I have today launched my 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 my 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 me.

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, I 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
  1.  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 I set up my company’s Twitter account, I spent half an hour composing our first tweet! It is terrifying for everyone, but you will get used to it.

I’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!