In life we expect outgoing people to be better at tasks like networking or sales. We use terms like "extrovert" and "Type-A personality" to describe what many of us believe to be true about many of the people we work with … that seemingly natural parts of their personality make them ideal candidates to do certain types of jobs. Chances are as you have built your own small business, a part of any success you have had has come from your own natural abilities and skills.
The problem with how we think about our natural abilities (and those of others) is that it also forces us to consider that the exact opposite must be true as well. After all, if you can be naturally good at some things, surely you could be naturally bad at other things, right? And being naturally bad at something is a great excuse to just avoid doing something. If you're "not good with numbers" then you get someone else to handle that. Or if you're not a technology guy (or girl) then you can justify not investing in better systems to optimize your business.
This is just silly. Having an inherent ability certainly helps, but it is not a prerequisite – particularly when you consider social media. Many small business owners falsely believe that the more technical you are, the more readily you should be able to use social media. Actually, being good at using social media has very little to do with your technical ability. It does, however, require learning some basic principles and to some degree developing the right instincts. These are guiding principles that anyone who effectively uses social media already knows – but will dramatically help you to use social media like an expert, even if you still think Java is a kind of coffee …
- Be conversational. The first and most important instinct to develop when it comes to social media can be surprisingly difficult for some, and that is to speak, write, and share content in your own real voice. This means using conversational language and writing as you would speak. Social media is rarely a place for marketing or legal type of language – so leave those for your important documents and get as real as you can whenever you post anything.
- Listen and respond consistently. It is often said that the basis of social media comes from listening. You insert any clichÃ© here that you like about having twice as many ears as mouths … but the point is that through listening to what people are saying you will know what you need to respond to – particularly if someone posts a message about your business or industry and is seeking a response. The more often you respond, the more social credibility you can build for your organization as one that is listening and cares about the sentiment of the group.
- Proactively comment and share. Responding to questions that involve you or your business is the relatively easy part. More difficult is to consistently find reasons to proactively share a comment on a blog post or share content that you find relevant or interesting (particularly when it has nothing to do with your business).
- Use questions instead of statements. Open ended questions are a boon in social media, because they invite interaction. So instead of just posting statements of your thoughts or beliefs, how about turning them into questions and seeing who might have an interesting point of view to share. You'll find this one shift makes a big difference in your level of engagement in the long term.
- Participate with those who share your passion. There are hundreds of thousands of niche groups on sites like Facebook and also independently created through blogs and sites like Ning.com. There are bound to be groups of people who are in your industry or perhaps even just share the same passions as you. Now there are ways to find them, and doing so can give you an instant community to belong to.
- Support online relationships with offline interactions. It would be a sad life if we could get everything we needed just from the web. Despite our advances in technology, there remains no substitute for knowing people in person, so whenever you can support anything you do with social media by going to a local event or meeting people, that would go a long way towards that.
- Invest in karma. The last piece of advice is around karma – or the idea that "what goes around comes around." It has been talked about often when it comes to social media, but what most power users of social tools online know is that doing things to help people, sharing knowledge and generally being open to those who connect with you are all good things that pay off in an uncertain way at some point in the future.
There are likely other tips from social media power users on how to build your ability to succeed, but these 7 essentials should help you to get a good start.
NOTE: This post is part of Small Business Friday (SBF) – a featured section on this blog to share marketing ideas for small businesses and was originally published on the American Express Open Forum site.