Social Media is hot, hot, hot. I’m often asked by newcomers how to get started. It seems so overwhelming! Let’s take a look at some of the first steps to getting engaged in social media. Like other new marketing methods, I find companies jumping into social media without a real plan. They may start by creating a profile on several sites and then wonder why they aren’t seeing any action. They have no fans, no followers, and no positive results to show for the time invested. Quite frankly, many business owners aren’t sure what a realistic goal for their social media campaign should be. So let’s talk about some examples.

Before jumping into social media, think about the overall goals for your social media networking. Are you hoping to improve awareness and communication about your business? Are you trying to increase relevant traffic to your web site? Do you want to introduce new products or get new product ideas? Are you hoping to collaborate with industry professionals, customers, and others? Do you want to improve your search engine rankings? Are you getting engaged because it’s what everyone else is doing, so it must be important? Keep in mind that goal setting also provides a way to measure success once you implement your social media plan. How many new sales were achieved? Did you see a visible rise in web site traffic? Did your search engine ranking improve, and by how much? As with other marketing methods, ongoing measurements are key to determining whether social media is helping you reach your defined goals or if other tactics need to be implemented in its place.

After you’ve spent some time thinking about your social media goals and how they can be measured, the next step is to scan your online environment. See what others – your competitors, industry professionals, customers, etc. – are saying and doing in social media.

Plug into the Internet – I highly recommend starting by setting up Google alerts. This simple tool generates an email whenever your target phrases come up on the Internet in articles, blogs, videos and commentaries. You can then discover what is being said about you, your business and your overall industry. Google makes this very easy. Go to and you will be prompted for your topics of interest and other information. For example, I have an alert set up for: “Pat Price” marketing. I get an email alert when someone adds one of my articles to their website (because they’re required to add my name at the end of it), when a page is updated that contains my name, etc. Depending upon your social media goals, you may not find it useful to have your name, but you’ll want your company, several competitors, and products tagged for an alert. Try it!

Plug into Social Media – Sign up for an account on one or more of the FREE major social media sites. I recommend beginning with one or more of the big 3 – LinkedIn, facebook, and Twitter. And if you can only muster enough time for one, every business professional should at least have a LinkedIn account. You will need to provide some basic information to become a member on any of these networks. For optimal interaction you will also need to create a personal profile. For now, let’s leave the most time-consuming part of setting up your profile for later. Just sign up and provide your basic information.

At this point, an obvious question you may be asking is what if I don’t want to mix my personal and professional life? No problem. First, there are security settings for facebook and Twitter that allow you to manage what others will see. And second, you can always create a profile for your personal life and another for your business life. (facebook and LinkedIn allow you to later add a page for your company or define a group for discussions. We will discuss this topic in subsequent posts.)

Before engaging in actual conversations on any of these platforms, I highly recommend taking the time to listen and observe what is going on in your industry and marketplace. Read the articles, watch the videos and scan the commentaries for the items in your Google Alerts. Find your competitors, industry leaders and customers on the social media platforms and see what information they are sharing and discussing.

Congratulations! You’ve now taken the first steps to entering the world of social media! In our next post, we will continue to discuss tips for getting the most from your overall social media efforts.