social media how to Do you need a beginner’s guide to social media marketing?

Looking for something to help you get started with social media?

Social media is a conversation you can join any time. Join now. You’ll be welcomed.

In this article I’ll help you blast through the hardest part of social media: getting started. Right here. Right now. Here you go: the essential how-to guide, no experience required.

getting started with social media graphic

Advice for beginning social media marketers.

#1: Start Slow

Don’t try to do too much, too soon—you’ll end up overwhelmed. There’s no need to dive head first into a long list of social networks, or even the top four, right out of the gate.

Pick just one or two. Each has a learning curve, but none is so complex you won’t be able to grasp the basics and begin.

The question is which social media networks make the most sense for you? The answer: The networks your customers prefer. Dig around a bit to find out which networks they’re using—visit their websites or simply ask them.

#2: Find Out Where People Connect

Identify a handful of companies in your space that are active in online marketing and visit their sites. Are they blogging? If so, look at the number of shares for each post to see which channel is most active.

Do they have social media icons? Look for the f, g+, in, P, bird and camera logos (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, that is) and click through to their social media pages. Do they have sizable followings on particular social channels? Is there a lot of activity there or do things look a bit static?

social media logos shutterstock 201609656

Find the right social network to reach your perfect audience. Image: Shutterstock.

You want to be where the conversations are happening. After looking into several competitors, it won’t be hard to figure out where the action is. Go along with the crowd. Get started with the one or two networks where you’ve determined competitors and the market at large are connecting.

#3: Watch Influencer Activity

In addition to competitors and customers, look at the social media activity of industry influencers. The most influential social media players are generally writers and publishers. Which websites, bloggers and authors have authority in your industry?

The experts in your field are likely to have established audiences, which should help you make smart choices—and provide good examples of how to interact on various media. You may find that influencers aren’t just blogging, Facebooking or tweeting; you may discover some are active with video and podcasting as well.

#4: Create a Thoughtful Profile

Every social media network offers you the opportunity to create a profile. You can get by with just completing the required fields, but you’ll be sabotaging your success if you do. Take your profile seriously and do your best to fill it out completely.

The rules vary widely across social media profiles—from Twitter, where you’ll have only 160 characters to work with, to LinkedIn, where you can write a lengthy bio and post any kind of media you choose.

twitter profile bio of michael brenner

On his Twitter profile, marketing professional Michael Brenner wisely includes numerous keywords and links and presents a professional and friendly portrait.

The main thing is to be professional, but personable. Avoid applauding yourself unnecessarily. Be humble, but confident. Your profile plays a large part in swaying others to follow you (or not), so be authentic and interesting.

As you create your different profiles, include keywords that are most relevant to your profession to enable others to find you via search. Frequently, you’ll find hashtags (the # symbol) preceding keywords. Include links, where possible, to your website.

#5: Upload a Nice Photo

Too many social media users are inappropriately creative when it comes to their profile picture.

Don’t use family photos, pets, landscapes or any odd depictions of yourself or your professional persona. In my opinion, you should also avoid logos if possible. In a physical social situation, you wouldn’t introduce yourself by whipping out a picture of your dog.

Your online profile is a social situation—show visitors your smile. Use a simple headshot of you looking into the lens, cropped closely. People want to connect with a person, not a logo.

#6: Upload Headers and Background Images

Options for headers and backgrounds vary across different media. However, most social networks have followed Facebook’s lead by offering a space to upload an additional image that acts as a page header (sometime called a cover photo). On Twitter, you also have the opportunity to customize your page’s background.

feldman creative google+ header

In the header of my Google+ page, I feature a photo of various Feldman Creative items to help reinforce my brand.

Put some thought into your cover photo and your profile page will become that much more welcoming. You might elect to show your city, workspace or the like. Commonly, marketers will use graphics from their website or something representative of their brand, which is wise. It’s unwise to neglect your header image because a generic one will be automatically placed there creating the impression you don’t care.

