If you haven't yet jumped on the social media boat…no worries!  We have good news for you.  The boat is not full.  The boat still has room for passengers, co-captains and captains!

Slow down, take a breath.  Social media is here to stay.  You don't have to learn it overnight.  You don't have to learn it this month.

If you aren't using some form of it you ARE MISSING OUT!  Chances are some of your competitors are using social media.  Why not jump in the boat, grab an oar and cruise on past them?

As overwhelming as it may seem… it really isn't.

15 tips to help you get started in exploring your best approach for jumping on board:

1. Do Your Research! Listen, learn and then listen some more.  Follow your customers, partners, competitors and neighbors.  Do a Google search for all of them.

2. Find out what CONVERSATIONS are happening about YOU, your INDUSTRY, COMPETITORS and PARTNERS. Don't forget to research your own company and/or employees.  You'll be surprised what you might find.  Just because you aren't engaged in the conversation doesn't mean the conversation about your biz, products and industry isn't going on WITHOUT YOU!  Don't you wish you knew what they were saying?  Get out there and find out!!

3. Assess Your RESOURCES. Be realistic with your resources such as money, time, personnel.

4. Tap Into the EXPERTS:
a. Hire an EXPERT.
c. Google it, Twitter Search it, Facebook it.  There is a ton of FREE and useful data out there.  Find it, read it, learn it know it!

It may be more efficient to hire an expert to at minimum help you get up to speed. Many consultants and agencies can develop a phased social media plan for you that you can implement yourself.

5. DEVELOP a PLAN. Do NOT randomly start executing facebook pages, twitter tweets, and blogs.  Your time is your most valuable asset.  Even though social media is FREE per se, spend the time up front to set objectives, goals, policies to ensure you work as efficiently as possible and are able to meet your goals.  Be realistic with your given resources.

6. You Have ONE CHANCE to MAKE a FIRST IMPRESSION! Do NOT start inviting everyone you know, millions of TWITTER PEEPS to your blog, Facebook page or website before you know what your objecitves are.  You have only one time to make a first impression.  If your social media pages, platforms and websites are a work in process, invite your most trusted colleagues, friends and family first.  Ask them for honest feedback, offer a give–away.  Then, once you're ready for prime time… you can hit the rapids!

7. DEVELOP a CONTENT PLAN. Take an extra 15 minutes when writing your plan to include a CONTENT section.  Define what your target audience is reading, writing, wanting and discussing.  Focus on content that is valuable, relevant and inspiring!  Don't be another one of the million social media noise makers.  Sing them a song, inspire them and connect with them.

8. GRAB an OAR. Find a mentor.  Find a partner for your boat even if they are as clueless a you.  At least you'll have someone to help keep you afloat should run into some gators.  Keep the resources you find in a notebook.  Organize them based on type of content.

9. Build an INSPIRE book. As you find blogs, Facebook pages and tools you like…. document them.  Print them out if you're a print-a-holic like me.  Keep them handy.  I love my INSPIRE folder.  On a day when I am running dry and don't know what to write about… it is most useful.

10.  Ask for FEEDBACK. As a fellow colleague, friend, family member, neighbor for input.  Ask them to visit your website, read your first couple of blogs etc.  Put on your extra layer of thick skin and take their feedback as positive regardless of how it is communicated.  Don't just blow it off… listen, learn and tweak.

11. Put on your LIFE VEST! Ensure you are ready for prime time.   Imagine the “what if”.  What if your biz takes off? What if your blog starts getting hits?  Plan for the best. GO BIG OR GO HOME!  Ensure your servers are ready, have a web programmer or contractor nearby should you need to make changes.

12.  Be FRESH! Social media is only as good as the last 24 hours in some regard. This is why the content plan is so important.  If you have  content plan you can develop a short and longer term strategy.  You can build off of one platform of content.  CREATE ONE USE MANY.  If you have no plan you may come across as very random and unorganized to your audience.

13. BE KNOWLEDGEABLE. Don't guess on answers.  Take the time to provide value, data and content that will enrich the lives of those who visit your platforms.

14. GET READY FOR THE RAPIDS. Hold on and get ready for a FUN ride!  Social media can start off somewhat slow but go very fast once you learn the techniques, tools and game rules.  Think positive, focus on the big and little wins and stick to your plan!

15.  Have FUN! What's the worst that will happen? Your boat tips over, you fall out? Heck, you have your life vest on.  Get back in the boat, grab and OAR and get movin' again!