I recently had a conversation several different clients that felt that social media was a mysterious complicated thing that they were not prepared for. While it does take a bit of time along with all the other things busy website and business owners have to deal with daily it's not rocket science and there's no magic involved. You can start using social media today by following a few basic steps.
Start With Facebook
If you're thinking about dipping your toes into social media my suggestion would be to start with Facebook. It's the most straightforward with the highest user base. Additionally, I bet most of the people you'd like to reach are already using the site to catch up with friends and their favorite brands.
In business, things are happening all the time, so share them with your followers. A special event is coming, you just got an award, pictures from a recent event. Almost anything is postworthy.
There are two conditions though. Don't post press releases and don't talk about yourself all the time. Share post from others. Either from your followers or from other media sources when they post a story that relates to you in some way.
I'm also asked on how often to post. I would say that at least once a week at a minimum but no more than five times a week on separate days. There are always exceptions to the rule but you don't want to wear out your followers to the point they stop following you.
Most social networks will email you once someone comments on your posts. This can be for each post or a daily roundup. Check the notification settings for the social network you are using and make sure they are being sent to you and make sure you check your email at regular intervals during the day.
Another option is to register with sites like hootsuite which monitors your social media channels for you. If you're not the only one running the show you can delegate tasks to other members of your organization.
They have a free version for up to five social profiles and paid versions for more features. There is also a mobile version so you can keep an eye on things on the go.
A good desktop application you could also try is Seesmic (which has recently been acquired by hootsuite) You can still download the app here and add your networks but logging into the Seesmic system seems to be not functioning while they integrate their data with hootsuite.
When someone comments on one of your posts make sure you continue the conversation. No one likes to speak to an empty room. Show your appreciation for them taking the time to comment and do so in kind, not only to prove that you are a human behind the words, but that you care about your followers opinions.
By posting updates and engaging with your followers you are bound to run into some unhappy people from time to time. Don't delete their post, lash out at them in return, or worse, freak out and delete your account. Instead try to find out what is truly frustrating them and look for a way to overcome it if at all possible. Sometimes people just want to be acknowledged and maybe that one person can bring to light a problem you were not aware of.
There's not much more to social media than that. Ideally you want to build relationships with your customers and followers and built rapport. As my wife can attest, building a solid relationship can take some time and effort (we dated for about 10 years) but in the end it's worth it.