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Social media is not free, but it is very economical!  A lot of the tools - Twitter, Facebook, blogs, are free to sign-up for and use, but in order to have more impact on your target audience, some small investments need to be made. Below a describe some of the expenses associated to the main social media tools.

Twitter is free to sign-up for and use, but it is important to customize your background to be branded for your business. There are free tools to do this, or a small investment can be made by hiring a designer, which would typically leverage existing materials you already have for your website (colors, logo, etc).

A Facebook Page (for business) is free to sign-up for and use.  There are a few tricks to get it set-up correctly and it is important that it is branded for your company. Since there are limitations to the amount of branding you can do, this is generally just your logo. More complex pages require HTML.

Depending on the blogging tool you select, it is either free or has a minimum monthly fee. Although it is important to brand your blog, here, content is king.  The blog does not have to be overly designed, but there should be some reflection of your company or personality.  This can literally be done with a single photograph of stock photo and does not have to involve an entire blog design.  If you choose to do an entire blog design, there is a cost associated to that, but it is not exorbitant.

Newsletters are not traditionally considered social media, however, more and more businesses are using it to distribute the information that they produce on their blogs. The newsletter serves as a mixture of information and a driver to the website. The tool is usually not free, but has a small monthly cost associated with it.

For all of the tools above, depending on how comfortable you are using them, you may need the assistance of a social media coach or strategist (hey, like me!) There are best practices and tricks of the trade you may want to consider investing in by hiring a consultant. This should not cost you a limb and can set you off on the road to success more quickly.

One last thing, although in terms of dollars, social media may be very inexpensive, there is a labor cost associated with it in terms of your time. Social media does require some of your time.  There are methods to ensure that your time is used in a highly impactful way, but there is still a time investment that does need to b made.  The results, however, far outweigh the costs.

 
 
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The impact of social media on todayʼs job search environment is significant compared to say 2-3 years ago, particularly when it comes the amount of information available for potential employers to "review" prior to selecting candidates.

Reversely, the availability of information on the web also makes it easy for potential employees to do research people before interviews. I can tell you that I have definitely done that for interview preparation. Furthermore, my first instinct when considering business relationships, is to Google someone and see what comes up. For a lot of companies these days, this is something that is frequently done before hiring anybody as an employee, consultant, or contractor.

Anyone can easily find personal information about anyone else simply by doing a Google search. Social media has increased the proliferation of photos, personal stories, information about religious and political point-of-views, as well as sexual orientation and relationship status, things that a company are forbidden to ask, people make widely available on the internet for free.

So what can you do to ensure that you manage your reputation, particularly if you are looking for work? Google yourself!

Go to Google and enter your first and last name in quotes, for example: "Andi Fisher" - this will narrow the results and only give you those two words (in this case, names) together rather than pulling up anything with either just Andi or just Fisher (plus those with both Andi and Fisher).  

What comes up?  Clean up whatever needs to be cleaned up, including old profiles you may have created months or years ago and then abandoned.  Think about your tagging strategy for Facebook if you are in a lot of pictures, are they appropriate?  Do you have a personal blog? Is the content appropriate for your profession?

Now what if you Google yourself and there isn't much there? No worries...start building up your numbers by creating accounts on some social media networks, particularly LinkedIn if you are looking for a job.  Post articles or comment on professional forums in your industry.  Start a blog.  This can be done slowly over time. This is an easier "problem" to fix than say your name was headlined in your college newspaper after you were arrested for hazing, or something like that!

Now that you are aware of what your results are, make sure that you Google yourself on a monthly basis.  Do an audit on yourself and your reputation. safeguard it and protect it for future employment, business or personal opportunities.


 
 
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Recently my niece friended me on Facebook. My first reaction was, "oh God, I am old."  My second was to immediately fire off an email to my sister and brother-in-law to instruct them on making sure all the privacy settings for my niece's account were completed and that she understood the long term implications of her actions and activities on social media.

These days it is not only important for the generation that is currently using social media networks and platforms, but also for the generation that is about to use them and bring them even more into the mainstream.

This is a topic that I have blogged about on my personal blog because I feel like there are a lot of people out there who are just not thinking about the long term effect and permanence of what they are doing or saying on the internet.  As parents (or savvy Aunties) we need to make sure we groom the newest social media entrants to me mavens and not misfits.

In general, if your children are asking for accounts or profiles, set them up with your children to make sure that the strictest privacy settings are put in place.  Teach them about the permanence of their actions and words, but allow them to have fun and enjoy.

Check your local community college or university, a lot of them are now offering social media for parents seminars to educate you on how to use Facebook, MySpace, etc.


 
 

In marketing there is the classic teachings of the 4 P's, the elements that make up the core activities undertaken by a person or a company. These are: product, pricing, placement, and promotion. These four elements make up the marketing mix and are used to create a marketing plan.

