Small Business Dining Guide for Social Media (I’ll have the Facebook salad, please)

During my presentation to the Grand Rapids Entrepreneur’s Club today, I compared social media options for the small business owner to stepping up to an all-you-can-eat buffet.  There are a slew of choices—how do you choose those that are most healthy for your business? Following that analogy, I offer you, the small business owner, a “diner’s guide” to getting the most out of your social media fare.

[Disclaimer: The recommendations below are a result of my personal experiences as a small business owner.   I make no claim to be a social media “expert” but I am a consistent user of several platforms. The list below is not complete. The links below were active when I published this post.  Also, I receive no compensation from mentioning the people/blogs below. These are simply resources that I find helpful and hope that you will too.]

Appetizers: Social Media Starters

Two bloggers that I’ve followed closely that have some great general information about social media are Trish McFarlane, a Human Resource professional who blogs at The HR Ringleader and Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers.  Their posts on social media are helpful because they come at it from an “every day user” viewpoint rather than as a highly technical blogger or social media guru.

Check out Trish’s blog on how to get started in social media and Mike’s blog category of social media. Mashable is one of the most widely read social media blogs. It can be quite technical, but there are still posts that are helpful to the average user.  Keep in mind: when you use the site, the most current blog posts are the ones that are most technically accurate.  Older posts were correct at the time of publishing but may have since been replaced with new information. There’s a tab called “How To” at top of Mashable home page. Check this out for useful social media tips, including the How To Connect with Other Entrepreneurs post.

Salad Course: Facebook

Just like any salad, you need to know how to choose the healthy Facebook items (Fan Pages) and stay away from the fat-laden ones (Farmville). Facebook started out as a site focusing on connecting friends and family, providing an easy way to post photos and find long-lost friends.

As Facebook’s popularity has grown, the business community has latched on with applications allowing business friends to stay connected.  Facebook may or may not work with your social media diet; you need to decide how many social media platforms your company can maintain.  These days, several of the platforms are linked, making it easier to post to multiple accounts at one time, but it still can be time-consuming. Keep in mind that many of your business colleagues may want to keep their personal lives and business lives separate, so they may not want to “friend” you on Facebook  for business purposes.

If you do decide to give Facebook a try, start with Mashable’s guidebook.

Concerned about privacy on Facebook? Fellow HR blogger Lance Haun shared this site with me for Facebook privacy tips.

Main Entre: Linked In

If you only choose one social media platform, start with LinkedIn.  Some social media pundits are signaling the decline of LinkedIn, due to Facebook’s rising popularity with business users, but I don’t think that’s coming anytime soon. Last fall, LinkedIn wisely collaborated with Twitter to make it easy to share updates across the two platforms. At a minimum, small business owners should:

Another blogger friend of mine, Sharlyn Lauby who blogs at The HR Bartender was featured on Mashable with a very popular post called  7 Ways to Get More Out of LinkedIn.

New more advanced LinkedIn tips? Two social media bloggers, Neal Schaffer at Windmill Networking and Scott Allen at Linked Intelligence have generously agreed to have their excellent summary posts on LinkedIn featured here on The People Equation.  See Neals’s 25 Most Useful Linked In Blog Posts and Scott’s 1o0+ Smart Ways to Use Linked In.

Dessert: Twitter

Most of us love a little “sumpin’ sumpin’ after dinner, even if it’s not strictly good for us. Hey, I say “everything in moderation” and that’s how it is for me with Twitter.  Twitter can quickly become like those gooey chocolates that you can’t stop eating– highly addictive with very little nutritional value. However, using Twitter wisely and in moderation can be a positive addition to your social media regimen if you are displined enough to do so.

Brand new? See Mashable’s Twitter Guidebook .  

In addition to the Mashable guidebook, I recommend the just-released TweetThis! For Business, written by Jessica Miller-Merrell.  Jessica and I met via Twitter. For the past year, she has carefully tracked and documented how to gain leverage for your small business using Twitter. See my book review on TweetThis! here.

So, are you ready to jump in to social media?  Feel free to connect with me in any of the following ways:

Facebook: Jennifer Miller’s profile

Facebook: SkillSource Fan Page

Twitter: Jennifer Miller’s profile

Twitter: SkillSource Twitter page

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