Social media’s dirty little secret is the same dirty little secret every new marketing vehicle is afflicted with at the beginning.  That is: most of it, in practice, sucks, at least initially.  Why: it’s amateur hour.

Remember when desktop publishing “changed everything?”  Buy a laser printer and page layout software and start designing your own marketing materials.  Except, uh, do you have any design talent?  No?  Whoops.

That’s why most desktop published materials sucked.  At first.

Owning an Apple LaserWriter (I did) didn’t make you a graphic artist just the way having a Twitter or Facebook account doesn’t make you a social marketer.  The tool or toolbox doesn’t make the craftsperson.

Okay, Hamilton, does that mean we need to turn our social media activities over to somebody like you?  No.  People like me can and should help you, train and guide you.  But unlike hiring a graphic artist every time you need something designed, you can’t hire out social media.  You can’t because practicing social media means you are in “the conversation.”  The authenticity of voice required means someone who lives what you do every day needs to be your part of the conversation.  Me or someone like me can coach you through what needs to be done.  But me or someone like me can’t be you.  Sorry, if you want traction from social media, it needs to be an inside job.

What can you do?  Start.  It’s okay to be bad before you get good.  Hire someone like me to get you started–to coach you through the first three months.  At a minimum, think about these things:

Who do you want to be in conversation with?  Customers, prospects, peers, experts?

Where are they hanging out?  Sign up for everything.  Then find the conversations you want to be in.  They won’t be everywhere, thankfully, but by listening you’ll start to find them.

Start participating.  Picture yourself at an industry conference, except everybody is both presenter and part of the audience.  Then start participating in a way that delivers value.  “Hi, I’m insert name and I have some great insert product or service I’d like you to know about!”  You’d never dream of doing that in person.  Don’t do it online.

Stay with it.  Remember the “be bad at it until you get good at it” part?  That happens at first.  Until you get the hang of it and start to connect, start to gain attention.

Be yourself.  And if you aren’t digging the process find someone at your company who does.  Then have a cup of coffee or take a walk with that person every day.  Talk about what’s going on with you and with what they see “out there.”  Your content will come from that.

That’s basically it.  There are about a million more things to it, but that’s basically it.  So, get started.