#7: Learn the Network’s Features

Yes, you’re going to need to learn how your network of choice operates. Each network has much in common, but they differ in significant ways. Invest a little time learning the ropes. You don’t have to read books or enroll in a course (though you have that option). Instead, acquaint yourself with the network you’ll use by asking for help from a friend, downloading an ebook or guide and searching for blogs that offer guidance from experts.

#8: Follow Others

Your path to engaging on social media begins by following others whose updates will appear in your feed when you sign on. Don’t overthink this process. You can always revise your decisions later by unfollowing people, so fear not and simply begin following folks.

who to follow suggestions on twitter

Twitter and other social media networks offer suggestions on who to follow based on your profile.

Whom should you follow? Start by following people you know, as well as current customers. If you want to find influencers or others with common interests, do a keyword search on each network. Consider following those who follow the people you follow. (You follow me?)

Based on your profile and your follow list, most networks will suggest additional people to follow. In a short time, people will begin to follow you. Follow them back.

#9: Listen for Best Practices

In social media, the word “listen” really means “look.” Translation: though it’s tempting to start posting immediately after joining a social network, you’ll do yourself a world of good if you step back first and observe how others behave and interact.

You’ll pick up on nuances of the network. You’ll figure out best practices and etiquette. There’s no formula for how long or how much listening you should do, but you do indeed learn a lot by watching from the sidelines for a bit.

#10: Share Others’ Content

The best thing you can do to build relationships via social media is share content you discover and enjoy. Social media is very much reciprocal. People notice and appreciate it when you take the time to share their blog posts, images, videos, etc., and will likely return the favor.

share image shutterstock 204859984

Build relationships by sharing. Image: Shutterstock.

Social media experts often claim as much as 80% of your updates should be shares. I don’t wholeheartedly agree, but I do suggest making thoughtful sharing a regular and large part of your social media activity.

#11: Endorse Others’ Updates

Endorsing other people’s updates may be slightly less significant than sharing, but it’s thoughtful and won’t go unnoticed. It’s also easy and can be done with just a click.

example of google+ endorsement

This Google+ post from Martin Shervington received + endorsements from 52 people.

Of course, the most well-known of all endorsements is the Facebook “like”—a thumbs-up icon. Each network has one or more forms of endorsements including a “+” on Google+, “like” on LinkedIn and “favorite” on Twitter. Don’t endorse every update you read, but do it when you mean it. You’ll find plenty of content and comments worthy of a click.

#12: Comment on Updates and Articles

The heartbeat of social media is conversation, so while sharing and endorsing can be thoughtful and smart, commentary is better still. When you get rolling and your network grows into the hundreds or thousands, you won’t have the time to comment on every update you see. However, the best content you come across will provoke thoughts, just like any conversation.

When you comment, express yourself. Agree. Disagree. Answer questions. Ask questions. Cite examples. Offer links. Say thank you. Again, at its best, social media is a conversation and when you put something into it, you get something out of it. It’s fun. Enjoy it.

#13: Join Groups

The social media you joined are big networks with hundreds of millions of members. You have the option to interact with more like-minded people by joining (or creating) far more focused groups, communities, chats and so forth. Don’t hesitate to try them.

social media groups

Most social media platforms offer opportunities to join or create special interest groups. Above is a sample of the many LinkedIn groups I belong to.

Along your journey, you’ll find some of the most valuable exchanges occur within groups, and as result of your participation, opportunities continuously present themselves.

#14: Be Consistent

You need to budget time to do social media. How much time is up to you, but understand you’ll be taken far more seriously if you’re active on a daily basis. Yes, you can shut it down for a day, weekend or take a break without threatening your good standing. The caution I aim to make here is if you merely check in with a post now and then, you probably won’t be taken seriously.

#15: Don’t Pitch

If you want to buy advertising on social media, do it. Most networks offer advertising options, and many are quick to attest to its effectiveness. However, outside of the sponsored opportunities some social media networks offer, your fans and followers won’t tolerate relentless sales messages. The more you pitch your products and services, the more they’ll reject you.

