I’ve been asked more than once recently “How did you get into social media – because I want to.”
If you’re a wannabe (see right), my topline answer would just be “Do it”. I mean, it’s all out there, most of it’s free, accessible and ubiquitous by definition. But that would be rude.
So, off the top of my head, my recent answers have included – in the order that I did them myself…
Write about social media: set up a blog about it
You don’t have to do this – and plenty of social media peeps don’t – but I’ve found it incredibly useful, not just to find out about this stuff but also as a repository of my previous thoughts/opinions/work. I often jump into the blog and fish something out to throw at people.
The blog gives you a place to think about stuff, crystallise your own opinions, get noticed, become part of the community.
But have a good old think about what you really want to write about though. It’s best to be associated with something specific, for example KD Paine is a measurement guru, Neville Hobson likes his tech, Steve Rubel annoys the heck out of everyone by being smart, etc
Personally, I recommend WordPress.com because it’s easy to use and secure, while Blogger seems quite spammy (and possibly dangerous), and I’ve found Typepad a bit fiddly.
And it’s free.
Read about social media: become an RSS ninja
Subscribe to the RSS feed for any and all PR/social media related blogs you can find. If you don’t know what RSS is, then find out.
If I may be so bold, you could start with my own PR Friendly Index for PR sites, and I might put something together for social media at some point.
I use Google Reader for handling RSS subscriptions, it’s just so great not only for managing subscriptions but archival and analysis too.
And it’s free.
Listen about social media: subscribe to podcasts
Does that heading make sense?
Wwwhadevur, what I’m trying to say is, there are some great podcasts out there which you can subscribe to, using Google Reader or iTunes for example, and spend at least half an hour in the company of someone who knows tons about this stuff and who would normally charge you large amounts of money for their time.
The behemoth of social media/PR podcasts is For Immediate Release, the most recent (and worthy) addition is the Tiger Two Tiger podcast, but there are others. Hey, I just remembered, I have a Podcast feed – check it out.
And they’re free.
Read more about social media: buy books
They are ridiculously old-fashioned but are great for getting the quality, well-researched, strategic thinking about where we are and where we’re going to.
My personal library contains tomes such as Wikinomics, Small World, Naked Conversations, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tipping Point – that sort of thing. If you look them up on Amazon I’m sure you’ll get other great recommendations.
Books, alas, aren’t free (yet) but they’re worth it. Think of them as an investment. You can impress people with phrases such as ‘democratisation of the internet’ and ‘disintermediation of the web’ until each of the theories is blown out of the water (one – Tipping Point – by one – Long Tail) then you can buy a whole new load of books again.
Join the buzz about social media: start using Twitter
Follow people in the PR/social media world to see what they’re talking about.
Best way to do this is to follow someone in this field (not necessarily me, although I am on Twitter), then you’ll get to see who they follow and you can start following them too.
Don’t use Twitter’s site though, use a client instead. I like twhirl because it has a nice enough interface and handles other platforms such as Friendfeed and identi.ca.
Twitter’s free. It doesn’t work very well though, so keep one eye on alternatives such as Jaiku or identi.ca
Share in social media: start using Friendfeed
Again through twhirl. In this way you’ll get to see what loads of people are talking in all sorts of other social media too because Friendfeed grabs feeds from other places such as Facebook etc.
In the same way as Twitter, subscribe to someone you think may be a good starting point, then see who they subscribe to, and subscribe to those people too.
It is also free.
Play with social media: immerse yourself
Find out about social networks such as Facebook, social video sites such as YouTube, social photo sites such as Flickr, social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us.
There’s no harm in setting up accounts for everything and having a play around with them. Not only will you broaden your knowledge, you might actually have some fun along the way.
And most of them are free, too.
Is that it?
In this way you get to contribute your joined-up, thought leadership ideas on your blog, read other people’s joined-up, thought leadership ideas through RSS, participate in mid-size conversations on Friendfeed, put out your sudden thoughts on Twitter, and likewise follow other people’s mid-size conversations and sudden thoughts.
After a while you’ll start to notice that people will comment on your blog (it’s very exciting when it happens), follow you on Twitter and Friendfeed and slowly, slowly, you’ll start to ‘know’ these people, even if virtually. More importantly, they’ll get to know you, and you start to gain credibility in the social mediasphere.
Meantime, you just learn a lot of fascinating stuff about communications of all kinds whether online or offline. For example, did you know that everyone is currently saying PR is crap, and/or that it’s not needed any more? No? Then get involved in the social mediasphere and find out. It’s been said before, it’ll be said again.
So it’s not something you can just jump into overnight. You need to take the time to cultivate relationships, get to know people in the industry or the particular part of it you want to be in, share, contribute, become involved.
All I would add is: always try and think about how this can all help you be a better PR practitioner. Put yourself in the position of the people you’re listening to and conversing with. Ask yourself: what do they need? What are their concerns? What are they trying to achieve and how can I help? If you start to think in this way, PR as a whole will be, well, less crap.
Basically you just need to do your own PR. Good luck Mr. Gorsky.