After organizing and directing tweetups, liveblogging and building our own web presence, we’ve seen a lot of confusing information. Coaches, trainers, instructors, experts, strategists (sorry, Finn), Gurus, ninjas, best-selling authors all claiming their social media advice works best. Slapped labels, branded words, cool iconography all backed by PowerPoint presentations...it's enough to make one's head spin.

When we get asked about Social Media training we get a little nervous at first because we’re afraid of a self-fulfilling prophecy: saying that we aren’t like the snake oil salesmen and then turn around and give similar pitches. Don't get us wrong, there's good folks out there doing it right. There's trainers out there doing it right, but still, the nerves hit.

From our experience, the advice that we found works best comes from an old Tim McGraw song, "Live Like You Were Dying.” The advice:

Be a friend a friend would like to have

Social Media are tools, much like the tools found in your grandfather’s tool box. They all can be used in a multitude of ways. For example, if you want to just broadcast deals on Twitter as if it’s a direct mailing tool, you can do that. We would not recommend it and you’ll probably tick a lot of Good folks off, but the option is available. If you want to use it more like message service to talk to your best friends - listen, give advice, show concern, share in their joy - you can do that as well. We would recommend this approach.

For Facebook, you could spend all day sharing your own content as if you were your own billboard. For a select few who create nothing but awesome content, this will take you far. But for the rest of us who struggle to get a post or two out a day, it will probably serve you better to share stuff that will make your friends smile.

LinkedIn, friend your friends. Follow the ones you want to learn from and would like to work with. Be supportive.

Blogging, a section we will get to in great detail down the road in these 101 tutorials, content should be original - never copied - and informative. Be a resource, a wealth of information. We believe that you can give away the recipe but only a few will ever be able to cook like you. You’re an expert. Trust in your expertise.

SEO - the other important reason it pays to be a friend

The other reason it pays to be a friend and engage with those who respond to you is that search engines monitor the signals when analyzing web pages with their ranking algorithm. Engage with folks. Become their friend. Your presence help their SEO. In turn, your new relationships will increase the likelihood that your friends will engage with your content and, conversely, improve your SEO rankings. And everybody wins.

That’s Social Media 101

(A)Typical Social Media questions

”How often should we engage a day?”

That really depends on how easy you can incorporate the tools into your daily routine. We recommend an hour a day, but each market is different.

”How fast should we see results?”

Once again, it depends on the market. Social Media (without using their ad platforms) has a tendency to be slow but steady means of growth. However, if you are the first in your market to use these tools consistently, your chances for sucess are greatly improved.

”What is the divine ratio of sharing your own content to sharing others?”

Well, we wouldn't be surprised if the Divine Ratio was in fact the best ratio for such a metric. In the end, do you really sit there and keep track of the times you start a conversation with your friends and compare that number to the times you sit back and listen? Some might. I don't. I just focus on being a friend. And that's how I approach Social Media - with personal accounts and branded accounts.

Look at it this way:  if you’re not getting your content shared as much, you’re probably not sharing and engaging - being nice and supportive and best-friend like - with others enough. And if you are... 

You might just need new friends. 

Who wants to try to engage with those who only talk about themselves all day? Retweeting online resources like Mashable, as informative as they might be, is really not that engaging. If they don’t have time to respond to you, spend more time on those those who will!

Either way, I hope you see where we’re going with this allegory. If not then take Abe's advice when it comes to social media:

Get practicin’

Right now the trick would be to get into the habit of getting into the habit of using Social Media daily. Soon, we’ll talk about how to use these same tools to share your blogging content. If all goes well, we’ll to slide the content into your new daily regiment.

Next step: blogging

Speaking of the blogging content, it’s high time we start speaking about it.

[NOTE: I apologize for my feigned drawl is coming out. It’s what I get for quoting a Tim McGraw song. Not that there’s anything wrong with it drawls, but most of us Chicagoans really don’t have drawls. And, my drawl still doesn’t sound natural...”sound?” Yeah, you know what I mean.]