A family member left me a voicemail the other day saying he was interested in learning how to establish his “online presence” and asked if I could spare some time to help him get up to speed with social media.
He’s starting up a new business, and his request was the latest in a string of similar inquiries I’ve had from family, friends and acquaintances that I believe suggest we are at a watershed moment for social media and the internet:
You can’t expect to succeed at starting up a new business without social media.
Think about it: businesses now routinely launch on Twitter and Facebook before they launch their web sites or open brick and mortar stores.
I am always happy to help explain how our little internet subculture works. Only, it’s not a subculture anymore. More and more people want to know: what do I need to do to “establish myself” (or my business) online?
When I called this relative back, we didn’t have a lot of time to talk and arranged to meet for a beer in a few weeks, but I boiled down my advice to four key things he needs to do, in order:
- Find your tribe. Search for and follow people on who share your passions and interests. Find groups that sponsor meetups and conferences on these topics. Join up.
- Shut up and listen. At the beginning, you won’t have found your voice yet, and you won’t grasp the nuances of your tribe’s language. You won’t be able to distinguish newbie notions from experts’ evolved wisdom. So, be quiet for a while. Follow your tribe’s conversations and get a sense of where the people in your tribe are coming from.
- Be helpful. As you come to understand who your tribe is, you’ll discover what you can usefully offer. Don’t be “that guy.” Share, give something valuable away, and be open, and you’ll create your own following.
- Have a point of view. You want to be compelling? You need to take a position. Once you begin sharing things, add some value to everything you share. Lots of people retweet the hot articles of the day. We don’t need more copying and pasting. “They shall know you by what you share.” You are building your repuation, so be selective and curate: the whole of what you share defines for your followers who you are and what you care about.
The astute reader will know I stole all of these points, but that doesn’t make them less true. In all honesty, I’ve come to them the hard way, failing at each of them, taking my bruises, and trying to do it better.
Of course, there can not actually be any four-point-plan for social media domination. This is just the general advice I offer someone just getting started in business. Do you think this is the right advice? Is there something else that you feel is really important that I left out? What would your advice be?