Screen Shot 2012 11 03 at 1.51.14 PMOn Saturday morning, conference attendees participated in a session on the fundamental – though rarely practiced – keys to success using social media. Here are a few takeaways from the session:

1. You already know how

What makes this kind of social media different from other forms of media? It’s right there in the name. Social media is, that’s right, social. It’s about relationships. Just like in other areas of your profession, relationships building is critical to professional success, and the skills you utilize to build healthy relationships are the same on social media as they are at work.

Don’t let the fact that social media is technical or internet-based be a barrier to you pursuing authentic relationships with your online network. Treat people with respect. Respond promptly. Be friendly. Remember people’s names. Using the fundamental social skills you already possess will do more to improve your social media presence than anything else.

2. Figure out who you want to talk to

It’s impossible to start solving the problem of how to speak to someone if you don’t yet know who you want to talk to. Before launching your social media program, think hard about who it is you want to talk to. Is it parents of students? Students themselves? The local city and press? Each of these groups may use different social media platforms. Once you know who you want to talk to, do a little market research to see where they are: Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.

3. Pick one or two platforms, and ease into it

Once you know who you want to talk to, limit yourself to using one (maybe two, but only if it’s really needed) social media platform. This isn’t because multiple social media platforms aren’t useful, but because there are many nuances to each social media channel, and it’s difficult to become proficient at communicating consistently and effectively while learning multiple new channels.

It’s also important to ease into it. Too often, people will get excited by the prospects of social media and try to do it all at once. The problem with this is that there is little understanding yet of what it will take to maintain the social media program, or even what the most effective approach to that social media program will be. It’s good to start slow, make a point to reflect frequently on the effectiveness of your social media presence, and only add additional social media channels when you see a clear need that is not addressed by your current channel.

Marketing guru Seth Godin has an excellent perspective on what makes a social media program effective:

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