There are new websites, technologies and online offerings cropping up almost daily. There are social networks that cater to moms, video sites that allow users to determine what’s funny and what’s just stupid, music sites that let users discover new acts based on their favorite artists and much, much more just waiting to be explored in the wild, untamed Internet.
Because there’s so much out there, it’s enough to make someone unplug and ignore all those new fangled sites those crazy kids are visiting. But for business owners, that’s a dangerous and costly option.
People are spending less and less time watching TV, listening to the radio and reading newspapers. Instead, they’re surfing the web – some studies show up to twice as much time spent online than watching TV. Videos on YouTube are seen by more people than Monday Night Football. More than 70 percent of Americans ages 15 to 34 are actively using online social networks.
While individual sites like Facebook and YouTube and Twitter, a micro-blogging platform, might prove individually to be passing fads, they’ve permanently changed peoples’ expectations for attaining information and, more importantly, interacting with their favorite brands. So what do we recommend for our clients who are uninitiated into the social media world?
If you need a little more guidance than that, follow these simple steps to begin your exploration:
- Listen In
See what is being said about you, your organization and your industry. It’s incredibly easy to get up-to-the-minute alerts about when a subject near and dear to your heart is mentioned online. Simply go to Google Alerts, enter the terms you want to be notified about and click submit. Be sure to put quotation marks around the query if you have more than two words.
- Join In
Join a social network. There’s a social network for everyone. The most popular are MySpace and Facebook, but if you’re looking for something a little more professional and business-oriented, check out LinkedIn. You create a profile based on current and previous work experience, background, professional organizations and more. You’ll then see a list of people you might know and you can add them to your network. After they’re in your network, you can send them messages, write recommendations and connect to more people with whom you may have lost touch. It’s all about being ready – “linked in.”
- Read Up
Start visiting and subscribing to some blogs. There are more than 70 million. Don’t let that number scare you. It’s easy to get to the blogs that matter to you and your industry. Visit Technorati, Digg or Reddit and search for topics of interest that you’d like to read about. Once you’ve found your blogs, find an RSS tool (essentially a website or piece of software that alerts you when your favorite blogs and websites are updated) such as Bloglines or Google Reader and start subscribing. For more on getting started with RSS, check out our cleverly titled tutorial “Getting Started with RSS.”
That’s it. Well, kind of. There’s a whole lot of other stuff you can do – keep customers updated with Twitter, create opportunities for your brand evangelists to create videos on your behalf and build a platform for your supporters (and detractors) to post ideas to help you improve your business, to name a few.
After you’re familiar with the tools, it’s time to figure out how you and your business can take advantage of them.
The world of social media really isn’t as scary as it sounds. Sure, there are black holes, bear traps, guard dogs and hoards of angsty teenagers, but the potential of this medium outweigh the dangers – especially when you have an experienced entity to guide you.
What do you think?
That’s how we recommend getting started. What else would you add to our list?