I’m not saying social media isn’t for marketing. In fact, it is. The trick is to market with a utility mindset. Try a softer approach to selling. Think of your offers as friendly invitations.

Promoting an event, special offer, sale, new product or the like is all fair game. You simply need to strike a balance so as to not put people off. Your updates should be valuable.

It’s far more effective to pull than push on social media. When you teach, advise and help people, your contributions are embraced.

#16: Tell People Where to Find You

As you surf the web, you come across social media icons everywhere—as it should be. If you’re going to participate in social media, you’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity to let people know where they can find you, so include the icons on your site as well.

Consider showcasing links to your social sites (usually represented by icons) across all customer-facing touch points, including your:

  • Website
  • Online properties (including other social media)
  • Email signature
  • Newsletter
  • Business cards
  • Advertising

#17: Be Real

Your digital presence is not a veil. Don’t try to be anything other than yourself on social media. Write as you would speak.

social media image

Personal branding leader William Arruda says, “Be real before being virtual.”

When you let the authentic you come through, you’ll attract the right people, make the right connections and accomplish what social media is really for: building relationships.

Wrapping Up

Social media is not a fad. It’s essential. Just as your customers rely on the phone and email, they rely on social media. It’s where you connect. To believe otherwise can limit and threaten the growth of your business or career.

But if you’re new to social media it can seem like another language. Foreign. Frightening. You may be thinking, “Will I look lame?” Am I too late to the party? Will anyone care what I have to say? Relax. Social media is a friendly place. Use the advice in this essential how-to guide to get started with confidence.

What do you think? If you’re new to social media, what questions do you have? If you’ve been in the space for a while, what advice can you offer to social media beginners? Leave your questions, comments and advice below.

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  • Yes, it’s so important not to keep pitching and promoting. That just annoys people right off the bat. But this does seem to be a very common mistake that many newbies make, particularly if they’re in business …

    I think that engaging thoughtfully in group discussions — particularly on Linkedin — is one of the best things you can do when starting out. Keep at it and you get seen by numerous people very quickly.

    I’ve found that whenever I do this for a while I always get a few connection requests coming in soon afterwards. The activity also lifts your profile in the internal search rankings of Linkedin. So more people find you that way too.

  • somyakomya

    B>$97/hr pavivdv by Google, I am making a good salary from home $5500-$7000/week , which is amazing, under a year ago I was jobless in a horrible economy. I thank God every day I was blessed with these instructions and now it’s my duty to pay it forward and share it with Everyone,

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  • I think too often businesses forget that social media is supposed to be just that – social. It’s not there for them to constantly be promoting their product, but instead to produce thoughtful discussion that could have the added benefit of having people buy their product. I love the emphasis you put on being authentic, because that’s so important. Let your customers know that you’re human and then they’ll be more willing to talk, relate, and eventually buy from you.

  • tonymweave

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail

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  • Good stuff Scott. I’m with you 100%, but it always strikes me as funny that we need to remind ourselves we’re human. I suppose the proliferation of all things digital sometimes has a de-humanizing effect.

    Just yesterday I was reading someone who had written their favorite email comes weekly from Chris Brogan because he’s so himself in his email.

  • Colin

    What do you think of reblogging i.e posting snippets of interesting articles/post that may be of interest to your group/followers. What are the legal issues around this?

  • laracraftmili

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the>>CLICK NEXT TAB FOR MORE INFO AND HELP

  • Colin, that tends to be called “curation” and there are a great variety of ways to do it. Experiment with it and ultimately the responses you do or don’t get will tell you if it’s helping your marketing. Play nice, as in, citing your sources and including links and you’ll have no legal issues to contend with (but I’m not a copyright lawyer). Thanks for your questions.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful and concise article Barry. I think you’ve hit the fundamentals of a great social media marketing plan for any business!

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  • Thanks for this wonderfully written article Barry. I’m fairly new to social media in the business sense and it still seems overwhelming. I keep thinking that I need to engage on all possible platforms, but I just end up getting frustrated because I don’t know them well enough to be effective.
    I truly think the main goal with any social media strategy is to add value. As you said, it’s easier to pull than push. If we look formopportunities to meet the needs of others, our needs will be met in return!

