The 5 Things You Need To Know to Get Started in Social Media in 2010

As this is a “list” time of the year, I thought I would take a minute and share my thoughts about how to get started in Social Media in 2010.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people about this topic recently and there’s a lot of information out there about what to do and what not to do to gain credibility, make friends, and contribute meaningfully in the space.  Let me start by saying that I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do have opinions gleaned from talking to lots of smart people who are making headway at communicating with customers, communicating brand value, and being authentic online.

So here we go:

The #1 Thing You Need To Know To Get Started in Social Media in 2010 is: Be there and be there authentically.

It’s very easy to think that Social Media is a pat list of tasks to do, people to talk to, and products to Tweet about.  The reality that I’ve found is that there is no one answer to resolve this list.  In fact, the list doesn’t exist and is changing constantly.  Out there in the world is a wonderful combination of people who love your product, people who can’t stand your product, people who are curious about you because you shared something weird and interesting today, and people who found you accidentally.  So be yourself.  No bot can take the place of you sharing information and contributing in the way that you do best.

#2: Focus your Social Media energy and be consistent in each channel.

It’s tempting to think that when you maintain multiple social media presences (Facebook, multiple Twitter accounts, blog, and other) that all of your readers want to hear the same thing from you.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  While there is some crossover between, for example, my @GregAtGist account and my @grmeyer personal account on Twitter, you can bet that the people who want to learn about my employer Gist don’t necessarily care about my childhood obsession with Legos or my current interest in taking pictures of old signs.  I try to use the same avatar to ensure brand consistency and to keep my business tweets on business, and personal tweets on whatever I’d like to share with my personal followers.

#3: Social Media can be a self-reinforcing loop: Don’t Spend All Your Time There

It’s easy (and seductive) to spend all day dipping in the Twitter river, confusing the activity of posting constantly with the accomplishment of creating, communicating, and delivering unique value through social media.  So be careful: think about what you’re going to say and plan how you’re going to say it.  You can always spend more time on Social Media, but make sure that it isn’t getting in the way of more important work that you also need to do personally or professionally.  A suggestion: try to spend a few sessions a day in Social Media, responding to fans, questions, dms, and @ replies, and leave the rest of the day for other tasks.  If you need to keep an eye on the Twitterverse, using tools like CoTweet can help you to monitor important hash tags or other handles without constantly keeping your thumb on the Twitter trigger.

#4: Focus some of your time on searching and Meet New People

This may contradict my suggestion in #3, but it’s important to spend some of your time in Social Media just looking around, reaching out to new people, and generally making friends.  I find that some time reading blogs (use Google Reader to find some good ones) or simply reading the Tweetstreams that other people reference (I use Gist for this purpose frequently) opens up new relationships that I would otherwise have never made.  Be fearless: Twitter gives you a channel to talk to people all around the world, and many of them want to talk to you!

#5: Above all, have fun!

The 5th, and most important thing you need to get started in Social Media in 2010, is to remember to have fun.  The social media scene is a giant cocktail party, information bazaar, water cooler and secret information trove all wrapped into a river of information that you can dip into anytime and anywhere.  The kid in you should remember that this is about the coolest thing ever.  Now you need to make it work for you, your company, and your interests.  Are you having fun yet?

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