What does “using” social media mean to you?
When I work with professionals on their social media strategies, the most common questions I get tend to be around what people are actually supposed to do with all of the new platforms that have popped up (seemingly overnight). They say things like, “OK, fine, I gave up and got a LinkedIn profile – now what do I actually do with it?” Or, “I’ve had a Twitter account for six months, but I’ve never tweeted – should I?”
These are important questions; but they are also hard questions to answer because everyone will and should approach social media in a way that supports their overall business goals. Asking what to do with social media is like asking what you should do with email. It’s simply another communication tool you can use to engage and interact with your clients, prospects, and partners.
A good place to start your decision making with social media is to understand that there are two main areas of social media use – passive and active. Finding success with social media is about finding a way to balance your focus on these two areas. You can’t do one and forget about the other. It’s like a basketball coach saying, “You have to play both sides of the ball – offense and defense“.
Playing defense on social media is about creating a digital presence that clearly shares your brand message. The message that you want to communicate to the people you want to communicate with – your target audience. The Internet provides an information source that’s open 24/7, and people are looking you up. They might be clients, colleagues, or partners. And they will definitely be prospects. Think about the last purchase you made or the last service provider you hired – I’m sure that you did your due diligence before you moved forward. Your prospective clients are doing the same thing.
This is why it is so important to create optimized social media profiles! It’s the passive part of social media; people are finding information about you and you don’t have to do anything. When you create an online profile that shares your professional message, it’s always on. You have to put the effort in up front, but once it is up and running you only have to tweak your presence over time. Your LinkedIn profiles – both individual and company are a key component of this presence. Your firms website is also important as well as any online content such as a blog or YouTube channel.
Playing offense is a little bit of a misnomer – you certainly don’t want to be offensive on social media! However, you do want to engage in activity that connects you with your network. Being active on social media is about developing a dialogue between you and the people that you are connected with. This is an extension of the conversations you are having in the offline world. You can share ideas, answer questions, and build trust just like you would in the “real” world. And online conversations can be much more efficient and scalable.
There are many platforms that you can use to interact with your network. Twitter has often been described as a 300 million person networking event. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with your professional network – you can use the status update feature to share information and engage with people in one of the over 2 million LinkedIn Groups. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, pick one platform and dip your toe in. Compliance can often be a concern, but there are a number of third-party archiving tools that you can use as you get started. And keep in mind the tremendous upside to engaging with your clients, prospects, and referral partners on a regular basis!
Even though the ideal social media strategy isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” scenario, consider putting both active and passive tactics into the mix. Michael Jordan is considered one of the best basketball players to play in the NBA. He could do amazing things on offense; but many people forget that the key to his success lay in the fact that he was also a dominant defensive player. He could play both sides of the ball! You don’t have to fly through the air to be successful, but if you want social media to be an effective part of your business, make online tools part of your daily activity.