Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Pandora's Box of Social Media

For me it all started with AOL Chat. I set up a profile and started finding my friends on there. They started finding me and we had conversations on the Internet because it was so much cooler than talking on the phone. Then I got a MySpace page and I felt like the coolest guy on the planet (along with all the other 100 million users--literally). After that came Facebook and I sort of plateaued. I was happy with Facebook, knew how to use Facebook and I, unlike many other users, did not get all bent out of shape every time Facebook changed a little. I was home and was happy with my social media outlet. I also had a Linked In account but rarely used it.

Then my wife found Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram and FourSquare and on and on. She told me that those were platforms I needed to be on and I agreed with her. In the past year I have started tweeting regularly, pinning regularly, checking in on FourSquare and I started a Yelp profile. Two years ago I set up a YouTube account to post home tours. I even started a few Facebook pages this year! My wife helps me with managing it all. Come to find out, social media is a lot of work!

Social media helps small businesses grow without spending a ton of money. It gives you unprecedented access to people like no traditional advertising can. It allows you to reach people when they want to be reached. TV commercials blast in your ear when you are trying to watch a show. We have technology in place that lets you skip them. Social media puts the message out there and lets people discover it. There are a few keys if you are going to get into social media as a part of your business plan.

1) Know the platform and how the majority of users use it. Moderation and self-control is the key in some (Linkedin and Facebook), quantity, catchiness and uniqueness are the keys in others (Twitter and Pinterest)
2) Have a game plan--know why you are on each platform, what you want your overall message to be, who you want to reach and what you want to accomplish. Understand why you are on each platform. I did not understand why I needed to be on Pinterest until my wife explained it to me. Pinterest is a wonderful platform for sharing ideas and dreams. American males where very, very slow to the party.
3) Be ever vigilant about what you say AND what people say on your profiles. It is so easy to destroy your carefully groomed image by allowing one poorly worded quote from a guy you knew in 8th grade to stay on your Facebook post too long.
4) Pay attention to the unintended messages you send with your social media posts/offers. I will never buy something at full price at Joseph A Bank. Why? Because the message they send out with their gazillion emails and radio commercials is that their stuff is really only worth buy 1 get 2 or 3 free. Maybe that is their intention, I don't know. If it is NOT their intention, then they have ignored this rule.
5) Have fun with it, but not too much. Again, this is choosing messages that are appropriate for the given platform. If you are a service provider of some type that wants to advertise on Facebook, I STRONGLY recommend creating a separate page for your business. Be very cautious about alienating your friends by putting a bunch of business stuff on your personal Facebook page. I only jumped on this bandwagon about a year ago. I realized I was busy enough and was putting enough business content on my personal page that I was becoming "that guy" on Facebook. Not cool.
6) Remember, its permanent, even if you delete it. Someone will take a screenshot, someone will share or retweet it. Once its out there, its out there.

This is how I approach social media. I am definitely not an expert. I have seen it impact my business tremendously, however. It is a great outlet for small business. Just be careful. For every profile you set up, there are 20 more you could. Stick to your plan and do it on purpose. That is my mantra for the year!

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