When I speak on the topic of 'Social Media for Business', especially in the 101 seminar, I really try to drive home only one point: STRATEGY FIRST.
It's something that folks seem to forget as they dive head-first into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the rest. While it may be common sense, it's very easy to forget that if you are trying to conduct business, then these sites are - for business purposes - merely one more vehicle for promoting your company, service, or product.
Forget for a moment about ROI; we all want to make money. Imagine how many people are out there at this moment actively using Social Media sites without any clue as to how SM fits into a marketing plan. Imagine how many people are trying to gather as many 'followers,' 'friends,' or 'connections' as possible without any plan as to how they'll truly connect with these people - other than broadcasting their latest sales pitch. Or worse, they're gathering random names to which they'll send their latest piece of SPAM.
Not a pretty picture, eh? I suggest that you take what I refer to as a "laser-guided missile" approach, as opposed to an "atom bomb" approach:
1. Once you have a few Followers/Friends/Connections, take some time to learn about them.
2. Group them into two categories: Those who might buy what I'm selling and Those that might not.
3. Set aside the "might-not's" for now. Those are likely friends & family, peers, and incredibly, nice, interesting people that don't make up your target market.
4. Take the "might buy" list and prioritize it. Which people are your best prospects? Create a short-list of these key potential clients.
5. Because you followed STEP 1 and learned a bit about these people, start really building the relationship. Re-introduce yourself. Cross-connect with them on other sites. Figure out how you can help them (and I don't mean by selling them something). Follow their blog. Send them an article or interesting link. Email or DM or IM a personal note. Ask them something. You get the idea. Put the "social" in your social media efforts.
6. Tell them that you have something to sell and ASK them if they'd be interested. Schedule a meeting, phone call, conference call, or demo. That's the venue where you sell. Utilize the networking sites that you've been using if possible.
7. Close the deal.
8. Send them a hand-written Thank You note via the USPS, and place an actual stamp on the envelope.
9. Follow-up. Repeat STEP 5. And don't forget to ask for referrals - the best way to add more people to your now-growing list of Followers, Friends, and Connections.