Social Media for Beginners – A Guide to Getting Your Feet Wet

Getting a brand started in social media is a lot like your first swimming lesson as a kid. You’re excited, but also apprehensive and probably a little scared about what lurks in the depths.

Having recently been a part of the team that launched Twitter and Facebook channels for a highly successful transportation-related project I can assure you that you’re likely to feel overwhelmed in the beginning. But you’ll quickly realize, as I did, that there’s really only one way to learn – take a deep breath and jump right in.

social media for beginners


Dip your toes in the water with these simple social media tips

These social media best practices will make it easier for any new swimmer to stay afloat.

Don’t panic

Just like swimming, the first thing to remember is not to panic. This seems like obvious advice, to be sure, but once you’re in the 24-hour world of social media it’s easy to lose perspective.

Be genuine

Social media can sniff out a phoney a mile away so let your brand persona be your guide. And since you’ll be involved with it everyday it’s just too exhausting to try and have your brand be something it’s not.

Be upfront about your channel’s purpose

If you’re selling widgets you don’t want to try and hide that fact – social media also hates a bait-n-switch. This doesn’t mean, however, that every post you create should be a direct sell of your product. Instead, think of it in terms of building brand loyalty; the more successful you are at that, the more likely your audience is to respond to a call to action when you do make one.

Be interesting

This one also probably sounds obvious but it can be hard to put out interesting content day in and day out. So, widen your focus a bit.

For example, an organic trail mix company would do well to share content like great day hikes, the health benefits of nuts, and the value of sustainability, while also keeping followers up to date about the products themselves. This content represents the brand’s values while also being of interest to its audience, allowing the company to build influence through its thought leadership.

Remember, people won’t continue to follow any channel for long that doesn’t first capture their interest, but be careful about sharing every entertaining thing you see online. People that follow your channel have an interest in your brand and content. If they want cute cats they’ll go somewhere else. Aww…kitties.

Engage with your audience

Your social media peeps love to be acknowledged, so you’ll want to engage with your audience every day by responding to their comments, asking them questions, and even showing an interest in their posts. Keep in mind, the simple courtesy of thanking people directly for sharing and liking your channels and content goes a long way in social media – so make it a habit.

Remember to listen and validate

Keep in mind that what most people truly want is simply to be heard and understood. So validation is a huge part of social media success. If you can’t directly help with a user’s problem or concern be sure to tell them “I hear ya. That sucks.” They won’t forget it.

Keep updating

A simple but crucial part of social media is to regularly post to your channels. If you’re not paying attention to them no one else will, either.


Know your social media strategy

The most important thing you can do to maximize the return on your social media investment is to define your goals and create a strategy to achieve them, before you launch your channels. (we’ll talk about this in a later post.)

Having a clear vision for your brand’s core social media objectives and goals, messaging, and overall strategy from the start will help you create and maintain the right content as you grow. “Making it up as you go” will at best slow down your channels’ growth and at worst damage your brand with poorly thought-out choices.


Promoting your content in a sea of social media

People literally have millions of social media options competing for their eyes every single day. Users on Twitter create 300 million tweets a day while Facebook generates over 30 million messages a minute. With so much competition for attention even the best acorn needs help to become that mighty oak.

The good news is that promoting your content on social media is an inexpensive way to reap large returns. On a strong page, $40 invested in a week of Facebook promotion might expose your brand to several thousand people, if it’s targeted correctly at the right time.

The best way to do this is to put a little spend behind your posts when you see them gaining some traction. Then, sit back and watch them take off. And the best posts to promote are the ones that support your goals, like helping a stellar review reach people who use similar products. You’ll be glad you did and it won’t break your budget.


Your social media escalation plan – A life preserver in rough water

As effective as social media can be to expose your brand to a wider audience, there is a downside: it’s filled with potential landmines that can blow up in a heartbeat and spread like wildfire if you pull a boneheaded move.

This is why you need a crisis management plan in place before trouble erupts; it’s too late to think about what defense to deploy when you’re already under siege.

You’re probably highly unlikely (I hope!) to make a completely obvious error like this BBC journalist did in 2015 by tweeting that Queen Elizabeth had died.

But mistakes can be made when racing to share content at the end of the day. Or by assuming you understand a hashtag when, in fact, you don’t, as happened to pizza maker DiGiorno’s. To DiGiorno’s credit they handled it about as well as they could, and it’s probably because they had a crisis plan in place.

Your crisis plan should begin with clearly defined steps to take listed in order – the first one being to stop the bleeding. Usually this is best done with an acknowledgement of the error followed by a sincere and unambiguous apology where you can give it.

Next, your plan should include some pre-written responses that your team has created together in advance to cover the most likely situations you’ll encounter. It’s important, however, that these pre-selected responses are used only as guides. Your crisis messaging should never be boilerplate, sound canned, or feel generic. A second bad post in a crisis can be absolutely devastating to a brand and must be avoided at all costs.

Finally, your crisis plan should have a strategy for constant monitoring and continued heavy engagement in the days after the initial incident. Don’t get defensive or try to argue that the mistake “wasn’t that bad” as social media will likely savage you for it.

The best way forward is to respond to complaints with short, sincere, and personal messages to each user as much possible. And be sure to thank those users who acknowledge that you’re trying to correct the error and that it wasn’t reflective of your brand.


Becoming a great social media swimmer

The most insightful piece of advice I received while beginning my social media adventure was to look at it like a cocktail party. You want to be friendly, approachable, and interesting while also inviting others to join in the conversation.

And try to have some fun with it every day. If you’re not enjoying creating the content people probably won’t enjoy reading it.

Good luck, new swimmers!