The huge advances of social media sites show a transformation from media monologues to dialogues which will define human communication of the early 21st century. An overwhelming majority of marketers say they are now using some form of social media to market their business. Social media is an almost “must-have” for any small business because it is cheap and effective.
The site that seems to embody this transformation – at the moment! – is Twitter. Although Twitter’s growth seems to have leveled off in 2009 after recording a massive 752% growth in 2008, there no signs of it’s influence waning as this century nears its troublesome teenage years. Savvy businesses see money in Twitter: I recently tweeted that I’d had a bad experience with BT and, within a few hours, I got a tweet from them asking me what the problem was.
So if we have to engage with this social media how do we do it productively and without turning into some sort of anti-social geekia dullard? Here are a few pointers on how to organize your web-life amongst the blogs, wikis and social sites, create a consistent online image and sync up all the various parts of your online world.
Create your Avatar
And, no, I don’t mean head over to Pandora and consort with the Na’vi, I mean use a consistent image when you comment on blogs or on your profile page of various other sites. Head over to Gravatar (created by those awfully nice Automattic people that gave us WordPress) and upload a square (150 by 150 pixels should do it) image which will appear by your name when you comment on a blog. Keep this square JPG, GIF or PNG handy on your hard drive and use it every time you register for a forum or social networking or bookmarking site. That way you have a consistent visual sign that people will come to recognize and trust!
Connect your social bookmarking sites to tweet your faves
If you don’t use social bookmarking sites then you should. Sites like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious, etc., are excellent ways of rank and store useful articles and to promote yourself. As with your tweets, don’t use these services to shamelessly promote only your blog posts. Use them to store articles that you find interesting and then you will earn a reputation for distributing interesting material in your niche and your blog posts will benefit.
The best thing about these sites is that you can link them up to your Twitter ID and therefore promote your post on both the social bookmarking site and Twitter at the same time. Digg and Delicious are especially good for this.
Tweet your latest blog posts and blog your latest tweets
(Bit of a no-brainer, obviously) Some people claim that blogging’s light has been faded by the more advanced social tools. However, I think macro-blogging (sorry!) can only grow from the surge of interest in Twitter’s micro-blogging service. So, to automatically tweet your latest posts use WP to Twitter. And use Twitter for WordPress to display your latest tweets on your blog.
Publish videos and photos and tweet them
With their value going from zero to over a billion dollars in under 2 years, YouTube were the understated social media success story of the last decade. Together with the more stylish Vimeo and Metacafe (which is easily synced with Facebook), video sites are a great way of promoting your brand. For photos, apart from TwitPic there’s the more popular Flickr. Once you have joined these sites remember to favorite other videos, channels, photos and photostreams so that yours are more likely to get seen. Embed your logo and/or website into the videos or images. Remember to always put your website address in your profile settings of all of these sites!
Sync up your LinkedIn and Facebook status with your Twitter feed
LinkedIn users can automatically feed their Twitter status updates to their LinkedIn status updates. Use the Twitter exporter to automatically post your Facebook status updates to Twitter.
The most successful URL shortener is bit.ly, followed by ow.ly, most likely because they are newer and contain fewer characters. The least retweeted URL shorteners are the older and longer Tiny URL and TwitPic. I think Bitly is great because not only does it shorten URL and posts to Twitter it also provides great stats on the links.
With so many social media sites out there, all wanting your info and time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and disheartened. As a general rule of thumb, lurk on these sites to see what they’ve got on the subjects that interest you. And then, once signed up (and linked to your main website), make sure you add articles, photos and videos of genuine interest from third parties as well as your own material.
What about you? Do you have any social media top tips that you’d like to share?