Before we take a close look at the different social networks out there, let’s run through some social media fundamentals.

Social Media Fundamentals: Timely’s Social Series

I like to think of social media profiles as real, physical spaces. Doing so gives you the best possible foundation for making your way online, and gives you a reference point to sanity-check any decisions you make about what to post. Here are a couple of social media fundamentals to illustrate what I mean:

Keep the cobwebs at bay

Have you ever gone to a business’ Facebook page, Twitter account or blog and found it littered with tumbleweed? Did you like, follow, or subscribe to them? Chances are you didn’t.

Businesses do this all the time (“Everyone’s on Twitter – I better create an account”), but step back and apply this to the physical world. Would you open another store down the road, put your branding all over the front of it, leave it completely empty and then invite customers in? If you create a social media account and leave it inactive, that’s effectively what you’re doing.

If you plan to fill a space (either physical or digital) with stuff your customers will value and appreciate, then go for it. If not, focus your time and energy on the spaces where you will spend the time.

Don’t like Twitter? No problem, don’t use it! It’s better for your customers not to find you there at all, than to stumble across your collection of dust and cobwebs.

Never drop your social etiquette

Something many businesses seem to forget is that social media is real. There are real people reading their posts, and real people walking away from them when they drop their social graces because they think the online world is different in some way.

Let’s imagine you’ve just walked into a room full of strangers. Do you:

A) Shout out your business’ latest offer or discount before walking out of the room, or…
B) Quietly get a feel for things before opening a conversation with someone about the weather/food/last night’s big game?

What about when people walk through your business’ doors – same answer, right?

Social media is no different to these physical examples. If all you do is post your latest deals, offers and promotions without introducing yourself via a casual chat and actually engaging with people, then just picture the reaction you’ll get. And remember that in the social media world it’s much easier to ignore someone than it is in real life. A simple unfollow, and you’re gone from their view for all time.

Getting the chance to promote your business will happen quite naturally (and regularly!) if you do what you’d do in real life – patiently build a relationship with the people you bump into, and be kind, open and helpful. You’ll be the first business they think of when they need what you offer.

Illustration: Introducing social media (even if you’ve already met)

Unlocking the power of social media

Now, take that room full of people I mentioned before and imagine it as a big hall, bustling with people. Now a stadium. Now a city. Social media has real networking power, and can connect you to a world of new people. Start chatting and building relationships in the little corner you’re standing in, and watch as that contact ripples out further and further to an audience you didn’t even know existed.

Potential customers that were previously inaccessible to you without a big marketing budget are now just around the digital corner. Social media is word-of-mouth marketing on steroids, and if you get the basics right it can be one of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business. You might even have some fun along the way, too!

The next few posts in this series will introduce the main players in the social network space, whether they’re right for your particular business, and how to get the most out of them. Some of them you’ll have used, others – probably not.

If you’ve already started your social media journey, how about dropping us a link to your profile(s) on this Facebook post? We’d love to stop by and connect with you, and we’d even be happy to flick you a few tips and suggestions for what you can tweak before we move on if you like. Just say the word! :-)

See you back here next week to start looking at the different social media networks.