  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Fentastic post here, thanks Barry for sharing this blog with us, now a days its very important to identify this importance of each and every social media. I like this post.

  • Stacey Cohen Riska

    Thanks for such an insightful article. And it’s not just for newbies…..we can all use a refresher of these important points.

  • Thanks for this. Useful info — especially if you want to start your own group. That’s something I might end up doing eventually.

  • charlesjmeyer

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail

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  • OwnStLucia

    Your advice is spot on! A social media newbie who takes your advice would be well on their way to social media marketing success. As part of following best practices I would suggest that they use the tools appropriate to simplifying and maximizing their use of the network. I would also add tip #18 which is to monitor progress. Decide on an objective whether growing a following, branding or making sales and monitor and measure success, repeat practices that foster success and eliminate or tweak practices that don’t.

  • OwnStLucia

    You’re right John, the easiest way to fail in social media marketing is to sell, instead engage, share valuable content and set yourself as an authority in your niche.

  • Pretty goof for a starter : )

  • Barry. I am literally blushing. Thanks so much and great tips in here. I have found that value, consistency and variety are the keys to social success. So add value to your audience is #1. Posting on some consistent basis whatever the channel is important. And I think it’s good to mix it up too. I an constantly trying to find new ways to be effective and give people what they want.

  • Anna

    I’m not quite sure how to implement #8 with a business FB page. I can “like” other businesses, but I can’t “friend” customers.

    I’m trying to figure out how to build a FB audience for a friend’s frozen yogurt shop in Arizona. The page has less than 100 likes, and I want to help them build their local audience without paying for advertising, promoting, and such.

    By the way, I live in Oregon. So I’m not local to them.

  • Anna,
    Read your question, but don’t have an answer. I’m calling in a Facebook expert. Stay tuned for an informed response. BF

  • Yes, That is very true about Social media to use it as a social medium to connect. Not as a bunch of promotions for their products, which makes a very bad impression.

    commenting on LinkedIn groups. This is that best way to connect with like-minded professionals and exchange useful information.

  • Very useful though.

  • Hi Anna –
    Yes, I really recommend that people use their Page to comment on other local Pages. Once you Like the other local Page and login as the Page, your Home button at the top will give you the News Feed of those Pages. You can then comment on the Page posts as your Page and increase your visibility with the local market. It’s the best way to really boost your visibility without spending a lot of money. Find the local chambers, the newspapers, and other high profile sites to comment on.

    Making friends with people is sometimes challenging as a business owner because not everyone is open with their friend requests. So participating as your page really helps. And a little advertising can go a long way.

  • Anna

    Thank you Andrea, but I’m still having trouble. I think it’s because I’m very familiar with personal FB pages, but not one for a business. Unlike my personal page, there is no search bar when I log in, and no “home” button for a news feed. I can search out a local businesses page and “like” it, but I can’t “follow” it. The follow button is grayed out.

    I’ve tried the FB help menu, and looking around settings, but can’t seem to figure out how to have a news feed and follow other businesses. I can web search a page and “like” it, but then it just shows up in the timeline in the “Liked By This Page” bottom left square.

  • Anna

    I appreciate any help you can offer. Thank you

  • It sounds like you have a “Business only” Page. You will need to make a personal profile an Admin to have the full capabilities on your Page. Then you will need to switch to your Page from you personal profile login. I have a post about making a profile and admin here:

  • Anna

    Good article. I’m helping my friend with the social media for their business, so I’ll see how they feel about me becoming admin.

  • yogesh kumar

    Can anyone help me with how to SMM strategy for a start up Creative agency??

  • Yogesh, Hard to believe no one here responded. Feel free to contact me to discuss consulting services if you want assistance with your planning.

  • John Allred

    Great post. I am always trying to think of new
    ways to drive traffic to my site. Guest blog post is a great way to build back
    links. Thank you for your suggestions.