Getting started on social media can often be deceptively simple – What’s the big deal? You sign up. – or intimidating – Why am I being asked for my date of birth? – or overwhelming – How do I find people to friend or follow?
The truth is that this is a world of official and unofficial rules. It is easier if you start out knowing what’s what, and this is probably especially important if you’re more of an introvert.
Let’s imagine you already use email, search for information on Google, and read blog posts. But you’ve never joined any social media sites. How do you start?
1. Decide how comfortable you are sharing information about yourself. And the corollary to this – how wide a sharing of this information are you willing to do.
If you’re a book author and want people to buy your book, it’s a good idea to decide that you will share personal (although not private) information to as wide an audience as possible. If you only want to connect online with former high school friends, your target audience is much smaller.
If sharing information makes you somewhat nervous, think about what it means to be personal as opposed to private. Personal is a good marketing book you just read that you can recommend to help others; private is a fight you had with your business partner over implementing the marketing steps recommended in the book.
2. Ask online savvy friends which popular site they would recommend you start with based on your goal. (And do start with just one while getting your feet wet in this brave new world.)
• If your goal, for example, is to have a wide audience, then Twitter may be the best choice because of its “open to everyone” format.
• If you only want to search for high school friends, then Facebook may be the best choice as you can confine your information to a very small circle and can search by name for those long-long friends.
• If you want to make connections to help with a future job search, then LinkedIn, whose format is set up for such a process, may be the best choice for you.
3. Once you have chosen the site you’ll start on, do a Google search for information on effectively using that site. That’s right, before you ever sign up, read some blog posts that provide guidance on effectively using the site.
Now this isn’t a research project that serves as an excuse for postponing actually joining the site. Just learn a few of the basic “rules.” And if you do this step, you’ll be way ahead of most other people who start on social media without first doing any research.
And why not learn this on the site itself? Because most of these sites have inadequate information for newcomers or an abundance of information that overwhelms newcomers.
Plus, to encourage you to sign up, the site’s home page says something like: To join now just do this. And it’s only after you’ve provided your name, email, password, etc. that you’re left wondering “What do I do next?”
4. If you’re starting on a site that doesn’t require your real name, choose a username carefully. You want to think about seeing this name used all across cyberspace as lots of social media sites pull information from other social media sites (with your permission, of course).
You may initially think, for example, of choosing the name of your first book. But what happens when you write a second book? Or perhaps using the name of the book won’t work well for a site that is focused on a non-book arena.
Remember that what you do on the internet theoretically lives forever. So this choice of a username should be considered carefully and for continued use in the long-run. (Once you’ve established a good online reputation with one username you don’t want to start at square one again with a new username.)
5. Immediately post a photo of yourself – a headshot in which sunglasses and a baseball cap are not blocking people from totally seeing your eyes. (This does not have to be professional-photographer quality but should not be blurry.)
This photo should be one that will also work on social media sites you will join in the future because you want consistency across these sites. You want consistency to help people recognize and connect with you on more than one site. (The same for your username.)
Keep in mind that the photos for Twitter are quite small. And even if you’re starting on Facebook, only include a headshot of yourself. Do not include other people and preferably not animals and other props.
By posting a good headshot of yourself you’re signaling that you’re interested in connecting with people – real people such as yourself – and you’ll be off to a good start on your first social media site.
Now that you’ve read these five tips for starting on your first social media site, what are you waiting for? Join the cyberspace social media community today.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT, and her company Miller Mosaic LLC has just launched the Miller Mosaic Internet Marketing Program to help people promote their brand, book or business. She's also a National Internet Business Examiner.