People are astounded and maybe appalled when I tell them the number of twitter accounts I have. And the fact that I tried to log on Facebook while already on Facebook is a bit embarrassing. However, the amount of time I spent on and talking about social media is most likely why I have a career in social media today. I didn’t major in Facebook, and Twitter was not even a thought. In fact, the things closest to social networking while I was in college were chat room, AOL Instant Messenger, and Black Planet. But through a bit of personal obsession and a ton of learning, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Understand the foundation

Whether you love me or hate me, it looks like I’m here to stay. In case you don’t know who I am, let me introduce myself. I’m officially known as social media – and i have no idea how that happened, but when marketers, publicists, and business owners got ahold of me, I had an identity change. Frankly, the name change happened in the blink of an eye. One day I was known as social networking, and then I became social media. And while it may not seem essential to know my history, it’s imperative you know my true inner workings before believing you’ll become a social media pro.

People say “you never know where you’re going until you know from where you’ve come.” Since the foundation of social media is actually social networking, you’ll realize those who do it good have valuable interactions, good conversations, and “listen”. The basics of creating a maintaining real-life relationships offline are true to social media; just with a bigger audience.

So what makes you stand out from the crowd?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula. It can be different for each user. However, I do have a REAL LIFE advice that you can put into action today. It’ll take a bit of patience and trial and error, but I hope these tips put you on the road to doing social media marketing like a pro.

  1. Become obsessed with media. To become great at it, you have to immerse yourself in it. It’s like learning a second language. You can’t just read it or listen to it, you have to actually use it…and a lot. The same is true for social media. One or two times a month is not nearly enough. You have to REALLY use each site. By using the platforms, you’ll get to know what they have in common. You’ll also get a gist of what works. Start with personal accounts, operating as a person and not a business. Then once you have a better idea as to how each site works, try pages and accounts for your businesses.
  2. Read. There are a ton of articles, blog posts, and books on social media marketing. Since social media wasn’t yet a trend when I was majoring in marketing, I had to – and still – obtain knowledge the old school way; by doing and reading.
  3. Talk to people. People are the real users of social media, not businesses. Even when you’re selling to businesses, it’s a human that’s making a decision. Therefore, you want to know what makes them tick. Get to know why they use the sites, what they do when on the sites, who they follow, and why they choose to follow who they follow. Also, ask how often they’re on the sites and at what time of the day. Finally, ask why they don’t follow or stop following people or businesses. And while it’s best to talk to people within your target audience, if you’re just getting started, friends, family, and colleagues are a good starting point. (BTW…don’t forget to tap the brain of the marketing friend or other business owners who are willing to give you free advice.)
  4. Read. You will never come reach the bottom of the barrel on social media articles and blog posts. And since social media is ever-changing, reading is one of the only ways to keep up on the trends. Social Media Examiner is a great site to stay up-to-date on social media trends.
  5. Start small. Don’t take your business to each social platform at once. Instead, choose one or two platforms to get your feet wet. Then branch out if necessary. If you’re a business selling to customers, I recommend starting with Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a business selling to other businesses, I recommend LinkedIn and Twitter.
  6. Read. Be sure not only read how to “use” the social media platforms, but also take time to read about social media analytics, or metrics that help you determine how effective your methods are. These metrics can help you determine what’s working and what’s not working. Some tols even allow you to see how your competition – or even brands in which you aspire to be – are doing.
  7. Pay attention to yourself. While what you do should not be the “be all, end all” determinant for how you use social media platforms for your business, your personal use of social media will tell you a lot. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like, the things you respond to and don’t respond to, and even how much time you spend on each platform.
  8. Read. Run out of ideas of what to post? Try looking for articles on content ideas. I’m sure you’ll come across a few. Here’s an article by Copyblogger and 101 Web Content Tips, Ideas, and Resources by Nick Usborne to get you started.
  9. Pay attention to other people. If you watch close enough, people will tell you how they use social media without you even asking. For example, if you watch close enough, you can tell who has their Facebook and Twitter accounts linked, what location someone posted from, and even from what type of device they’re posting. You can also get a good idea of demographics, interests, and personalities.
  10. Read. You may realize that keeping your social media pages up-to-date can be very time consuming, thus causing this to become a backburner tactic. Don’t let the temptation settle in. There are several tools and articles out there with effective time management in mind. Before giving up, take time to learn about and make use of this advice. It can drastically change how you go about managing your social media content.
  11. Pay attention to other business. Both your competition, compliments, and even businesses that seemingly have nothing to do with your business will provide hints as to what to post, how to post, and how often. It’s no shame in my game to say that I’ve frequented the Facebook pages of Target, Disney, Meijer (regional retailer), and Walmart to get ideas. They have good ideas, and I have no problem in CASE(ing) the joint…in an oh so legal manner. (FYI…CASE = Copy and Steal Everything)
  12. Did I mention, read. Reading and talking to others will be your biggest asset to becoming a social media pro. And not only will you know what to do, you’ll be equipped to know truth from lie as well as what works and what doesn’t work for you.

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