What to consider before taking the plunge into social media

Social mediaThe majority of social media first timers often try out a particular platform before really knowing what they want to actually use it for or understand the best way to use the network to achieve their goals.  There is a certain amount of testing and playing that people do with social networks to further their understanding which is often necessary, but some of that testing can be much more guided by taking some initial steps to stop you wasting time.

It is important to remember that testing out social platforms means a lot of your activity is likely to be public. You need to set up your profile that represents you effectively online so that you will be seen to know what you’re doing on your chosen networks to be taken seriously and be ready to go.

Here are my Top 6 things you need to consider before you take the plunge and dive headfirst into social media. Whether you’re thinking about what will be in your first tweet, your first status update on LinkedIn, your first post on your Facebook page or your first image share on Instagram.

1. Listen first

Before you start working out what you’re going to tweet or post about, do some research to see what users are already in your space online. Search the public platforms where possible to gauge the topics of conversation before working out what perspectives and expertise you can bring to the conversation.

How will your own online persona fit? Is your ideal audience on the platforms you want to use? You need to build your reputation online, no matter what your offline reputation is. Social media is like a spotlight on your personality (professional or otherwise) so you need to find the influencers in your chosen field and where they are online. Listening before broadcasting is always advised!

2. Set objectives

Decide what you actually want to use social media for by setting some objectives, either short or long term. You may not know exactly what they are to begin with as your knowledge of how it can benefit is yet to develop. However it is very easy to become distracted with social media and forget what you really want to achieve by using it.

The objectives may not be very specific, simply raising the profile of your business or improving the visibility of your brand can be useful to begin with. You then need to ensure that your activity on social media has the end goals in mind, it can be very easy to waste precious time on social media, you can ensure you maximise your efforts by referring back to your objectives.

3. Make early strategic decisions

The number of different social networks can make it difficult to know where to begin. You need to decide which platforms will be most beneficial to you and your business to determine which are most worth the majority of your social media efforts. Deciding what audiences you want to reach with the key messages you want to get across is the best start.

If your company is based on visuals, for example in the design or beauty industry, you may decide photo-based social networks Instagram and Pinterest are worth spending most of your time online. But if you’re trying to reach business professionals, LinkedIn is your best platform to use. You can’t have huge levels of activity on all social platforms without a dedicated social media team, so focusing your efforts on the networks the influencers in your industry are active in and the audience you’re trying to reach is the best use of your time online which you can then more easily start measuring your time and ROI!

4. Decide how public or private you want to be

You need to be real and open. Social media is about conversations, sharing and making connections, you need to show a little personality to engage. This doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone what you’re having for breakfast or what play your child is performing in at school, but you need to express opinion in your content and build your unique identity.

You don’t want to become a mere conduit of other people’s online content without adding your own viewpoint. This doesn’t mean your presence can’t be entirely professional, but letting people know what you’re doing (where relevant) and what your opinions are on issues in your profession mean people are more likely to take notice of your content.

5. Decide what your key messages are

Decide what you want people to take from  your presence and content on social media. Do you want them to see you are experienced in your field, understand what your key services are or just that you’re a friendly team willing to help? Decide what you can offer, and how you can be helpful to people online.

6.  Understand the risks

Remember social media is a form of publishing, your posts are there forever! You need to make sure you are competent in using your social networks of choice and your posts reflect your professional presence. You are exposed online and need to be aware that your updates can be picked up on and shared by others instantly, so it is imperative that you ensure you’re comfortable with the exposure you have on social media, and decide on how much or little you share.

By taking these into consideration you can avoid wasting some time and becoming distracted by the shininess of the social media world! You need to work out how much time you can spend, how you’re going to measure your time and how to measure your ROI. But without taking too much fun out of social media, it is highly enjoyable, just make sure you come back to the reasons you’re on there!

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