Back to basics: What the hell is social media?

“Everyone is saying it!” and “Everyone is doing it!”

But what is it, really?

As it relates to your business, social media is connecting with your audience in real time using any number of the current popular tools. This includes anything from Snapchat to Facebook to old-style forums.

Some social media takes the form of websites; others exist solely as phone apps.

The technical definition according to Wikipedia is “the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.”

Well, now you know.

The Big Players of Social Media Don’t Matter

There are always new social media outlets.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ …with so many options, it’s easy to pick the biggest one and automatically assume that it is the right tool for the job.

Social media extends beyond the biggest players. Maybe your audience lives on a certain forum. Maybe your audience is on a startup social network.

Just because Facebook is the biggest doesn’t mean it’s the most effective for you.

Just because Twitter is the simplest doesn’t mean it’s the best for you.

Just because Snapchat is mobile doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Define specific goals for your social media account. Will you direct in-depth conversation? Will you post funny photos from behind the scenes? Will you be writing educational posts? Who is the primary user you’re planning to reach?

Research how each tool will fill these needs. It’s as simple as that.

Eventually, you may decide to create accounts on multiple social sites for the best coverage. At the beginning, you should only choose the top 1 or 2 for your needs.

Anymore, and you run a higher risk for abandoning your accounts altogether.

It doesn’t matter which social media tool you pick.

This sounds contradictory but, in the end, it’s true.

The social media tool you choose doesn’t matter because it’s not about the tool, it’s about the way you’re using it. (You’ve heard that one before, right?)

Writing Content for Social Media

What is your message to your customers? Write whatever it was you were thinking of saying.

Now answer this question about your content: Will this content satisfy my customer’s needs?

The principles here are the same as writing content for your website. Think about your target audience, think about the Voice you are using, and consider your goals for social media.

Social media marketing is about satisfying your customers and addressing their needs in a personal way. If you are simply satisfying your own needs, you won’t get anywhere and you’ll ask yourself why your social media strategy isn’t working.

Satisfying your customer’s needs is fixing a problem, answering a question, or providing valuable information that applies to their situation.

Satisfying your own needs is sending links to your products or services with no context or relevance.

Last but not least, keep your social media content professional and readable.

This is not professional: “If u r c00l, plz rt thz kthxbai.”

If you can’t fit it when writing regularly, you may need to re-evaluate the way you’re phrasing your post.

Keeping Social Media Professional

Social media can be done from anywhere.

There’s a quicksand trap with social media – it’s so easy to participate from anywhere (laptop, mobile phone, scuba diving with sharks) that it can become hard to draw the line of where you need to stop.

The stress starts when you try to make yourself too available without considering that you are one person, not a corporation with a social media team.

While the social media you participate in for your personal life is up to you, try and keep a relative schedule for your professional Tweets, Facebook posts, and so on.

An example schedule that may work for you:

  • Morning: Check for any new comments, replies, and so on and be sure to comment back, reply to, and so on. This is a quick check and takes maybe 10 minutes of your morning if it’s been busy.
  • Noon: Monitor your channels in the background from around 11am to 1:30pm or so. You don’t need to actively take part the entire whole time, but do seek out activity to participate in at one point or another.
  • Evening: Take a quick 10-15 minute review if you want to for any replies that came in from the afternoon. Don’t start new conversations, save that for the morning.
  • On another note – unless you are marketing yourself as your brand, it’s important to separate your personal accounts from your professional accounts.

If you’re promoting a brand, set up new accounts to reflect that brand. If your brand is you, make sure to evaluate your current audience and whether or not they will appreciate your new focus, and update accordingly.