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How to Overcome Barriers to Entry in Social Media Engagement

Many people say that social media engagement is just too difficult or too overwhelming to bother trying it out. We're convinced that their hesitation stems from the common tendency to fear the unknown or to bite off more social networks than they can chew.

Consume social media engagement in bite-size pieces, and take the time to "chew on" information thoughtfully. Then digest it before you take the next bite. Don't rush into all aspects of social media engagement all at one time.

You don't have to be everywhere all the time. And don't feel compelled to set up a presence on a new social network before you've truly mastered the one (or ones) that you're already using.

The following list contains some common barriers and suggests sensible ways to overcome them:

  • "I don't want to listen to people talk about their lunch." The common misconception about social media engagement is that it consists of people posting online what they had for lunch (or something equally mundane).

    In all honesty, some people do post about what they're eating. The majority of topics discussed in social networks, however, run the gamut from politics to products to personal moments in people's lives. Publish useful content and connect with others online who do the same and your social media engagement experience will be more valuable.

  • "I don't have a social media presence." Although you probably already have at least one social networking account, if you don't have one yet, you should set up a Facebook Page as the first platform for your social media engagement because of the variety of ways you can post and the potential for exponential reach via friends and friends of friends.

    Don't invite anyone to your page at first, to give yourself time to familiarize yourself with its features and to post some initial content.

  • "I don't have time." Social media engagement is about communications, a critical part of marketing and other aspects of doing business. Carve out time to engage in your social networks in the same way you carve out time for (or find help with) handling phone calls, responding to e-mail, or implementing other marketing tactics that require your attention and presence.

  • "I'm afraid of backlash." Publishing online for the whole world to see inevitably invites occasional negative responses from individuals ranging from people who have simply "woken up on the wrong side of the bed" to folks with legitimate gripes. Look at these responses as opportunities to "right wrongs" and win people over.

  • "I have no images." Images aren't mandatory components of social media engagement, but they are attention-grabbing, shareable pieces of content. We'd be remiss to let you believe that images aren't vital to engagement. If you sell products, chances are good that you have images, but you may offer services or produce written or audio content.

    Though a lack of images isn't a deal-breaker for engagement, you should identify or create relevant images that visually illustrate who you are, what you do, and what you want to express. Use a smartphone to take photos that convey a sense of place "in the moment" and showcase your brand personality and company culture. Consumers want to see people behind the brands.

    When your own supply of images begins to thin, use stock photography to share with your online community. Stock photos don't have to be stiff, fake, or cheesy. Check resources such as stock xchng, iStockphoto, and Flickr Creative Commons to find appropriate images that you can adapt to your needs.

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