There is no shortage of quick-help guides on the Internet, or extremely in-depth, detailed books in print about how to find success in social media. These things exist because brands that have little to no experience in social media on the web will most likely read them. Lots of them will, probably. And those views generally end up translating to page views, or book sales, which ultimately translate to money for those websites or authors.
But everyone (including myself) generally has something to say on the topic, and much of the advice can be conflicting or confusing. Some of it can also be very useful, absolutely, but more often than not,it is simply individuals broadcasting their own questionable levels of expertise and hands on knowledge.
The fact is, you should stop listening to them. And yes, I do realize the irony in writing this. But please, continue reading.
They Don’t Understand Your Community
Obviously, guides, recommendations and entire books aren’t written with just your business in mind. Of course, you could — insert your business name here — wherever appropriate, but the fact is that those guides are written with more than one dumbfounded business owner in mind because, simply put, they aren’t writing for you, just at you.
Which is just one reason why you shouldn’t be listening to everything they say. They don’t know your business or the community that you have built around it, so they can’t really speak for your business as a whole. Sure they might know how to drive engagement, manage crises and create order out of what is almost consistently chaotic about social media, but they don’t understand what sort of goals you might have in mind, or just what sort of community that your business is built around. Their general recommendations might be useful in developing some sort of initial plan or expectation when it comes to social media, but it won’t be until you go hands on with social media that you will be able to discover how to effectively develop your own community.
Only You Can Solve Your Own Problems
Unfortunately, there is no universal social media help line. In fact, Facebook doesn’t even have telephone customer support. There are help forums, certainly, and you can submit problems to both Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in an effort to find resolutions. But those may take hours, and in social media that might as well be a year.
Regardless of the sort of expectations and guides that you may have read heading into the harrowing jungle that is social media, you will undoubtedly run into some snags or — worse — serious problems. Whether that be as simple as responding to basic requests, or as complex as knowing what to do in situations when social media blows up in your face and your customers start posting all sorts of nasty things targeted towards your social media accounts, only you can ultimately determine how to solve those problems.
They will occur. You might sweat, a lot. But don’t worry. Even if they go horribly wrong the first time, social media offers businesses plenty of opportunity for redemption.
Learning by Doing
Finally, it’s also important to discuss the matter of learning through trial-and-error, particularly as it relates to social media. It is significant because, for any business, that might be one of the only ways to learn how to effectively manage social media. In order to start off, just do things. It doesn’t matter what those things are, as long as they have some sort of purpose. Post a status without a picture, post a picture without a status, post a link, etc., etc. If something works, keep doing it. If something doesn’t, stop doing it. Rinse. Repeat.
Eventually, you will learn how to be consistent and, most importantly, effective in engaging users through social media. You might get scarily efficient. You might not. The fact is, by doing something — anything, really — you are effectively learning.
Just as reading a good book (or a few hundred) can teach you how to write, writing, too, can teach you how to, well, write. It can teach you about yourself as a person, where there is room for improvement, and how you can craft pieces in the future in order to make them much more appealing from a reader’s standpoint.
If you read this far, kudos to you. You can stop now.