers? Asking questions starts a discussion, turns people in your favor, and raises your profile within a community. Choose your questions well and make sure they are not answered by an obvious Google search.

10.Answer questions

Many people have questions, but rarely do they get a proper answer. Many “answer exchange” type services provide answers that are either extremely superficial or are just posted for quick laughs. You can raise your profile on any social network by contributing your knowledge and experience.

11. It is more important to be sociable than to be “right”

There’s a classic comic about a guy who refuses to go to bed, despite his wife’s insistence. He discovered, to his astonishment, that someone on the Internet has the wrong opinion and will not sleep until they have corrected the other’s opinion. The best way to ruin your profile is to lose your cool. If something seems to be heading towards a charged debate, state your position, thank the other person for stating their position, and walk away.

12. Make it easy for people to find you

Take a step back and consider how someone else might find you to chat with outside of the social networking place. Are you taking advantage of a bindable signature line? Is there a link to your home page in your profile? Have you set up the site to notify you by email if someone has sent you a private message or followed up on a post you’ve made?

13. Complete your profile

An incomplete site profile makes it seem rushed and without attention to detail. Fill out your site profile to the greatest extent possible. Include anything interesting about yourself that you’re willing to share with others: books you’ve read, exotic foods you enjoy. These things add dimension to your “character” online and can be conversation starters that others use to break the ice with you. Also, try to include an appropriate and complementary image of yourself. People like to look at smiling faces.

14. Take advantage of immediacy

Magazines require you to wait until next week or next month to find out. The newspapers make you read about it the next day. TV makes you wait until 11pm. Twitter lets you read about this while it’s actually happening. People expect the internet to provide the first draft of any event. The event does not have to be a flood or a war. For every person who attends a major conference in her industry, there are probably 10 people who wish they had time to attend. These people would appreciate on-the-ground coverage from someone in their social network.

15. Do not underestimate the intelligence of people

Points 9/10 suggest asking questions or answering questions as a way to raise your profile. Many people are tempted to turn a question or answer into a semi-veiled promotion of their product or service. Avoid these types of tricks.

16. Get a second opinion

you know yourself People who know you know you. But how do people who don’t know you see you purely through your words? What you think is succinct can seem terse or arrogant when the words are not accompanied by vowel inflection. If possible, find someone who has no prior knowledge of you and get an opinion on how you are doing online.

17. People love to read about other people’s problems.

Many years ago there was a computer science column by science fiction author Jerry Pournelle in the now-defunct computer science magazine bytes. Every month, Pournelle would talk about playing around with some new computer he was trying to set up for his wife or installing some new video card in his PC. Polls indicated that people really enjoyed his columns where he found problems. People have an innate fascination when things go terribly wrong for others. Feel free to walk readers through a problem you are having. Just keep it reasonable and free of complaints.

18. Don’t ramble

Twitter of course imposes a 140 character limit which forces you to be very brief. Other sites are quite open. As with all things on the Internet, you only have a short amount of time for a person to commit to reading what she wrote or watching her media presentation. Write in newspaper style, keep the important facts at the top, and answer the five W’s in the first two or three paragraphs. If you’re making a video, YouTube gives you ten minutes, but except for the most detailed “how-to” video, keep it much shorter than that. Movies are limited to scenes that are no longer than two or three minutes.

19. Don’t get too attached to one social media place

The Internet is the classic Red Queen Race of Alice in Wonderland. The Red Queen character comments: “…it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place. If you want to get to another place, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” Namely, today’s Twitter could be tomorrow’s Friendster. Keep an eye out for the next big thing, where your customers and visitors will go next. Make sure your content is easily transferable to the next big thing, no matter what it is.

20. Practice the Three R’s

Remember that you are representing your company or yourself as a professional person. When online, save it:

rational: Stick to the facts. Support your opinions with facts and logic.
Responsible: Stay on topic. Keep your messages, images and media appropriate.
Respectfully: Respect people’s tolerance for being marketed. Don’t waste people’s time by making them think they’re getting something they’re not. For example, don’t provide a YouTube video on how to record and then ask people to visit your site to see the final key step.