New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation last week proved the power of social media.

Nearly every day we get hit with some kind of social media misstep in celebrity culture, politics, and business that serves to both amuse and annoy us. Social media can be a powerful and incredibly cost-effective tool for reaching potential customers and supporters. But here’s the problem: Many people don’t take the time to learn how to harness the power of social media for positive gain as opposed to negative, which can wreak havoc on their careers.   

As a freelancer, independent consultant or small business owner, you can use social media to elevate your brand to actually compete with the major players. Social media is truly the great marketing equalizer. Think about the reach that both Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber have developed purely through their social media efforts.  

Don’t just take my word for it, the popular site Social Media Examiner released its 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report and the numbers are astounding. They surveyed more than 3,300 marketers and found the following:

  • The No.1 advantage of social media marketing is generating more business exposure, as indicated by 88% of marketers. Increased traffic (72%) and improved search rankings (62%) were also major advantages;
  • 45% of people who've only invested 12 months or less in social media marketing reported they gained new partnerships;
  • “By spending as little six hours per week on social media efforts, 52% of marketers saw lead generation benefits.

So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to create your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages and get your brand rolling. Here are a few tips to get your social media campaign going:

1) Use Management Tools: Social media management tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck are great ways to manage accounts and save precious time. These tools allow you to schedule posts in advance and automatically release them over the course of time. These tools make it easy to keep your followers up to date without being strapped behind a keyboard. Make sure to still throw in something unique on each page so people have a reason to follow more than of your social networking accounts.

2) Engage and Interact: You must engage your followers: start conversations with people, respond promptly to questions/comments and thank them when they spread the word about your brand. Don’t think of social media as a one-way street; after all, it is called “social” media. Help promote your followers by spreading the word about their businesses and/or accomplishments as well.

3) Provide Value: You have to make sure you deliver some sort of value to those who are going to take the time to follow you. This might mean coupons, articles related to your niche, new product information, company news, or even a contest. The key is not to spend all your time shamelessly self promoting; people don’t want to follow a bunch of ads. Keep your profiles fresh and updated to keep your followers coming back.

4) Start a Blog: A blog will keep customers up to date with the day-to-day affairs of your company. Use it to give your company personality and boost your search engine optimization (SEO). Hire a part-time blogger if necessary--it’ll be worth the extra expense.

5) Set Goals: If you want to see results, you have to measure. This might be how much you want your Web traffic to increase, how many followers you want in six months, etc. Remember that meeting your goals might take months or even years, but the return on time investment is high if you are smart about how you use your time.

If you ever feel stuck, check out companies like yours that have successful social media campaigns. Observe what they are doing to grow their base. Which tactics are working?  Which aren’t?  Also, keep yourself up to date on current trends and strategies in social media marketing through sites like Mashable and Social Media Examiner.

 

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook 

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.