9 Essential Social Media Tips for Beginners

social mediaPlunging into social media for the first time can be a bit daunting for individuals or businesses. There is a learning curve when it comes to becoming more social online, and it can take a while to learn what works and what doesn’t.  Here are a few of the best Do’s and Don’ts that can save you time and help grow your social media authority more quickly.

1. Start small

You’ll want to start small and try a couple services out at a time. Oftentimes newbies sign up for every social network under the sun and try to grow each of them. Guess how long they last? Building profiles for multiple social sites is hard work, so it’s best to start by only tackling a couple at first.

Once you find the right ones for you or your brand, then start to narrow your focus on those. Eventually you may want to scale your social media strategy to include more services, but you have to crawl before you can walk.

Start small, and then grow to other social networks as your confidence grows. Success breeds success.

2. Get a widget

Put a widget up on your site for your social networks. The best place to find followers is your own blog or site. Also, it’s much easier to get your readers and friends to vote or retweet your content than strangers. Adding a widget next to your content can help.

Facebook has a widget generator you can use, and the Tweetmeme badge is easy to add to your site as well.

3. Frequently test your buttons and widgets

Start testing which social media profiles have the most impact, then drop the rest. For example, if your site does really well with Facebook shares but hardly ever gets voted on Digg, then drop the Digg vote button.

Oftentimes you’ll see sites littered with tons of widgets and buttons. Having a gazillion widgets at the end of each article only creates noise and annoys the reader. Figure out which buttons are getting clicked, and drop the buttons that don’t convert. Ideally you’ll only have two or three widgets on each page.

You can tell which buttons are effective by using Google Analytics and goals to see who’s clicking what. You can also use A/B to see which types of buttons are getting more clicks.

4. Don’t annoy your followers

Sounds like common sense, right? Unfortunately, lots of companies that are just starting out with social media think the best way to “promote” their brand is to publish coupons, offers, news, and anything else related to their business.

Rule of thumb: if it’s something you personally wouldn’t like to receive, avoid it.

Your social media goal is to be helpful first. People follow and respect brands that are helpful, not self-promoting shills. Give first, then ask.

Try posting useful links to industry articles, answer questions, and engage. The followers, engagement, and ultimately sales will come if you’re helpful first.

5. Don’t fret about follower counts

Don’t believe all the spammy ebooks out there that sell you the notion that you can attract thousands of followers in a matter of days. Sure, you could do that and it’s not hard. But the types of followers who are going to be following you are mostly bots. Or they’re just following you in hopes that you’ll follow them back. Ultimately, they aren’t followers who would engage with you.

You want social media followers that are going to listen and interact with you, and 10 of those followers is worth more than a thousand bots.

It takes a while to organically build up a great social profile. Focus on building great content and being helpful, and the followers will come.

6. See what the pros are doing

Everyone has a different strategy when it comes to social media, and sometimes it’s best to take a look at people who are real social media experts. Lee Odden is a good example of someone using Twitter and Facebook to help people, which in turn grows his social media influence.

There are plenty of fantastic examples of people who truly understand how to interact and build powerful social media profiles the right way. Check out sites like WeFollow to find influential Twitter users within your niche.

7. Don’t overlook niche social media sites

When people think of social media, they typically think of Twitter or Facebook. But there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands?) of social media networks and sites that you can use to help promote your brand. Jut because a network isn’t huge doesn’t mean it’s not going to impact your social media strategy. Oftentimes targeted niche social sites can bring more targeted traffic to your site than larger sites.

If you’re smart, you can use smaller social networks to help promote your site on other bigger social networks. For example, I’ve written posts on web development that have made it to the front page of Dzone, a social media site for web development. Once the article made it to the front page of Dzone, the attention brought a lot of saves on Delicious, and subsequently made it to the Delicious front page. The delicious front page brought even more traffic, and those Delicious users voted the story up to the Digg front page. So, by simply submitting my site on a smaller niche news site with a great headline, I managed to make it to the coveted homepages of both Digg and Delicious.

Niche social news sites can be very powerful, and oftentimes much easier to become influential in than the larger sites. Here’s a list of social news sites organized by category.

8. Find people within your niche to follow on Twitter

The ideal follower on Twitter is one that has similar interests within your niche. You can find like-minded people to follow on Twitter through these  directories and odds are many will follow you back.

Once you’ve started following these people, start interacting with them. Participate in discussions, and retweet things they say that would be helpful to your community.

Not only will this method help build your follower counts, it also gives you more influence within your niche. You’ll find great friends that will help you promote your content and site too. Always remember to give first and ask later.

