The question I am most asked these days is: how can I start using social media? Whether you're an individual or a corporation, the answer is the same. Listen first. Share your opinion and content later.
Listen to what others are saying
Don't just blast out your opinion, product or services. Google yourself and your competitors to see how you stack up. Hear what others are saying about you and/or your brand. Cast a wide net online to find out where your customers and community are most active. If you feel compelled to interact early on, be sure to leave comments that are helpful, not promotional.
Choose one platform and master it rather than getting overwhelmed trying to manage multiple social presences. If you want to use Social for business, Twitter is a good place to start. Want to connect with friends & family? Try Facebook. Need to recruit or do some online networking? LinkedIn is your best bet. No matter where you start, remember to follow topics, not people.
If your friends/customers take the time to write something, take the time to respond. The more responsive you are - even to negative issues - the better your company's reputation will be. Studies show that when customers have a problem if they get a response from the company quickly, they actually become more satisfied with the brand than if they had never had an issue to begin with.
Consider creating a blog
On way to get an audience is to write a blog. What's the best platform to blog on? Wordpress is quick, easy, and free to use. So is Tumblr. The good news: at first no one will be reading what you write. So experiment. And ask friends & colleagues' for their opinions of your practice runs. Iterate and reinvent until you feel ready for prime time. Then send out a public link to friends/colleagues/clients.
Link your identities together
Don't forget to link your social presences together. But don't blast every post and tweet to everyone at once. Consider who you're speaking to and what comments and content are appropriate to share with them. You can post to multiple presences via Hootsuite, which also lets you track your activity.
There's more to it, of course. But the most important thing to remember as you get started is: listen to what others are saying, share helpful comments and content, and respond to what others are talking about.