Many people are telling you that you need to have an online presence on social media - it's really a no-brainer - but what do you need to do to start really engaging in social media? It can be intimidating to know how to interact with people you don't really know. So remember a simple framework for social media and you can put your mind at ease: Listen, Share, Comment, and Create.
Listen means that you need to start the process of engaging in social media by listening to your customers, to your peers, and to others in your industry. Listening is a skill that you need to hear what people are saying in social media. To build a listening framework, you can use tools like Google Reader, Gist, and others to monitor a keyword (like the name of your neighborhood), or to see news by and about the people in your sphere.
Once you're comfortable with the idea of listening, you should try to Share information with your peers. Most people think nothing of sharing a link through email - it's easy as well to share information directly in Facebook or another site like Twitter, though the forms of sharing are slightly different. If you can provide relevant information to the people who listen to you - through email or other means - they'll want to listen again.
After you've shared information, think about making a Comment on a blog that you read, on a Facebook post that you find, or just through email to someone you know.
When you demonstrate that you can contribute to the conversation, you're doing more than just sharing information: you're also building a relationship.
Finally, you'll be ready to Create new content. Depending upon your preference, you might decide to write a blog, post information to Twitter or Facebook, or to speak at a public event. Don't be afraid - it's not much harder than writing an email - and you can do it easily.
It's easy to get started in engaging with your peers and your customers in social media. Remember the sequence of Listen, Share, Comment, and then Create to get started and you'll be on your way.