It's easy to get into social media for the wrong reasons and to post too much or too little. Here's how to balance out your social media efforts.
BY John D. Leavy
Why have you joined the social media world?
Some social networkers are there for purely egotistical reasons. They don't want to engage in the conversation. They simply collect followers and friends in order to have bragging rights every time they collect another thousand. But connecting, following or befriending just anyone dilutes your influence and standing among those in your audience.
Others join because they feel they must. They spend a few days setting up their profiles and then abandon them when other tasks call.
The real motivation for any business social networker is connection: You should want to connect with like-minded people who can help your business and whose businesses you can assist. You want to add to the conversation, and not come across as desperate, spammy or a waste of time. If you develop a bad reputation in these communities, it will be hard to shake off.
But making such strong, real connections takes time, effort and thoughtfulness. If you never return to your profiles, you and your business will be forgotten (best case) or seen as unconnected, clueless or lazy (worst case). If you post too much, people might consider you a pest and stop following you.
Some social networkers are the worst of both worlds: They don’t post to their blog or text their friends or colleagues for weeks at a time. They don’t reply to messages sent to them, and the company site looks like it has gone out of business. Then, without any warning, they’re back . . . alive . . . and conversing. Was the organization’s social networking person out of the country? Did they suffer a grave illness? Nope. They were just distracted, disorganized, sidetracked or overworked. There’s no method to the company’s madness in being a social networking participant. Not committed. No strategy. Its influence will never be felt. The competition will soon fill the void.
Whether your company is a one-person business or a large organization, your commitment to social networking should be consistent, compelling and informative. The social networking community is a fragile, collaborative ecosystem. Make the commitment. People will follow a trail of dependable, exciting, instructive news. But once the trail goes cold, they’re gone and likely never to return.
Being a social media maniac isn’t the right persona either. You know who we’re talking about. These people can answer emails on their laptops with one hand while texting friends or colleagues on their iPhones with the other. They can’t be looked in the eye when talking because their heads are always looking down at some screen. This behavior may be seen as good technology gone bad.
The key is to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. Avoid becoming a social media ignorer or a social media maniac. Develop a social networking schedule that does not run your life but does keep you accountable. The goal should be consistency. Choose a schedule and stay the course for at least six months. As you find success, you can slowly grow your social networking persona.
The sample social networking agenda below can be used as a springboard for designing one that suits your schedule and the community channels you’ve joined.
Twice Daily in the Morning and Afternoon
•Check Twitter via a program like HootSuite. Respond when necessary. Follow the @replies that make sense.
•Check LinkedIn. Reply to emails and comments when appropriate.
•Scan Twitter followers for relevant conversations to join.
•Check your business's Facebook Page for questions and respond when necessary.
•Scan Google Alerts for brand and company mentions. Respond as appropriate.
Weekly or on Weekends
•Build Twitter Lists to better organize ongoing discussions and special interest groups. Set up saved searches in Hootsuite to find out if people are talking about you or your company.
•Scan LinkedIn questions from network connections and respond when appropriate.
•Catch up on LinkedIn discussions. Add to discussion when appropriate.
•Send LinkedIn invitations to connect with clients when beginning a new assignment.
•Ask for LinkedIn recommendation after successfully completing a project or engagement.
•Add new content to Facebook like videos or photos.
•Think of ways to repurpose this content and energy to reach a larger audience with the social networking gospel.
•Keep an eye open for new social networking venues, tools, and functionality that will make the social networking experience more enjoyable and easier to traverse.
•Identify new social networking influencers and build relationships where appropriate.
Through the Week
•Mondays: Schedule tweets through HootSuite to go out three times per day at regular intervals.
•Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: Join one hot trend conversation on Twitter, if appropriate, and add new content to Facebook (new items you are selling, photos, discounts and other promotions).
•Tuesdays and Thursdays: Respond to blog comments.
•Fridays: Check traffic at your blog or website.
Obviously, your daily social networking to-do list will be much different, given your available time and commitments. Just be sure to make the schedule livable. If it’s not working, change it. Keep making modifications until it works for you.
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