10 tips for taking the plunge in (business) social media

15 March 2011 By Northern Lights

10 tips for taking the plunge in (business) social media image

smallimg7We have today launched our free ebook, Why you Can’t ignore Social Media in Business.

To those who have been tuned into social media for a few years, the book’s content and style will probably seem basic and old hat.  And if I’m honest, I am slightly embarrassed to have written it – I am no ‘expert’!

So why do it?

It is written for our typical clients and contacts – senior business people running businesses that make up the bulk of the UK’s economy, as well as universities.  Many are at the stage where they know they probably should understand social media but don’t know where to start.  So they have either ignored it or are leaving it to the specialists and ‘youngsters’ to manage.  And that worries us.

Business leaders need to understand the principles of social media so they can manage it.  They don’t necessarily have to tweet themselves, write a blog or go on LinkedIn, but they do need to understand the risks and missed opportunities for their business.

I predict that within two years a successful business will look old-fashioned if they are not using some of this – above all, it is a way for clients, suppliers and others to engage and build relationships with that organisation.  Websites not only look flat without social media, it feels like the business has shut the door on any discussion.

When people Google your business, if it is just your own website that appears then your business will increasingly look self-promoting and lack credibility.  Social media provides a rich third party endorsement – others talking about you that is worth ten times what a website on its own can achieve.

In the book, we give Action Tips at the end of every chapter to help newcomers take their first steps – here are some of them.

1. Take your first steps in social media

If you are completely new to social media, block out two hours in your diary, turn off email and phones and immerse yourself in how your customers and contacts are using social media

  • Search the internet to find customers, suppliers and competitors who are using social media
  • Read a number of their blogs and blog comments
  • Do a search on LinkedIn for their employees.  Analyse the groups they belong to, who they are connected to, what their profiles look like
  • See if anyone has a Twitter account – what do they tweet about, click on some of the replies (just look for an @ sign before a name eg @nlightspr or @bradmanagement)
  • Jot down what impressions you are forming of them all and why – what is good and bad
  • Learn from this – copy the good things and improve the poor

2. Making your LinkedIn profile work for you

Are you one of the thousands of business people who set up a LinkedIn profile half-heartedly and done little with it since?

If you are going to make LinkedIn work for you, you need to make sure your profile is complete so that you are picked up on searches (tips in the book on how to do this).

Now start being a bit more strategic with it

  • Think about who your business is targeting – chief executives, a buying manager, key academic, a journalist
  • Find five profiles from this list and analyse them – what do you think works and what not?  Why not?  What should your profile contain – or not?
  • Agree within your business how you want to describe your company or organisation.  Get someone to write standard wording for all employees to ensure consistency – and agree what can be varied and how
  • What words would potential customers search for you on – include these key words in the specialties box
  • Set yourself a target of connecting with 10, 20, 50 people a week to build your profile – whatever you have agreed for your strategy.  And stick to it
  • Research 20 groups – find ones that your customers or target clients belong to.  Request to join them.  Look for interesting discussions and debates – join in if you feel you can help.  Unjoin groups that don’t feel right
  • Watch the video clips on LinkedIn’s own website so you understand the settings for privacy and the opportunities

When we set up our Northern Lights Twitter account, we spent half an hour composing our first tweet!  It is terrifying for everyone, but you will get used to it.

We’d love to hear your first steps into social media – and your tips to help others.  And any feedback on the book – good and bad!

Author Image

Written by Northern Lights


  • I received this PDF book today and have quickly read it through. I have to say that it is the most valuable publication on the subject of social media, summarising and demystifying the wider issues faced by organisations large and small. At last, employees won’t have to give up their daytime job to negotiate the forks in the road and culs de sac (or is that cul de sacs?) of the media highway.

    Only a few years ago this would have sold in its thousands.

    Summary: EXCELLENT.

  • I think this book is absolutely brilliant! It is very easy to read, it’s packed with great ideas and offers invaluable advice for all, whether you’re a seasoned social media expert or a complete novice!

  • This is a top book, both for newbies who don’t know their tweet from their twitpic, and for companies looking to go to the next level with their social media presence.
    And all for free!

  • After having a few glitches with the compatibility of my software, I have finally gained access to the book. I’ve had a quick flick through and honestly believe that this is a must read.
    Whilst at university, little is said about how social media can be used for marketing purposes so it is definitely useful for students. I have also done several projects with b2b businesses and one thing that I am always asked is how can b2b businesses benefit from social media. This book helps to explain the world of social media and its benefits – the case studies help to put the benefits into context.
    It’s simple to read and easy to understand – Perfect for students as well as employers and employees!

  • Just what I have been looking for, a really clear well written guide to translate the babble that fills the airways around this subject. I still feel overwhelmed by it all but at least I have some ideas about where to get help and what to ignore, thanks.

  • Hi there,

    I have been trying to get my message over for years. The thing about the visual arts is that quality is conferred on objects by those who have the power to do so. These objects can be anything! A pile of bricks an unmade bed, a light that goes on and off, you name it anything will do. The people who have control of the social media can promote anything in the arts and they do. But if you have something to say and it negates their selections they don’t like it. Never the less that’s the way it is and as such is interesting. How does one confer quality, who is the quality gate keepers? How are they conditioning us? Can we see ourselves and just what the effect of the net is on us? I know one thing one has to get involved or sink to the bottom of the pond. Thanks for the book. Keep smiling Malcolm.

  • The ‘painting by numbers’ guide to social media. Like its author, this is a practical, no nonsense guide, taking you through every stage of the ‘how to’. process. A useful resource that never loses its focus on business benefits.

  • I recently referred to ‘Why you Can’t Ignore Social Media in Business’ for a research project my organisation undertook on social media and its implication on being an employer.

    I thought the book was very well written, easy to read and I particularly liked the case studies at the end of each chapter – it’s always helpful to read what people are doing in the real world! The book was very comprehensive and could act as a useful guide for businesses looking to use social media.

  • I really enjoyed this book. It’s easy to read and has clear, doable actions the results of which are articulated in the case studies. I cannot stress the importance of understanding the importance of social media and how powerful it can be. I’d like to see a follow up where there are examples of how social media can actually create a PR crisis and then illustrate how social media can help to manage this.. Great book Victoria, but then I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.

  • I’ve been looking into how my organisation uses social media and was sent your
    e-book. I just wanted to let you know how informative and useful I’ve found it to be as part of my research. It has given me lots of practical tips and sparked plenty of ideas on how we can make the most of our presence on the various platforms. Definitely something I shall be keeping on my desk for regular reference.

  • Just starting to read this and it is absolutely brilliant, both for a newbie to social media and someone looking to delve a little deeper by using platforms like foursquare.

    Will be reading thoroughly and using for Fresh Business Thinkings business advice section.

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