If you are new to the social networking swimming pool, don’t feel bad. There are lots of companies yet to get into the water, but it is high time to stick your toes in. Here’s a quick-start primer on what you will need to accomplish in order to develop a sound social media strategy.

Online and offline discussions, articles, webinars, eBooks and a plethora of other communications all speak as though everyone is keeping up with the uber-evolving media storm called social media. Getting started can be a paralyzing process, especially if you are new to social media all together. Social media marketing is sort of like learning a foreign language; you need to understand the foundation words and terms in order to grasp the language basics. In the case of social media, it’s more about understanding the function of each and how to interact with them.

Here is a quick-start primer to get you going on a sound foundation. Performing these action-steps will help understand and implement social media marketing campaigns in short order.

If you perform these steps in order, you should have little trouble launching an effective social media strategy. Let’s get started.

NOTE: This is NOT a quick-fix solution, merely a quick-start action plan. Building a functional, influential and eventually profitable social media audience takes time and effort. It won’t happen in just a few weeks; it may take months. These social media pages are long-term strategic tools in the marketing arsenal and should not be considered stand-alone marketing tactics.

New to Social Networking Here’s a Quick-Start PrimerBuild Social Media Pages

Notice the word build; it doesn’t say start posting. Building your social media pages and then filling them with “Hey, Look at Me” content and calls to action will not generate very many new friends or leads to new customers. Start with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Each of these social platforms provides tutorials and/or easy instructions to build a basic page, but if you can afford it have a marketer build one for you. It shouldn’t cost very much for a good looking, functional social media page on these three platforms. These are just the beginning in social sites; there are many more than 200, the list growing daily. These are, however the big three.

Facebook – The folks at Facebook have become the largest social media site in the world, but it was originally designed for the college student to stay in touch with their friends and classmates. Obviously it has grown well beyond its original intent. Businesses have recognized the enormous opportunity in this medium, mainly because that is where their customers are. It’s no longer all about what somebody did last night; businesses promote their brands and content on this daily. Facebook allows for multiple pages, so a personal page along with a business page will be sufficient to get started, but you will eventually add to these by establishing groups of your own.

Twitter – Often misunderstood, Twitter can be a powerful lead generation tool. Through their advanced search option, business to business companies can identify those listing their biographical information such as title; CEO, COO, CMO, Founder, Partner. Following these people will teach you much about with whom they interact, what they have to say, and the ability to join the conversation. You’ll also see who else is following them, and if they match your interests, you can ask for an introduction.

Search for discussions about the products or services that you offer in your business. There might be complaints or compliments being aired about a competitor, someone expressing a need or perhaps a complaint about your business. Knowing someone is speaking adversely about your company and sincerely addressing it immediately is much better than letting it fester and grow into a serious discussion item.

Searching for local businesses in your target audiences provides an opportunity to follow them, and in turn gather intelligence and followers from those groups.

LinkedIn – This is perhaps the most widely used business social media site, which offers content, relationship building, jobs and discussion groups of all kinds. You should find several groups that fill your niche requirements, so build a personal profile as well as a business page. Participate in discussions, offer your opinion and assist others in spreading the word about their particular needs and or desires, and over time, you will be revered as a thought leader and “valuable connection.”

Once your social media pages are constructed, occasionally post engaging content for those with whom you shared the links. You should have all of the link share buttons on everything you produce; email messaging, content, website pages, blogs, etc. Your customers will find them through these actions, as will unique visitors to your site. Others will begin to share with you, but your goal is to not flood the sites with only your own content.

Research and Build Relationships – Identify some blog sites that already sharing content with your ideal customer types. You should be looking online and offline of competitors, and related companies in the same industry but focusing on another segment of your industry than you. They don’t have to be in your industry either; they could be in a vertical of yours, or they might belong to some completely different industry that services your target audience. Regardless, offer to promote their content on your site. This will open the door for building a relationship on trust; after all, you are offering to help them.

Other forms of relationships you should consider are local, regional and national groups in which people congregate regularly. These could be chat rooms, community action groups, Meet Up organizations, forums and other forms of communities where discussions occur with regularity about your industry and ideal customer types.

Once you have identified and begun a relationship, you might want to begin offering opportunities to share their content with your audiences. This is of course, after you have spent sufficient time becoming known through participation in discussions, sharing opinions and helping others accomplish their goals. Your goals are a separate matter that will develop over time. Performed correctly, you will have developed new relationships that can last for years. The important thing to remember here is that in order to get what you want, you must first help others get what they want (sounds like someone said that before, doesn’t it). After a few months of “helping” you may want to request that each of these new relationships assist in the promotion of some type of event or contest. You’ll be surprised at the level of participation. You will be growing your database of contacts through the sign up process of your event/contest.

Schedule Your Content – Setting up a content calendar will be your best method of getting your message out without overdoing it. Tweeting about your business multiple times a day will not help you; it could do the opposite. Besides, do you have the time or staff depth to produce great copy each day? Schedule in advance any promotions, contests, blog articles, special downloads, webinars and the like, but be sure to put some space between them. You shouldn’t have more than one promotional updates for every week to two weeks. Know in advance what you will be broadcasting so that you can delve into analytics to find out what is working better than others.

Social Media Advertising – Each of the mentioned social media platforms offer advertising, and when you are ready, you can utilize it to grow your databases. Your budget doesn’t have to be large, and investing a few bucks a day won’t break the bank. You can point to your site, or offer a contest that links to your social page or website, a free download, all sorts of things. Leveraging these platforms can be a useful and inexpensive method of driving traffic, growing fans and building relationships. Facebook has a birthday component to it, so keep track and send an eCard or post good wishes on their timeline.

This article is no magic bullet.New to Social Media?

This post doesn’t pretend to address all of the intricacies of social media, but the tips and suggestions within will help you get off to a reasonable start without a big budget, and without shooting yourself in the foot.

As an inbound marketing agency, Zen Marketing Inc. offers assistance in setting up a social media strategy, even managing your entire social media campaigns. Feel free to contact me personally for some free advice, recommendations or to answer any questions.