5 Steps to a Stronger Social Media Presence

Social media and social networking sites present tremendous opportunities to all kinds of business, including web design. If you’re not currently active with social media you are missing out on one of the best methods for networking and for free or low-cost marketing.

Many designers who are using social media are not getting the most out of it. In this post we’ll look at 5 simple steps that you can take to improve your effectiveness with social media, regardless of whether you are already a user or if you have not yet gotten started with social media.

Step 1: Identify Your Goals and Priorities

It’s important to set a solid foundation for your efforts with social media by first defining what you hope to get out of it. This is a critical step that many designers and freelancers overlook. Yes, social media can have a significant impact on your business, but you need to have some direction or else you will be wasting your time.

Some common goals or priorities for designers who are using social media include finding new clients, networking with other designers, increasing traffic to their website or blog, improving name recognition and branding, finding a new job, and simply enjoying activity with the community of users. It’s possible to improve your business or career in any number of ways with social media, but you need to be aware of what is important to you because it should shape the way in which you use social media.

Step 2: Target a Few Specific Social Media Sites

There are literally hundreds of social media sites out there, and there is no way anyone can or should use them all. In order to make the best use of your time with social media, and to avoid having it consume all of your time, it is best to choose a small number of social media sites that you want to use actively and on a regular basis. For designers it may be major sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Digg, or it could be smaller niche sites like Design Bump, The Web Blend, and many others.

When choosing your targeted sites, keep your goals and priorities in mind. If you’re looking to send traffic to your website or blog any of the major sites will have potential, and smaller niche sites can be a great choice for getting targeted traffic. If you’re not interested in getting traffic to your site or sharing useful links with others, social news sites can basically be eliminated and you can focus on sites that are more networking-oriented. If you’re hoping to use social media to land a job, being active on LinkedIn or other professional sites would be a good decision.

So as you can see, the different social media sites have their own distinct characteristics that you should consider. Take some time to check out the audiences of the sites that you are evaluating and find out which audiences would be the best fit to help you achieve your goals.

Once you have a few sites targeted (I would recommend 2-5 sites), set up your profile if you have not already done so, and start to participate.

Step 3: Find Tools to Help

While social media presents great opportunities for you and your business/career, it is also very easy to spend way too much time using social media. You can make the most of the time that you have available and keep yourself organized by finding some tools to help. Here are a few to consider:

Tweetdeck – With Tweetdeck you can update your profile on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Buzz and more. Tweetdeck also helps to organize your conversations across social media and to see when other people are talking about you.

HootSuite – HootSuite is an online app that acts as your social media dashboard. You can organize your use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and more. You can schedule messages for the future, track your stats, and even collaborate with team members.

Twirl – Twirl is similar to Tweetdeck and HootSuite in that it helps you to manage your various social networking profiles.

There are hundreds or thousands of other useful apps that may be able to help you. You can search marketplaces like the iPhone app marketplace, Android app marketplace, or you can follow leading sites like Mashable and ReadWriteWeb that often post on various apps.

Step 4: Set Time in Your Schedule for Social Media

If social media is a priority for you and your business, you will need to set aside time to participate at the sites you are targeting or else you will probably get busy with your other work and never get around to it. They key is not to spend tons of time on these sites, but rather to make an impact with the time that you do have. If you’ve done an effective job with the first 3 steps you can easily have an impact with 30 minutes per day, or even less.

Setting aside some time for social media will help to ensure that you consistently use the sites, consistency is key, but it will also help to limit the amount of time that you spend so you don’t waste the whole day browsing through links that you’ve found through social media.

Step 5: Focus on Quality Over Quantity

When it comes to social media there is a huge difference in high-quality connections and low-quality connections. Try not to get caught up in comparing how many Twitter followers or Facebook fans you have in comparison to someone else. Having a high number is not required in order to be successful with social media. Having quality interaction with others and making an impact is possible even without having a lot of followers, fans, or friends.

Focus on using your time with social media to have genuine interaction with other users, and don’t take shortcuts or use tricks to build up numbers that really don’t matter anyway.

What’s Your Experience?

Do you use social media? If so, what role does it have in your business and what tips do you have for our readers?

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