No doubt social media is taking the marketing world by storm and there’s no shortage of reading material to help marketers get up to speed quickly. While reading is important, there’s no substitute for doing, so here are some suggestions for getting some hand’s on learning about social media.
1. Facebook. If you have a Facebook page, sign up to be a fan of some successful social media marketing brands. Note the types of content posted, interaction with fans and limitations of some of the best known companies using social media such as Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Starbucks.
2. Twitter. Get an account and follow some interesting people. Take note of when they post, what the post, how often they reply – and who they follow. Use hash marks to search for topics of your interest, such as #marketing. Take the time to post some links of your own – like an interesting article you’ve read.
3. LinkedIn. It is my personal feeling that social media like Facebook is for personal, real-world friends but I like to use LinkedIn is for business and networking (even so it’s important to use both to understand the differences and similarities).
4. Blog. Take a stab at blogging using the free sites like Blogger. Start with a topic that interests you – maybe it’s marketing or writing reviews on wine or new restaurants where you’ve had dinner. The options are limitless.
5. Bookmark. Try bookmarking your own reading picks on sites like Delicious and Digg. Use these tools to bookmark your own blog posts and observe the impact. (Nowadays, StumbleUpon too.)
6. Keep reading. Some of the best social media sites offer case studies and reviews of the latest tools for social media. Among the most popular sites are Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch. Aggregators such as Alltop are a good way to skim many sources — especially blogs. Use RSS feeds to create your own lists to read (I’m still a big fan of Netvibes.)
7. Integration. As marketers we must think in terms of integration — that is to say how all of these tools will be tied together to present a cohesive and constant brand or message to your target audience. In my view, this is THE big challenge for marketers.
8. Long form. If you’re looking to get background to get up to speed on how things developed and where they’re going, two books I’d recommend are Sarah Lacy’s Once Your Lucky, Twice Your Good and David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing & PR.
9. Commit. Finally, you have to commit to learning social media because it changes and evolves very quickly. While you learn best by doing, it also takes time. It’s better to log on a few times a week for a year, then spending a week-long crash study and then forgetting about it.
There are dozens of social media applications on the Web. Some you may have already used some, but these services are just scraping the surface. If you are new to social media, the plethora of information can seem daunting, but your best bet is to dive in, do some “listening” and to contribute to the conversation; there’s no substituted for doing!
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Photo credit: Flickr, Anthony Ryan (CC BY-SA 2.0)