In social media, a communication plan or strategy is still needed. And amongst the social media circles it is nearly universally agreed, the elements of a good social media strategy consist of the 5 C's: conversation, community, collaboration, contribution and commenting. (Just Google "5 C's of social media" and you will see what I mean!)

So let's break it down:

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Conversation- as I mentioned before, social media is a two-way method of communication.  Traditional marketing communication is one-way and consumers have gotten pretty good about tuning it out.  Social media is about engaging others in conversation as well as users conversing with each other about you (user-generated content). 

One of the golden rules of conversation is listening. Listen to what the other person is saying, really listen. Don't think about what you are going to say next, that is not really listening. Listen to what people like, want, and need. Only after you understand and digest these will you be able to add value..to contribute.

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Contribution: This means adding value, being helpful. The social media universe is very karmic in nature. You will get back ten-fold what you give. Last week I saw this great video from Angela Jia Kim, Co-Founder of Savior Your Success. In it she talks about her rules as well as emphasizing Give-Give-Give-Get.  It is not about "what's in it for me" it is about being a resource and adding value.

Contribute to the conversations going on around you. Every social media vehicle allows for contribution whether that is Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Blogs, you name it. Whatever you put in, you will get back. Give enough value and you will build a community of fiercely loyal advocates.

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Community: You've listened to the conversation and engaged in them with active ears. You have provided value to your users, customers or followers. Now you are building a community. This community of people are your brand advocates, your supporters who are loyal and who promote you or your product through word-of-mouth and other social media methods. 

Do not abuse their trust. Once you have your community continue to engage and stay involved. Continue to be a resource providing tools, ideas, products that will help others fulfill a need. A community is a powerful thing. And opens many opportunities for collaboration. 

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Collaboration:  Your advocates are the ones that know you best. They are also part of other circles of influence that you may want to tap into. Collaborate and partner with others to learn more effective methods to communicate and extend your reach. Collaborate with others to broaden your portfolio and gain insights. Ask questions, test ideas, raise awareness.  Working together is always better than working alone and the end result will be more viable.

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Commenting:  This is core to all the other C's. Your comments should add something to the conversation. Do not comment just for the sake of commenting. Good commenting raises your credibility, shows your personality, communicates your core values, it is a reflection of you. Be cautious, you cannot take anything back, make sure you really want to commit your words to the webosphere - they are permanent.

Comments are also very karmic. Visit other sites, other platforms and comment where appropriate to contribute to other communities besides your own. The comments you leave will not only help others, but it will also lead new people to you!

Lastly, whatever comments you contribute to the conversation will endear you to the community and encourage future collaboration.
 
 

Liz Strauss is a legend. She is a social media strategist, coach, and a community builder. And in the community she built, she is the pillar. She only has one rule and that is "be nice." She speaks softly, yet wields a big stick. And that stick is heavy with the weight of authenticity and genuineness. Liz strongly believes in the power of relationships. One person at a time, and everyone having something special that makes them unique that makes them interesting.

Liz is famous for commenting. Liz responds to nearly every comment on her blog. She hosts a weekly "open mic" night every Tuesday evening. She comes with a question and opens it up for questions and comments.  She has 80,000 (yes 80,000) comments on her blog. She believes in the golden rule and she practices it.

In 2007, she (and her partner, Terry Starbucker) decided to bring the people of her community together at a conference, it was called SOBCon. I had the pleasure of attending SOBCon09 and the experience was life-altering. I was in the room with blogging veterans, business veterans, and new business owners like myself. But it did not matter what "tenure" you had online, everyone was treated equally. Everyone was authentically nice, and the level of information that was shared in those two and a half days was exceptional.  May of which I will be sharing with you.

And today, quite unexpectantly, Liz honored me with the badge of achievement, which I will now proudly display.


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Today's free and fun tool serves two purposes. Firstly, have a certain username in mind and want to see if it is available across multiple social media tools before making a final decision? Go to CheckUsersNames.com, plug in what you are thinking about into the "Check User Name" field and you are done! The results will come back with the availability on the various sites.

Now the second added bonus. Want to get an idea of some of the most popular social media tools? Simply take a look at the list provided and explore. Remember, don't get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of platforms out there!  You do not have to be on everyone, and you shouldn't be!  But there might be one or two that fit your business market that that might be interesting to you.

Happy exploring!


 
 

You don't have to do everything. It may feel like it sometimes. Particularly when people ask, "are you on such-and-such?" and you answer no and you get the face. You know the one I am talking about!

Be choosy, select the social media tools that make sense for you and your business. Choose a few and do them well, rather than spreading yourself thin and too many platforms and networks.

Over-exposure is never a good thing.