Getting Started With Social Media

by Susan Murphy

shutterstock_129701267It’s probably the question we get asked most often here at Jester Creative…there are so many social media tools, trends and technologies out there these days, what is the best way to get started?

The online world can be a very overwhelming place. There are so many things to do, so many things to see, and so many people talking all at once – how do you filter through the noise and start to zero in on the stuff that matters to you and your business? Can tools like Twitter and blogs really help you to build new leads for your business and grow awareness of your organization?

The short answer is yes. But knowing where to start is key, and you need to start off on the right foot if you’re going to see the value and stick with it. And while when you’re just starting out, it’s fine to dabble a bit, but eventually you will want to build a strategy for your social media activities, that’s based on measurable SMART business goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound).

But there are some things you can do, starting today, if you want to dip your foot in the water a bit with social media and see what all the fuss is about.

Find Conversations

Social media tools are not broadcast platforms – they are conversation channels. Understanding this simple distinction out of the gate will put you in the right frame of mind for getting involved. While a lot of people tend to be “lurkers” when they first join social networks, interacting with others is where the real value is. Lurking is the online equivalent of showing up to a party and sitting by yourself in the corner all night. You don’t have fun, others don’t get to see how great you are, and you go home empty handed.

To start conversing on social channels, you have to find conversations. Twitter is a great way to check out some of these conversations. Did you know Twitter has a secret page, and you don’t even need an account to use it? Just go to http://www.twitter.com/search and you’ll see a search window. You can type in a keyword, or a hashtag (a word or phrase with the “#” sign in front of it, like #marketing), or a phrase, and when you click “Search”, you’ll see a whole list of Twitter posts (tweets) around the topic you’ve searched on. That’s the conversation, and it’s going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. From the search results page, you can also click on “People” on the left hand side, and you’ll see a list of people who are interested in the same thing you just searched on! If you create a free account, you can follow these people and join the conversation. Give it a try! Some hashtags to check out, if you’re interested in learning about social media, are #blogchat, #socialmedia, and #digitalmarketing. If you’re with a non-profit organization, try #npchat, or #nonprofit. There’s a whole world of real time conversations, with interesting people, just waiting for you!

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Find Things to Read

Back in 2006, when I first started to get interested in social media, I read voraciously. I still do. There are a bunch of really great traditional books out there on the topic, written by smart people. Check out Jester’s latest newsletter for some recommendations (and while you’re at it, subscribe to receive the next edition of our newsletter for free!).

But there are so many other places to find great information online. Every day, millions of blog posts, just like this one, are posted online, containing great information about just about any topic. A great way to find these posts is to go to Google BlogSearch. This Google search engine searches only blog sites – the most fresh, relevant content from around the web. You can search on any topic you’re interested in (I recommend searching on a few keywords from your industry to find relevant blogs), and you’ll get the most up to date, timely information around, written by really smart people. You can then Subscribe to these blogs for free, using a newsreader tool like Feedly (here’s how), and you’ll get new posts delivered to you automatically. It’s like having your own customized magazine full of personalized content, delivered to you every day.

Find Ways to Learn

There comes a point where you may want to go beyond exploring and experimenting on your own, and get the advice of an experienced professional. That’s where training can be really effective. You can spend some concentrated time learning tips, tricks and techniques for making the most of social media for you and your business, and figure out your next steps. You can learn industry best practices and see lots of examples of how social media can work for organizations.

At Jester Creative, we have plenty of training options for beginners and more advanced learners. Our 3 hour online seminars are a great way to learn tips and techniques for a variety of social media activities – if you’re a not-for-profit organization, are looking to get started with your own blog, or want to know more about how to use Twitter and Facebook for your business, we can help. The courses are reasonably priced at $150 per session, and you can learn from anywhere with an internet connection! We also provide some of the best post-training around, and all of our instructors are seasoned professionals with more than 20 years of experience in media, communication and digital marketing.

We have the following seminars coming up this Fall, click the links for more information and to register:

Intro to Web Analytics – September 12th
Social Media Management – September 12th
Social Media for Non-Profits – September 13th
Twitter and Facebook for Business – September 13th
Introduction to Blogging – September 19th

Ultimately, getting started with social media is easy – start by doing some searching for conversations, find some new and interesting things to read, and find ways to learn by taking a seminar or course. Then it’s just a matter of practicing, exploring, and experimenting. Have fun!

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