NEW PORT RICHEY — Many small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs have come down with a case of the "social media flu." Those infected don't know a lot about the widely used platforms and are unsure how to establish an effective presence.
To help with the healing efforts, the Corporate Training Program at Pasco-Hernando Community College has assembled a team of "lab doctors" to dole out prescriptions at its first Social Media Lab, running from 8 a.m. to noon June 20 at the college's West Campus.
The workshop is designed to cover the history of social media, teach the best practices for usage and help participants combat common pitfalls. Attendees can bring phones, laptops, and tablets to get hands-on training during their choice of a break-out session. Sessions include LinkedIn; Facebook and Twitter; YouTube; mobile apps and blogging; and Google+ and Analytics.
Loran Tripp, chief creative scientist at Lab3 Marketing, is one of six "lab doctors" participating in the workshop. Tripp co-owns the Lutz company and has nine years of marketing experience under her belt. She knows first-hand how crucial it is for businesses to use social media effectively.
"In today's world, your website is your storefront," Tripp said.
As as social media guru, she knows social media stats, such as the best time for a business to post a Facebook status (3 p.m. on a Wednesday) and the best time of day to post to Pinterest (8 at night).
One of Tripp's most important tips is to understand the implications of using the Internet as a platform.
"I think it's extremely important for people to remember how much larger their words are than they ever have been," she said. "Your audience is now global, whether you like it or not. You have to be more cognizant about what you are posting and putting out there."
Additionally, Tripp suggests that having a robust presence on a couple of platforms is more valuable than having a sparse presence on every website. She recommends LinkedIn and Facebook for those who don't have time to manage a multitude of profiles.
Just as it's important to know how to use social networking sites, it's also important to know how not to use them.
Many businesses focus on trying to push their products on their social media accounts, rather than having a conversation with their users. It's more valuable to focus on building a brand and a presence, rather than barraging the Internet with sales pitches, Tripp says.
"I think that if people go in and just keep trying to sell stuff, nobody wants to be sold to," Tripp said. "People do business with people who they know, like and trust, so if you can build that somehow, then you have now come closer to converting someone to being a lifelong customer."
These tips and many more will be featured at the workshop.
Corporate training director Lori Bainum also sees an opportunity for attendees to network.
"It's probably going to be a great opportunity to meet other people in the audience, who either could help you out or are suffering from the same flu," she said. "They'll be able to kind of commiserate and collaborate together."
Bainum hopes to continue offering social media labs in the future and wants to create other labs to build on the skills learned in the first one.
"We're really excited about this because we just think there is a big need," Bainum said. "We're really happy as a community college to be able to provide a service like this."
Samantha Fuchs can be reached at (727) 869-6235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.