Whether you’re just beginning your journey into social media or you have already had your share of success and failure (more of the former I would hope) it’s worth revisiting basic characteristics of social media from time to time. For it’s in the basics that the obvious can get overlooked and erroneous assumptions are made.
Social Media is Deceptively Easy
The trick social media plays on the casual observer is in simplicity. Even though the actual objectives within a particular social media community or strategy may not be obvious, getting started is relatively easy. It’s a click of the mouse and a few fields in a submission form. It’s a free account or a 5 minute install. If you’re not interested in writing long winded blog posts, social media can be as simple as 140 character “micro-blogging”.
But simplicity and ease of use also mean a low barrier to entry and voluminous noise to sift through. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can start a blog, join a community and start writing or submitting. What’s going to make your blog posts stand out or your submissions worth voting for in any given community? What value will someone find in following your updates and insights?
Social Media is Generally a Public Conversation
Almost everything you do, write and offer in the social media space is available to anyone, everywhere online. Your connections, votes, submissions and opinions become part of your online history so consider how you choose to represent yourself.
While privacy settings and anonymity may shield some of your ambition (or your mishaps), it doesn’t take away the time investment in your own social media education to getting to where you want to be. And remember that depending on the community or strategy, a lack of transparency may say more than you think.
Social Media is Not Any One Application
Digg by itself is not social media. Nor is Twitter, Facebook or Techcrunch. Social media is really about a set of tools and applications which allow people to connect and share information online in an entirely new way.
Don’t get misled into believing your social media strategy is only about one application or one website. More than likely, you will need to engage in conversations across a variety of platforms and services, primarily because your research will lead you into new opportunities that provide value for communication.
Each Social Media Community is Unique
While experience helps, remember that each community has it’s own benefits, personalities and reasons for being unique. Make certain to take note of the social media characteristics that make up each community before making inappropriate assumptions when joining.
In addition, while there have been best practices written for almost every social media community out there, you’re really not going to understand the time and commitment required in being a quality contributor until you role up your sleeves and start contributing.
Much of Social Media is About Common Sense
In the end, there’s not much difference between the way we interact online and offline, with the exception of how the communication is delivered. It’s a classic discussion of etiquette previously discussed with the emergence of email, IM or wherever else interaction online has played a part. When in doubt, ask yourself this question:
What would I do if faced with the same situation in person?
Your communication strategy will probably be the same online as it is offline, you’ll just need to fine tune your delivery. The fact that conversations are handled through some online intermediary does not mean that the online intermediary is also on the receiving end of your message. Just as you need to be aware that conversations may be public, they’re also being interpreted by a human being(s).
Social Media is a Hot Topic
It’s not to say that social media is a passing fad but that you should have a better reason to invest social media other than the fact that Jeremiah Owyang told you so (although you may want to read his blog posts from time to time). When I wrote on the failed expectation of an SEO blogging strategy the undertone intended was in understanding what the right goals truly are. The same must be understood with social media, including your blogging strategy.
In addition, my personal opinion is that the metrics for social media need to be different than how you would measure a pay per click strategy or organic keyword strategies. While we’re all concerned with sales and revenue we’re also concerned with customer and community relationships. It’s true that companies have established “lifetime customer values” and “cost of customer acquisition” but aren’t these values part of the reason that social media became so relevant?
I’m as much of an advocate of social media as the next person but the lure of financial opportunity and traffic acquisition can cloud the judgment of even the most sensible business owner.
The bottom line is that social media is easy to get involved in, built on common sense and there are enough tools and applications available to create a unique social media strategy that makes sense for you and your business. But don’t overlook the challenge of what matters most in social media: your quality contributions and community relationships.
For Those New To Social Media
While there are several quality resources for social media (many linked to herein this post), I recommend taking a look at Muhammad Saleem‘s 10 part series on Freelance Switch – Social Media and Simplicity – a guide on “how you can use the webâ€™s newest communities to promote and grow your freelancing business” (and small business).