I was recently speaking about social media at a graduate course in marketing communications. One of the students in the class, who's owned several successful businesses during his career, asked if he "really needed social media to be successful." He said it felt like a foreign language to him; no small comment coming from a man who speaks five languages already!
What's the answer? In a word? YES. Yes, you do need to learn how to speak social media. Your clients and prospects and business partners expect you to be there. It's a simple as that.
So consider this your Foder's Guide for social media.
Learn The Culture
Just like you might become acquainted with some of the customs of a foreign country you might be visiting, you should learn the customs of the social media channels in which you will be moving.
To do this, spend some time hanging around to get the lay of the land. How are other businesses using Facebook? What are your competitors doing with Twitter? How about LinkedIn groups? YouTube channels?
Like, Follow, Connect and see what's happening.
Learn The Language
There are some terms that are common across channels and some colloquialisms that are unique to each. You might post on Facebook and LinkedIn but you'll Tweet in Twitter.
If you want to "speak" like a native than go ahead and immerse yourself. "Tag" friends and associates in Facebook to share the love. Create a hashtag in Twitter to follow a conversation topic.
Try some of these sources to learn more:
- Check out Facebook's own glossary.
- Here's a good listing of Twitter lingo.
- For YouTube I found a nice list at Yahoo! Answers
A quick Google search will yield tons of results.
Make Your Travel Plans
Don't wait until you know it all; by then it will have changed. Go ahead and make your plans and GO! You will do more harm to your business by not engaging in social media than you will by trying something new.
Expect those "lost in translation moments." It's OK! If something doesn't go as planned, acknowledge and adjust. Think of the Red Cross Twitter fail. Social media is exactly the place where it's OK to be human.
Become A Frequent Flyer
Don't visit just one time. Your social media channels should become your home-away-from-home. The more you use it, the more you'll become familiar and comfortable there.
Learning Social Media as a second - or third or fourth - language is an important aspect of marketing your business. It shouldn't be your only tool, but it should certainly be one of them! Happy Travels!!