Do you think social media is either Facebook and/or MySpace, and that’s it? When I was recently chatting with a friend in the industry I mentioned I do social media consulting, he replied, “Oh, so you do Facebook?” Well, fortunately for all of us, social media goes far beyond Facebook! The problem is that people don’t quite know what to do when they have eeked out all the possible value out of their Facebook networking.
Chances are good that you have had an IM cross your computer with nothing but a link and a “can you digg it?” message but maybe you didn’t quite know what digging meant and never got around to checking it out. Or maybe have you heard of people talking about tweets, sphinns and stumbles, and want to know how you can do it too? If you want to dip your toes further into the social media pool, here are some easy ways to start broadening your social media horizons, both by joining specific social media sites, and by your behaviour once you join.
Sign up for a Twitter account
Twitter is a place where you can submit status updates of what you are doing (“Off to a meeting with the boss in 3..2..1..” or “Listening to the Daily Search Cast right now”). If you use Facebook, think of it as your Facebook status updates multiplied by 1,000. But you can also use it to write replies to other people about what they’ve said (“Ouch! Hope the meeting is a good one” or “Thanks for the reminder, I am off to listen too”). Chances are very good that at least a handful of your friends are already on Twitter, you can do a search for them once you set up your account or once you add one friend, check out who he or she follows and you will probably find plenty more people to follow. And you can follow me (@jenstar for my personal one and @jenniferslegg to follow new posts from this blog) to kind of see what it is all about. Then start posting little updates about what you happen to be doing. And if you are tempted to market with Twitter, you might want to read Ten ways to market your blog on Twitter without being a spammer.
Voting it up
If you are reading this blog, chances are good that you will find Sphinn interesting too. In a nutshell, people (including you!) submit interesting news stories and blog entries that the community would find interesting, and if others like it, they will vote on it (called Sphinning). Once it hits X number of votes, it will show up on the homepage of Sphinn. Sphinn is a nice way to get your toes wet before venturing onto the larger voting sites such as Digg, which will probably be your next post-Sphinn stop after you figure out how it all works. Because Spinn is so niche to the internet marketing world, it is much quicker to see the fruits of your labor there than if you immediately dive headlong into Digg! So sign up for a Sphinn account and then go and submit a fabulous blog entry you have recently read.
StumbleUpon is a site where people can give thumbs up or down to specific webpages they visit, which increases the odds of other people, such as you, visiting them. You download a plugin or toolbar, available on the site, and when you hit stumble, it will randomly show you a site that others have given a thumbs up on. When you are just beginning, try and narrow down your category as much as possible… sometimes people check off nearly all the categories and quickly become overwhelmed with just how much variety and seemingly off-topic pages there are. So stick with one area, whether you want it business related or even something like TV shows or video games, and start stumbling. As you become more familiar with it, you can suggest your own sites.
Sharing the love
Whichever social media platform or program you are doing, be generous and share the love…. this means don’t just promote your own sites, vote on or share other people sites and pages too. This could mean recommending a good blog entry you just finished reading on Twitter, doing a quick Stumble on it or submitting it to Sphinn or Digg afterwards. Be as generous as you can with those links because what goes around comes around – yes, you will find people do the same back to you – and people will notice if you are stingy on sharing others.
Thanking in return
If you see someone has Twittered that you have a great blog entry and includes your URL, take a quick moment to thank that person… and especially if you ASKED the person to do it for you. When someone asks me to Sphinn or Digg something, I am much more likely to do it again for that person if they thanked me the last time around. And if I have submitted something to a social media site without being asked by the author, and they go out of their way to thank me for it, you bet I will consider submitting the next great read from him or her. And returning the favor with a future mention/submission/vote/etc is always nice too!
Being successful in social media takes time and effort… which is why many attempts at it fail. But getting your toes wet in places like Sphinn, StumbleUpon and Twitter will help you get started in places beyond the usual Facebook and MySpace which have dominated the news in the past, and trying out some new places to test your skills. You might find you are a StumbleUpon maven and set your goals on becoming a top stumbler, or you might find you love Sphinn and then tackle Digg. But broadening your social media horizons should be the first order of business, so you can find what works best for you.