Post written by guest author Megan O’Neill
As sites like Facebook, Twitter and Digg continue to grow, it is becoming increasingly apparent to everyone that investing in your social networks can be one of the best ways to promote yourself or your brand.
However, when you are new to the world of social media you may not have the slightest idea about how to get started. If you are still just testing the waters, these top ten tips can help you take the plunge into using social networks to successfully promote yourself or your brand. By the way, I’ll be referring to the term “Social Networks” here in the broader sense, including Social Bookmarking and video sites.
1. Choose Your Networks Wisely
If you spend any amount of time on the Internet then you are aware of the vast number of social networks there are to choose from. There’s Facebook, Bebo, hi5, MySpace, Ning, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon and YouTube, just to name “a few.”
When you are beginning your social networking campaign you should decide which of these networks are the most relevant for your purposes. For instance, if you want to join a network for professional business contacts then you should join LinkedIn and Facebook rather than Bebo or MySpace (unless you’re a musician). On the other hand, if you want to promote a hip new clothing line to teens, then LinkedIn is the last place you’ll want to be.
In order to make an informed decision about which networks to join you will have to do a little research. Figure out what your goals are, who your target audience is and then read some articles and look around in different networks to see where you could best achieve those goals. Don’t sell yourself short on research time—choosing the right networks is one of the most important keys to social networking success.
2. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
Once you have come up with your list of relevant social networks you need to decide which ones you are going to join. Be content with the knowledge that you cannot join ALL of the networks on the Web or you won’t have the time to use any of them to their full potential.
Choose a few social networks that fit your needs and that you feel comfortable with and focus your attention on them—build a profile, join groups, add and communicate with friends. Putting all of you effort into a few social networks is much more effective than wearing yourself out trying to achieve the bare minimum in a ton of social networks.
It is also important not to spread yourself too thin when you are joining groups in social networks. It is better to be an active and integral part of a few large groups than to be a member of 100 groups that you never even look at.
3. Give Character to your Profiles
Before you start adding friends it is important to fill out your profiles as fully as possible. Include your name, age and location. Write about your interests, your education, your job, why you are here, what kind of hobbies you have… the more information you can give the better.
It is also important to upload a nice picture of yourself. Your picture should be eye catching and professional, showing your face with a smile. Yes, in theory you could upload a picture of Heath Ledger as The Joker to your profile (I’ve seen a lot of this on Digg lately) but this isn’t very personal. Your online friends want to see what you look like and get to know your real details and interests.
4. Be Consistent
If you have profiles on several networks it is important to be consistent. Use the same photo and the same screen name on all of your profiles. If you are consistent between your profiles then friends will begin to recognize you immediately and add you to all of their networks, meaning that they will be exposed to your content through a variety of different channels. This is a good thing.
5. Birds of a Feather Flock Together
When you are adding friends to your social networks it is important to add friends that have the same interests as you or an interest in what you are trying to promote. If you add friends that share your interests then they will not only be more likely to accept your request and add you as a friend in return, they will also take an interest in the stories you share and what you have to say and will help you spread the word.
6. Put Your Heart in It
When you are building up your social networks, even if it is just for business or promotional purposes, it is important to be personable. Put a genuine effort into getting to know your contacts through messaging, sharing links, commenting on posts and pictures, and providing feedback. The more you talk with people the more familiar they will become with you. They will be more likely to check out your content and share it with their own friends.
When someone adds you as a friend, send them a welcome message thanking them for adding you and telling them a little bit about yourself; send birthday greetings when you see that it’s their birthday; leave comments about your friends’ statuses and posts.
It is also extremely important to follow through with your friends. If you say you’ll get back to someone then you should get back to them. You should be just as considerate of your online friends as you are of your real life friends.
7. Be Active Regularly
It is important to be active regularly on all of your accounts. Comment in groups and forums, update your profile and status and add new applications regularly. This will keep you on the radar in your friends’ feeds.
Each day, sign in to each of your accounts and respond to any messages or comments your friends have left you. It is important to respond to messages in a reasonable amount of time to let people know that you care. It is also important to keep in mind that social networks never sleep. There are no “Sundays” on social networks, so make sure to check your profiles regularly.
8. Submit Quality Content
When you bookmark stories and websites and post links to your social networks it is important to make sure that you are submitting quality content. Read through an entire story before you post it to make sure that it is something you really want to post under your name and that it’s worth the time of the friends you are sharing it with. The better the material that you submit, the more people will follow you and be interested in seeing what you will submit next.
9. Nobody Likes a Spammer
Don’t overload your friends with links, messages, comments and content. If you overload people they will either flag you as a spammer or remove you from their friends. Stick to sending relevant, quality content that your friends will get something out of.
10. Don’t Stress Yourself Out!
Social networking should be a positive experience. After all, you are making new friends and socializing with people who share your interests. Interacting with and getting to know these people should be fun experience, so don’t stress yourself out.
With these ten tips you have the guidelines for building strong and valuable social networking skills. When you choose the right networks and start having fun with them while achieving your goals, the possibilities are endless.
Thanks to StefanKeijzer for the pic.
Megan O’Neill has worked with a number of Internet and media related companies both in the United States and in Israel in design, content and marketing positions. She currently works at Blonde 2.0 as a Social Media Marketing Assistant.