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It’s hard to be in business today or even participate in mainstream events without having access to social medial. Gone on the days whenever people checked box office times in a newspaper or even sold their home with a printed ad and it’s almost impossible to job search without social media, but is the media you use really social and how can you make it more so?

By Sofiaperesoa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sofiaperesoa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The first thing to identify when choosing to participate in social media is what your goals are. If you are trying to sell a product where visual promotes a better concept than using words, your go-to social sites might be Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. If you are wanting to connect more with businesses or with larger organizations, blogging, Twitter, Google+ and Linked In might be better social outlets.

But knowing when and how to use these mediums can be daunting and often fruitless unless there is some understanding of what each outlet does. Learning social media takes time and patience as any good relationship should when you are trying to build a better one. Think of attacking social media as going off to a new experience, perhaps college, a new job or moving to a new neighborhood. You might eventually reach out to many people and participate in many new events but you will most likely start with a small venue until you are more comfortable.

Once you identify the social media you feel might work best for your purposes, learn all you can about how to maximize your participation in order to benefit in the best way possible. Engaging in too many outlets not only can be overwhelming but participating in a less than focused way can sabotage the results you get.

All relationships grow better through trust and time. Use your social media outreach to help people get to know you in a way they can trust and identify with what you represent. This means being consistent with your outreach. Blogging a few times a year, posting to Pinterest once or twice or offering a Twitter comment only during a major event won’t help you remain top of mind. You need to set up a social media calendar to help you regularly stay in touch with your friends and followers. (And that’s a topic for another blog post!) But, recognize the need to be dependable and consistent when building a relationship, after all, social medial is like dating until you find the one for you and you wouldn’t hope to land the exclusive affection of a soul mate by contacting them twice yearly!

Approach social media intentionally and with consistency. You want people to get to know you better, not to simply find your message plastered on every medium.  Don’t give up blogging if you don’t have 50 followers after a few posts, or don’t reject Facebook because you believe it’s just a place where people share silly photos of their cats and what they ate for lunch.

Take time to participate so you can actively discover which platforms work best for you.

Once you start to see results, you might find that participating in social media can be a very time consuming activity. The dynamics of digital mean things are constantly changing and while you do need to remain in the social loop, be comfortable enough, once you are gaining traction, to take a social media sabbatical. Sometimes an entire evening, day or weekend of removing yourself from the noise of social engagement will make you a much better participant when you return.

Social media is here to stay, but never let it replace reaching out in person or the way you interact with those who mean the most to you. Share but don’t isolate yourself from the human experience of doing business in any form face to face when possible. Social media should be used to reach out rather than shutout. Many people still think using social media is the accepted way to terminate a relationship, announce a major event or fight for a cause because they dislike having to approach people in person.

It’s called social media for a reason. Use it as you would any social event: to participate in, connect, engage and enjoy.

kathy6Kathy Brunner is an encorepreneur and start up coach who helps people get from burned out to fired up by discovering their passion and growing it into a viable second career. Visit her at http://kathybrunner.com to learn more about how she can help you Be your Own Bo$$.