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4 min read

A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

All businesses have to be on social media, or at least that’s what we’re led to believe in this ultra-connected world in which we now live. But if your business isn’t doing the right things on social media you could potentially damage your brand. So what might you be doing wrong, how can you change it, and how can you check that what you’re doing is beneficial?

Spread Too Thin

If you’re new to social media, it’s tempting to try to get your brand onto every platform – from Facebook and Twitter to Google Plus, LinkedIn, Audioboo, Instagram and Storify. And that’s fine, if you have the staff, knowledge and content to fill all that space. If you don’t, however, you should be identifying which platforms are the best fit to your brand and concentrating on those.

If you’re not sure where to start, research your competitors and find out what they’re up to. Look at what content they’re producing for which platform, and what works best for them. However, it’s not about copying them, more looking for hints on how to go about your own social activities and preferably, improve on what they’re doing. So long as you know your audience and tweak your content according to their needs, there’s no reason your business can’t be successful on social, whatever you do.

Once you’ve done the research, then it’s a case of deciding which networks you want to be visible across. Don’t get too ambitious in the first instance, choose the popular networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and (if necessary) Pinterest. Get to know them first, read up on best practices before you start and don’t be tempted to treat them as personal accounts. Your followers are very unlikely to want to know what you had for breakfast that morning …

Content Is King

Once you’ve set up your social media presence don’t just dive in and start pumping out content randomly. Unplanned content can actually hinder your business, rather than helping it. If you want to have an effective social media presence, you have to have a strategy.

Ask yourself:

  • Who will be managing social media accounts
  • How much time will you set aside for social
  • What content will you be posting – will you need an editorial calendar to help you plan it
  • What are your goals

Develop Your Brand

Social offers a great way to develop your brand as it’s not only a distribution method for the content you produce, but it’s an opportunity to make your business recognisable. Colours, logos, tone of voice – all of these should be consistent across each platform and your website in order to ensure brand recognition.

The content you post should be fed with a variety of content, social isn’t just somewhere for you to push out blog posts, it’s a platform that helps you to engage with potential customers. With this in mind, you should use it for all kinds of customer conversation, from special offers to dealing with complaints.

Not Just a Sales Tool

If you’re using social media as nothing more than a sales platform you need to reconsider. There’s nothing more off-putting to customers than a constant stream of posts reading something along the lines of ‘look at our amazing new gizmo! Click here to buy it!’

Devise some other content related to your business without it being pure sales content. It should still be of interest to your audience, but don’t always be in sales mode. If you sell insurance, you could post a question asking your audience what their greatest insurance worries are. Perhaps you sell animal feed – you can simply post videos of a lot of animals looking happy (because if anything grabs attention on the internet, it’s that), with some of your product in the background. If you use social to post overtly self-promotional material all the time, your followers will quickly become unfollowers.

Don’t Fear Feedback

Never be afraid to engage with your followers. It’s called social media for a reason; it gives you the chance to put a human face on your business. All engagement is good engagement, If someone posts a negative comment on your page, you should respond – politely, of course. This is your chance to keep them as a customer now that they’ve reached out to you; they want to see that you care about their experience with their product. Try to assuage their concerns, ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Don’t under any circumstances ignore people that engage, even if it’s in a negative manner.

Imagine you own a shop and someone is waiting at the counter and being ignored. They complain and instead of your staff coming to their aid, they are ignored. This is unacceptable, quite obviously and the same applies here, more so in fact, as everyone else can see you ignoring your customers too. Apply the same customer service standards you have elsewhere to your social media presence.

Get Analytical

Social media provides you with a glut of information about your customers. How often they’re online, what else they’re interested in, what they think about your competitors. It’s an incredibly useful resource that can help to give you the edge on your competitors, especially if you’re a small business.

Good analytics are the key to social media success. They allow you to see what’s working and what’s not working and tweak your tactics accordingly. Make good use of programs such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Twitter tools Hootsuite and Twitonomy. There are plenty of options to choose from. Have a play around to see what works best for you.

Go Forth and Socialise

Those are just some tips to help you get the best out of your social media presence. But the most important thing is to put time into it. So post quality, targeted content, get feedback and don’t overreach yourself. Then, once you’ve done all of that, analyse the results. Once you get into the habit of doing that regularly, you’re on the road to social media success.

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