How I Maintain My Social Network Without Losing My Shirt
Thank you for the great collection of comments, tips and insights you are sharing on yesterday's post about making connections on Twitter. One of the themes of the comments is that, if you're not careful, Twitter and other social media become colossal time suckers with little to no return. Indie Beauty Network member Anne-Marie wrote, "It can be a bit of a black hole if I follow all the cool links that show up on people's Tweets." And Indie Beauty Network member D'Anna Catterson said, "It can be quite addicting!"
I have found these things to be true. If you don't discipline yourself in any fun social situation, you'll find yourself hopelessly unproductive. Who hasn't experienced staying at the party or talking on the phone so long that some other important detail of life or business is not tended to? We've all done that, so we all appreciate the power of using a system to ensure that our social connections are maintained while our businesses continue to thrive.
Here are my Social Media System recommendations and a little about how I incorporate social media into my business model.
1. Reserve Your Brand At Major Social Media Outlets
Using a popular social media outlet just because I or someone else says you should is a reason to at least make a note to check out the website so you can make a first impression decision about whether it might work for you. If it does not appeal to you, open a free (if available) account in your brand name anyway so that, if you decide to use it at a later date, it's available to you. This prevents others from reserving an account at that site using your name.
2. First, Observe Others
If you decide to start using the account, first watch how other seasoned users of the technology use it. There's no need to schedule this observation time. Just do it as you go throughout your week, hearing about it in blogs, the news, etc. As you learn more about it through your network of business friends and colleagues, you'll develop a framework to prioritize checking it out further.
Take your time. There's usually no need to rush. Look carefully at how the most proficient users of the technology operate. Make mental notes of what they do that is effective and efficient in terms of time. For example, if a successful Indie Tweets 5 times a day on average, and you have a business similar to his or hers, perhaps this framework is a good one for you to consider.
Similarly, if someone blogs 3 times a week, and each blog post is about 5 paragraphs long, use this as a framework for your blog. Do they use pictures? Video? There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Look at what successful people in your field are doing. Listen to what they say about the frequency and manner in which they use the technology and pattern yourself after them. You'll find that you make changes and adjustments as you go to suit your own personal style and business model
3. Use Cross-Posting Where Available
If you decide to take advantage of a new social media outlet, look for ways to syndicate or repeat your content across your different social connections. Most new social technologies are sensitive to the fact that, there are so many of them that users need to be able to do something one time and post it across multiple different networks.
For example, when I post a video to Blip, with the click of a mouse, I cross-post it to my Myspace page. When I post an Utterli audio clip, I choose the option to automatically cross-post it to my Twitter stream. When I post a Tweet, it automatically cross-posts to my Facebook page and to this website in the right column.
Cross-posting allows me to reach multiple people with one activity.
3. Set a Time Limit For Each Activity
You're busy running a business and a home. You have to fit online social networking into your week, but you also have to set time limits. Otherwise, you'll be closing down the bar every night and waking up the next morning wondering why you have no customers, why you overslept, and why everyone else is bright-eyed a bushy tailed.
Look at your weekly schedule and schedule in time for social connections. Spend the most time at the social outlets that serve your business best. This may change over time.
I receive note regularly from Indie Beauty Network members who say they are tracking new business directly from Twitter through a blog, and then to an e-commerce site. I would say these people need to keep blogging and Tweeting a certain amount each week, and devote smaller amounts of time to other avenues. But again, because business and technology are fluid, not to mention people are fickle, always be on the lookout to change the balance for a good reason.
4. Focus On 3 Social Media Outlets That Work Well For You
As I said earlier, it's important to defend your brand on line, including registering it as a trademark and using it in so many places that the incentive for someone else to do so is significantly diminished.
Having said that, once you're registered for 25 social networking accounts, you can't possibly use them at once unless you hire people to help you. This is a good option if you can afford it, and if you need it, but if not, carefully choose the spaces where you'll invest the most time, and make sure you're getting as much out of it as you're putting into it. Then use other times as available, for other social networks.
For example, you may have found that your blog, your e-commerce website and your Twitter stream form a triple header for you. This is the case for many startup Indies. You Tweet your new blog posts and people comment on them. You comment back to create community at your blog. While your readers are commenting and engaging with you, they also naturally discover links to your shopping cart, so they head on over there with a credit card. Focus on your website, blog and Twitter stream if that works for you.
This is the method I recommend for most Indie Beauty Businesses selling products. As your business expands, add other social outlets that seem feasible and which you can predict hold the most promise of a return. Again, take your cues from your successful industry colleagues.
What I Do
- Each weekday morning (well, mostly each), I post a short Utterli audio feed to my Utterli page, and cross-post it to Twitter. I sometimes cross-post it to this blog as well, and now and then, I add it to my newsletter (but I have to do that manually so it doesn't happen very often).
- Each Monday, I publish a newsletter. This is not exactly social networking, but since I have contests and other ways for my readers to respond to it, it's sort of interactive.
- When I load a new blog post, I Tweet it.
- Each Monday, I host the Indie Business Radio Show. People can call in their questions live. After the show, streaming and MP3 links are made available so people can enjoy the show, discuss it and share it with others.
- I Tweet 15 to 20 times a day. This is greatly reduced from when I first started using Twitter, when I Tweeted far more than that. It was not pretty. But I have found my footing at last I think. The only time I may Tweet more frequently in a day than 15 or 20 times is when I'm at a conference, in which case I Tweet more to share helpful business tips with those not in attendance. I also share pictures, audio and video, time permitting.) I use my Tweets for my Utterli post, maybe a blog post of mine, Retweets of other people's blot posts and responses to other people's Tweets. (You can't sit at the cocktail table and just talk. You also must respond to others, yes?) I also Tweet helpful news articles, YouTube videos, etc., that are of interest to people who keep up with me on Twitter.
- I usually cross-post my blog posts at a few Ning groups such as Twittermoms and Black Business Women Online. I also update and socialize at Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace when I have time, when I have something helpful to contribute or when something new and interesting catches my attention there. Finally, I invest time commenting at other people's blogs, Indie Beauty Network member and blogs in particular. Because I am the founder and president of the Indie Beauty Network, many of my Tweets deal with starting a small cosmetics business. The rest generally deal with business issues that any Indie Business owner can benefit from.
I vary these activities depending on everything from the work load on any particular day, to the volume of interesting and helpful things I discover and want to share with others.
Just Be Helpful!
At the end of the day, connecting with others is all about being helpful. Sure, I do my fair share of Tweeting about a new service I am launching or my next radio show, but the vast majority of my social networking is designed to help others. And I like to connect with people who share my philosophy of using technology to enhance people's lives.
Ask yourself whether the next social media activity you plan to do will help someone else. If it will, chances are it's a good investment of your time. If not, just as you would at a cocktail party, keep your mouth shut and wait for the next opportunity to help another person.
What do you think?
Whatever you do, don't let being a social butterfly interfere with making a profit in your business. On the other hand, in order to be profitable, you have to interact socially. You can't just set up a store or website and wait for people to come to you. You've got to get out there and meet people, right?!
Do you have a system? Feel free to share it in the comments section below.
If you don't have a system and this post is inspiring you to create one, please let me know that too. I want to know whether my articles are helpful to you!
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