I realized early on my social media journey that the people who had the most followers, friends and interaction were those who established a consistent presence in their online communities. So I strove to learn all I could from watching these folks and then experimenting myself. Here is what I learned.
What is "presence" on social media?
Your social media presence is your attendance, existence, and actions over time on social media. Because interaction on most platforms is brisk, what you do there only counts if it's consistent. Sporadic posting does not constitute a presence. To give you one example, if you post a link to your latest blog post on Twitter at 9 AM, only those who are using Twitter around that time will see it. Consider that for those who follow thousands of other Twitter accounts, you will barely be a blip on their radar unless they have specifically flagged you or a specific term you have used in your Tweet.
Why is it important?
Social media allows you to build relationships with like-minded individuals who could potentially become clients, customers or brand ambassadors. This can't happen if you only pop in from time to time. Think of it as an opportunity to establish yourself as a valuable member of a team. Your team mates won't be able to learn about you or trust you if you only show up once in a while. That's why it's important to find out when most of the players are on and then make sure you are there at the same time every day.
Where should I establish a presence on social media?
First you must find where your particular community is hanging out on the various social media platforms. Conduct searches on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google of key words that define your target audience or that your potential clients might be using. These might lead you to hashtag communities on Twitter, discussion groups on Facebook or LinkedIn or even comment sections of certain blogs. Once you find these communities, monitor the interaction there. What members are well-liked? What actions are discouraged?
How should I be present on social media?
Treat each platform with respect for how it is used. This means, in general, it's not a good idea to use automation that simultaneously posts to different platforms. What works for one platform will not be seen or will be annoying on another platform. For instance:
Most people on Facebook have 300 friends or fewer. This means that the posting stream is much slower. Scattering a few posts (usually less than five) throughout the day works best. You may even get away with posting just once a day, if most of your Facebook friends have low Facebook friend counts. Facebook has always been about connecting with people you already know so what you post can be much more casual, less straight-laced or business-like.
LinkedIn was designed as an online resume-sharing business networking site so your posts should always be more business oriented there. Because many people aren't in the habit of using it to post status updates, you have a good chance of being seen if you post regularly there. However, remember that since the stream runs slow, many posts in one day will seem obnoxious to some. Use discretion. I rarely post more often than once a day on LinkedIn.
Most Tweeters who have been on the platform for any length of time have built up more than 1,000 followers. This means that, as noted earlier, their Twitter stream runs by fast. Thus, to establish a presence there you will need to post several times a day. That being said, research has shown that it's best not to post more often than once an hour on Twitter if you wish to be retweeted (and you most likely do!) As an event industry blogger, I have learned that most of the event industry tweeps are on the east coast and tweeting between 9 AM and 5 PM EST Monday through Friday. So that's when I make sure to schedule my tweets, one hour apart. I also check back throughout the day to answer any questions or comments or to participate in Twitter chats.
Once I realized I would need to establish a strong presence on social media, I began to formulate a strategy based on the type of interactions I saw that consistently led to strong online relationships. I used a three-pronged approach I called #EIR - Engage, Inform and Retweet, which you can learn more about here.
Four years after finding my community on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the results I've received, both personally and professionally, continue to spur me to maintain a strong presence there. My online community has become a home to me and a source of support that keeps on giving.
(Photo by David Blackwell)