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Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Do I Start With Social Media?

How Do I? social media marketing series

How Do I Start With Social Media?


This question comes up all the time. And, no wonder. There's plenty of hype and buzz out there about social media, social media tools and social media marketing. Everyone's bringing it up. Even newscasters refer you to Twitter to keep up with late breaking developments. It's confusing to say the least.

Where to start?


I like to start by putting social media marketing into perspective. You see, we sometime forget this, but markets are conversations - a statement from the 1999 book called The Cluetrain Manifesto. Through conversation, buyers and sellers exchange information; they have the opportunity to develop trust and build credibility. Conversations set the stage for loyal communities based on shared experiences and stories.

Conversations take place between people, not between brands or companies. Not too different from how business used to be conducted before the days of mass markets, as Jonathan Salem Baskin reminded us in 10 Ideas to Refocus Branding.

Conversations are intrinsically social.


The tools of social media - e.g, Blogs, Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr, Amazon reviews, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube... - facilitate these intrinsically social conversations. These tools are easy to use, mostly free, and they bring back conversation, interaction over common interests, and the sharing of value through relevant content.

The tools aren't going away. They may morph, but the principles remain and affect us all. They enable us to strengthen connection, build trust and develop authenticity. They are certainly critical to establishing a digital presence.

Getting Started.


Getting started is about taking small, thoughtful steps, say 15 to 20 minutes per day. Thoughtful in that you want to step back and consider how on target your efforts were after each short session. That allows you to recalibrate and avoid getting sucked into the fire hose of information.

You need to start, though, and be consistent about your explorations.

Although Twitter tends to capture most people's fancy [I get more questions about Twitter during presentations, than about any other social media tool.], I strongly suggest that you start by exploring blogs.

Why blogs?


Blogs are user friendly.
Through blogs, you will uncover thought leadership as well as leads to other resources.
Blogs represent home base for other activities taking place on Twitter or Facebook, for example.
Blogs will help with making sense out of Twitter.

How to go about finding blogs worth exploring?


Start with a topic that interests you or relevant industry terms. Maybe it's "marketing to women" or "simple marketing". You may refine your terms as you discover more.

Google
Google Blog Search
AllTop
Technorati
BlogPulse
Google Alerts - for the terms you find most relevant [including brand and competitor names]
Ice Rocket

Be sure to pay attention to the resources listed in blog sidebars. They will be sources to other links and blogs worth exploring.

Once you find blogs of note [you might want to review How Do I Evaluate A Blog?], subscribe to them. Most blogs will offer you two options: RSS [i.e., Really Simple Syndication that you read through a feed reader] or email updates.

As you start to explore, you will discover communities around related blog topics, and ideas worth sharing with customers, peers and friends. And possibly even worth commenting on!

Are you ready to get started with social media? What do you find works best for you? And what other questions do you have?


Image credit: Wordle "How Do I" by C.B. Whittemore

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