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By Ray Villalobos |

Tips for approaching social networking

Facebook didn’t seem that big to me until a few years ago when I was running a network of web sites for a group of radio stations and I noticed that traffic was starting to wane suddenly without significant changes to the site. After some research, I found the problem—DJs had suddenly discovered social media. They were no longer promoting our station web site, but instead getting people involved in their own profiles on Facebook and Twitter. I found that the station listeners were also shifting their activities from participation on the station site to time on other social networks. Losing traffic to Facebook was scary at first, but eventually, we caught on and learned that we needed to treat shifts in the industry as opportunies to engage our audience, rather than a fight with the latest trend.

As Facebook fast approaches one billion users, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore social networking. If you’re new to social— it’s time to get ramped up! In this blog, I’ll share my thoughts on social media, and offer some quick tips for new brands just getting started with social.

Screenshot of the lynda.com Facebook page with 100 thousand likes.

Today the lynda.com Facebook page has 100,000 likes, but every brand page has to build their community up from zero.

Rethinking social, what it’s for, and how to use it

Ultimately the problem a lot of people have with social media properties like YouTube and Facebook is that we tend to think of them as time pits instead of resources. For web developers, designers, and anyone working freelance, it’s important to recognize that social media sites can be helpful tools that make reaching out to your clients quicker and easier. Every business has their own group of people they’re trying to reach and build relatonships with. Inherently, those people you’re trying to reach are your social network. Facebook, Twitter, and others give you the software you need to reach out to your social network, so it’s important to embrace these tools, become social, and work on discovering the best ways to serve your audience.

When you’re thinking about what to post on your social networks, consider what it is you’re trying to promote, what special thing about that promotion you’re trying to communicate, who your audience is, and what social communities your audiences are hanging out in—then you can work on deciding the most efficient ways to promote and share your message. Is enough of your audience on Twitter to justify opening up a new account for your business? Would your audience be responsive to a live uStream event? Where should you put photos of the event—Flickr, Facebook, PhotoBucket?

Instead of trying to spend your time chasing after the latest craze, be strategic. Really take some time to think about your target market, who they are, and where they socialize. Also, think about your own brand identity—what channels represent what you, and your brand, are all about? Are there some social venues that communicate what you do better than others? For example, if you have a lot of video content, but not a lot of news, you might find YouTube and Facebook to be better choices than a micro-blogging platform like Twitter. Try opening up accounts here and there, but limit the time you dedicate to them until you figure out what’s a good fit, what’s reasonable, and what gives you the most return.

Thinking beyond Facebook

As I mentioned before, it’s hard to ignore Facebook’s billion-user fan base, and you should definitely have a presence there, but what about the other social media channels like YouTube, and Twitter? I’d recommend trying to find ways to “mashup” the time you spend working with other services so your social media strategy is more manageable.

In my experience, I’ve found that Twitter is probably the best way to send quick updates on the go. You can update twitter through any phone (not just smart phones thanks to Twitter SMS) and it can be connected to your Facebook accounts so that a post in Twitter will feed to your Facebook page. Plus, I tend to think the 140-character limit helps you keep your messages focused.

YouTube is a much better venue if your focus is on video content and it, too, can be set to automatically update your Facebook and Twitter accounts any time a video is posted to your YouTube channel. Plus, you can record, edit, and post a video to YouTube directly from most smart phones, which makes account setup and maintenance easy.

If you’re considering going the Google+ route, one major benefit is Google hangouts. Google hangouts are a great way to hold meetings, and now with the addition of Hangouts on air, they’re also a compelling way to stream meetings. Aside from making yourself more accessible to a broader audience reach, having brand representation in multiple social networks also makes you more visible to search engines and can improve your ranking in search results.

Final thoughts and resources

If you’re feeling stuck, just remember to start by thinking of your audience—they are your own social network, after all— then use the tools the sites provides to engage with your followers and your business will naturally grow.

If you’re just getting started with social media, I recommend checking out Ann Marie Concepcion‘s course Social Media Marketing with Facebook and Twitterto learn more about dozens of ways to promote your brand, increase sales, engage customers, and drive site traffic using Facebook and Twitter.

Interested in more?• All business courses on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:• Social Media Marketing with Facebook and Twitter• Google+ First Look• LinkedIn Essential TrainingYouTube Essential Training


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