9. Stay Humble

Social media beginners often try to quickly establish themselves as “experts” within their field, but they have nothing to back it up. (For example, search for “social media experts” on Twitter. You’ll find many with only a handful of followers. Shouldn’t an “expert” have more?)

As with anything in life, nobody likes a know-it-all. Be humble. Ask questions. Teach, but don’t preach. Let others do the hyping for you. And they will if you’re helpful and humble.

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  1. Hey Glen. Great post! What do you recommend doing to trim the fat of the bots on Twitter that seem to take over and worm their way to plague your account?

    Is there an application out there that you know of that can detect the real followers from the fake ones (Bots)?

    And if you once used an application that you thought was the way to build your Twitter following, what do you recommend people do to be sure there are no strings attached to that old fashioned method?

  2. Not only is this advice helpful, it is also realistic. Everything from tip #1 to #9 was great. A lot of the social media out there is junk now, and sometimes it’s better to cut them out if others aren’t using them. I also feel that there are too many people out there with the notion ‘we know what’s best for you’ and overload customers with status updates and irrelevant material. If a new company started using social media today, this would be the blog I’d hope they find.-MikeJ&L Marketing, Inc.

  3. Thanks for the concise and encouraging info. As a small business person, it's nice to know I can start small and increase as time allows. Time is always an issue!

  4. Avatar Jason Cartwright says

    Great post Glen. It is easy to go nuts joining every social network and then getting paralyzed and overwhelmed. I would definitely consider the 80/20 rule, and focus on the major networks first, and then go for the long-tail niche sites as you get comfortable with the process.

    But, the niche sites offer you the ability to become a big fish in a small pond. So don't neglect the smaller, more specific communities where you can make a solid contribution and build credibility and authority.

  5. Thanks for the great post Glen!

    I was really confused regarding Twitter.

    Everyone was saying start on Twitter, Follow everyone and most will follow you back.

    But I HATE spammy methods.

    I like your explanation. I loved the explanation from Point 4 onwards. Finally, it makes sense.

    You are absolutely true, not every one is a social media expert. They will teach you the wrong methods.

    I can find some great guidance in here. Thanks. I will try to use Twitter now.

    Nabeel Amin

  6. Avatar Jeremy Dawes says

    Definitely a great resource for newbies… You explained well every point your raised in this discussion.

    Thanks for the share!

    Jeremy Dawes | Newcastle Web Designer
    [email protected]

  7. Avatar Rammesh Perumal says

    Great post Glen…I did the same mistake too but now I have narrow down to only 3.

  8. At the end of the day it is all about building a relationship with your audience

  9. Avatar darrenlcarter says


    Really great post. I am in fact a social media beginner so this is really useful. I actually signed up for as many as I could at first but then quickly realized that I would be ignoring most except a couple. I can see why now. Thanks for posting this!

    Darren L Carter

  10. This is the best article I've read on this topic! I have bookmarked it, shared it, and tweeted it–thank you!

  11. Lots of good practical information here. I would add one suggestion to point #1. Use a service that makes it easy to participate and mange a number of social media sites so you can evaluate more sites at one time.

  12. Hi Glen, I just started using social media, and I found it more difficult than I thought. I read your article and followed your steps. So far it has worked wonders.

  13. Nice post!
    Thank you for sharing these tips.
    Your point about Social Network to help business professionals become thought leaders and acquire clients at a lower costs is huge.

  14. This is all great advice, but remember it takes time

  15. Superb insight, thanks for sharing.

  16. Thanks for posting this article. It will help people trying to organically build up social profile

  17. hi, Plunging into social media for the first time can be a bit daunting for individuals

  18. This is a great article on the basics of starting out with social media. Lots of helpful and usable tips and links. Thanks for the info!

  19. Avatar @helpmerhonda11 says

    Great list, your philosophy is spot on. Saw a recent You tube video, and one frame said “Be more like Dale Carnegie, not like Mad Men”. Same idea.

  20. Great article. I especially agree with your comments regarding niche site participation. Easier to be a big fish in a smaller pond.

  21. Great article!

    BTW, someone has copypasted you without giving credit… (spanish translation)

  22. Thanks for this, Glen. There is so much you can do in social media, it's great to have a short, manageable list of what you should do first. I put together a simple plan for people to help give a path towards starting a social media program for my blog readers here:

  23. Thanks for the great tips and advice. I’ve been trying to wrap my hands around the Social Media marketing concept and this is quite helpful.

  24. Glen….i am agree on creating profiles on social media sites…i am sure many of us will not be much aware of your profile name same as your brand name can be very good to have noted in social sites.

  25. Avatar Meltemi, Phil Kendall, PK says

    Be selective. Be precise. Be consistent. It is part of your personal marketing strategy.