This Monday, October 3, social media experts and novices came together at the HPNG Entrepreneurs Conference to talk about social and digital media as part of the new marketing toolkit. WISE PR President, Harrison Wise, moderated the panel of experts, comprised of:

  • Angelica Perez-Litwin, Publisher and CEO, New Latina,
  • Enrique Arbelaez, Co-Founder, Managing Partne and Head of Digital & new media, XL Alliance, and
  • Robert Bucheli, President, CTA Mobile Media

From starting fresh with social media to fine-tuning your social media practices, the discussion unearthed some great tips on how to take advantage of and manage these tools.

Find and fulfill a need

Angelica's New Latina provided the perfect example of finding your own social media niche. She realized that there was a lack of online resources, information and community for latinas interested in more than the latest Hollywood gossip. New Latina was designed to meet that need, as a place where women like Angelica and her peers could talk about family, relationships, spirituality and more.

In Angelica's case, she wanted to provide solutions and discussion where there previously was none. She had the content, and social media provided the perfect outlet. But as Robert pointed out, more and more people turn to their mobile devices for information -- that's another area where social media and other digital technologies, such as text messaging, can reach them.

Find the right audience

Social media allows companies to target their consumers in a much more direct way. It allows for one-on-one conversations between a brand and a consumer, and it encourages the building of relationships. The key to using social media is to find the right audience and then successfully engage with them. And you know your own consumer best -- think about who they are and where you can find them online.

One of the panel's main conclusions was that success in social media is not about numbers, but rather about the quality of the relationships you build. And in order to achieve this quality, you have to know what you're trying to accomplish. Enrique stressed that companies can either focus on gathering new customers or encourage current ones to return more frequently. Once you determine which is your objective, you can focus your efforts on cultivating the right kind of relationships to further that goal.

And don't forget the power of influencers and your network -- Angelica reminded us that by building relationships with online influencers you help each other out so you both reach new people. And you can also take advantage of the relationships you already have, both online and in person, to widen your social media circle.

Remember Your Mission

The panelists also emphasized that when you're launching a social media initiative, it's very important to stay true to your organization's mission and core values. Ask yourself what are your goals, what does your organization stand for, and what social media tools fit that?

And though social media initiatives may be significantly less expensive than traditional methods of advertising, they still require an investment -- especially of time and effort. If you're short on time and funds, the panelists recommended choosing the one social media platform that would work best for you and focusing you efforts there. And though Robert pointed out that you can save time and money by outsourcing your social media duties, the panelists also recognized that you must exercise caution in doing so. It's all about staying true to your brand -- and for many entrepreneurs, they are their brand. So they must trust and train anyone that they are handing off their brand to in the very public realm of social media.

Keep People Coming Back

So once you decide to join the world of social media, how do you get people to join you and keep coming back? The panelists concluded that the key is developing compelling content. That means you need to commit to maintaining your social media presence. Enrique emphasized that relevancy is key here -- brands should talk about what the consumers want to hear; they should find the common ground between the brand and consumer, and talk with them, not at them.

Robert also recommended pushing out short, sweet messages -- but not too many of them. It's important to provide just enough information to be interesting and useful without being intrusive or overwhelming. He warned that you don't want to irritate you audience, and that you should determine the right frequency of messaging depending on the platform, your industry and your goals.

Remember...

So now that you're ready to jump into social media with these tips, remember these last three takeaways from the panelists:

  • Different platforms meet different needs, have different audiences and may require different content. As Enrique said, LinkedIn is like being at the office or a networking event; Facebook is like being at home with friends and family, and Twitter is like being at the bar.
  • Remember to listen. Before you start talking, listen to what's being discussed online and use that to jump into conversations and inform what you will talk about. Find out what people are saying about your brand, and leverage popular topics in your own discussion.
  • Websites are a necessity. They inform your consumers and tell them your story, but don't really encourage conversation. Social media can drive people to your website, and it gives you a place to interact with them - so you can provide them with support and service while staying top-of-mind.

What other questions do you have about social media? Are these tips helpful for those just starting to delve into the social media world? And do you have any social media tips and tricks of your own?