But, since this whole social media thing is still so new for many small businesses, however, that it deserves a little extra care and feeding in order to gain the tactical momentum it requires.
I’ve found that there is a logical order or steps that are necessary to progress through to learn enough about the vast array of social media options that you can employ to get the greatest return and the tightest integration with your existing marketing both on and offline.
It’s important that you do enough research upfront to help you determine if you need a blog (you do) or what social networks and bookmarking sites you might benefit from most. Sites tend to have personalities and characteristics that might make one more useful for a tech company and another a great place for an insurance sales person.
Before you barge in lurk a while. Learn a little about what others, about the protocols, about the leaders in the space. Subscribe to a few dozen blogs and read them to learn how to blog.
By now you may have narrowed your initial target strategies down, so jump in. Create strong, information rich, non-salesy profiles on a number of social media networks. (These will have some search engine value even if you aren’t very active) Add a blog or at least start making comments on some of the blogs you’ve been reading. You have to start somewhere.
Whether it’s through blog commenting, digg finds or replies on twitter, you are definitely ready to start becoming an active participant in the communities you join. Again, wade in, but take care to view this phase as part of your education. Keep reading and learning about how your chosen networks operate. You’ll find that social tools, like social settings, have informal structures and acceptable behavior. There’s no set of rules, per se, but you will want to be in tune with what the expectations are.
Your next job is to start identifying folks that are in similar industries, are like-minded, seem to be the kind of people you are attracted to either by what they do or simply by what you read about them. Identifying leaders in a network, or people with lots of twitter followers may be a good idea in the beginning, but eventually you will want to build your network of regular contacts from those that can be strategic allies in one way of another.
It may seem as though it’s taken a long time to get here, but this is the point where you may begin to actively solicit partners, promote events, and introduce your expertise by way of active participation. If you’ve gone through the first few steps in a patient manner you’ve likely earned the trust of those you’ve engaged and networked with and this is really where the payoff can start to happen.
Install 3rd party tracking, automation and measurement tools that allow you to more easily manage and gauge the success of your social media participation.