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Six years ago, Facebook was just a socializing and procrastination tool for college students. Today, Facebook reports  having more than 500 million monthly active users, spending more than 700 billion minutes and sharing more than 30 billion pieces of content each month.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites have grown to become essential components of organizations’ communications and marketing strategies. Large corporations, including Starbucks, Whole Foods and Target, use social media successfully as a promotional and customer service tool.

Of course it may be easy for a big company with thousands or millions of dollars to invest in social media marketing, but what about organizations without those resources? Building a strong social media presence is important for every business and nonprofit, no matter what its size. Luckily, the following social media tips don’t cost any money and only require an investment in time and effort. Make it a priority to strengthen your organization’s social media and your online brand identity.


Social Media Tips: Getting Started

1. Put one person in charge.
Like any other project, social media is most effective when it is owned and managed by one person. Splitting the work up among several people can create an inconsistent and disjointed approach. Designate an individual to take charge of your organization’s social media accounts as part of his regular daily duties, and work with this person to create a concrete strategy. You can seek input and feedback from other team members as you craft and revise your plan, but implementation should rest with the social media manager.

2. Determine your goals.
What is it you hope to achieve by using social media? Do you want to boost sales for a product you are selling? Do you want to rally people around the mission of your nonprofit? Do you hope to create buzz around a film you are promoting? Write down your top five goals and make them as concrete as possible.

3. Start with your personal networks.
One of the simplest social media tips is to start with the people you know. If you are creating a Facebook page for your small financial consulting firm, begin by suggesting the page to your Facebook friends who have firsthand experience working with your business—clients, vendors, friends and family members. Include a personal message with your request saying they should become a fan of your page if they have been satisfied with your services. Ask all your colleagues to do the same thing. Social media can often become noisy with advertising and marketing from all sides, and a real-life personal connection still carries a lot of weight.

4. Recognize it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
There is no magic bullet that will guarantee you thousands of followers overnight (and don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you or sell you otherwise). Building an engaged base of fans or followers takes time and requires diligence and patience. If you don’t see gradual positive changes over the course of a few months, reevaluate your initial strategy and see what you could improve.

5. Offer valuable content.
People use social media to stay connected, be entertained or acquire content or information of value to them. Be conscious of what you post to your social media profiles and how it benefits your audience. Find a balance of your organization’s own content (blog posts, videos, photos, product or service promotions, etc.) and content from outside sources, such as blog posts from authorities in your field or videos from news outlets.

6. Stay engaged.
Interaction is the key to a successful social media strategy. You should not be posting in a vacuum but instead engaging others in conversation. If someone comments on your Facebook post, respond quickly and try to keep the discussion going. If you see an interesting link on Twitter, retweet it with a positive comment. If someone asks a question on your LinkedIn profile, answer it thoroughly and promptly.

Having trouble getting started? What other social media tips would be helpful to your organization?

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