What are we talking about here? Are you listening? Your customers are and so if you plan the who, what, why and when to your messages, you’ll get your social media right!

Here are our top tips on getting started with social media in your business!

Who If you are introducing a social voice for your business you need to decide who is going to do it. Like many things in life and business, things get started and they often fall by the wayside, this isn’t good with social media, which is all about momentum.

Decide who is going to be representing your social media. If it’s you, will you have the time, do you have someone in mind who will take this over once it’s established, can you outsource it? We don’t recommend you outsource it as a rule, but if you have an easy to understand product or service, you may be able to find an expert, but experts cost. Good planning can save you money, and doing your own social communications needn’t take up all of your time.

If you aren’t going to do it and you aren’t going to outsource it then maybe you will choose someone in your business to help? A friend maybe? A family member? Warning – only let someone you trust, someone who understands your business and who understands the importance of good PR and knows the pitfalls of bad PR, do this for you. There are many stories of reputational impact through bad social media, conducted on someone else’s behalf - after-all, would you let just anyone speak on your behalf in any other situation?

What So you have decided to embrace social media but what do you say? More importantly, what do you listen to? By following individuals and businesses you’ll get a pretty good idea about who’s saying what in your industry, your circles and people of interest. Start by forwarding, re-tweeting and liking your peers and contacts, this will help you to begin building up a following of your own but most importantly will help you to get used to interacting with people remotely.

Now that you are familiar with social media tools, think about what to say? The key is to be interesting, let people know what you are doing, if it’s of potential interest to others. Long gone are the days when the social channel was made up of pointless updates, it is a very efficient business tool and respecting it will help you to get the most out of it. Bad PR and wrongly chosen words in social media are very difficult to remove, and even if they do get removed, the damage will have already been done. Social media presents instant viral capacity and huge reach – remember, this is apparent for good news, as well as bad!

Try and be entertaining, save any ill-feeling for offline and always try and turn a negative into a positive. These three golden rules will stand you in good stead, being boring, spiteful and unprofessional will only come back to haunt you.

All marketing should be planned and the tone of your social media should be consistent with your brand and other marketing, it is after-all part of the marketing mix. Observe and monitor what others say by following them. Don’t just post once per day and leave it, get involved in the conversations where relevant. Share experiences, but never sell!

Why The why should really come first – why are you planning to embrace social media for business? If the reasons are to market your company, to get more enquiries and to profit, then tact is very important. Using social media for communicating with customers and contacts, responding to comments made about your business and developing an authority for what you do are all excellent reasons to get involved, and the result will generally mean a raised profile and more business as a result. If the reason is to target prospects, to win more clients, to build relationships with existing clients then that is ok too – just try to be subtle with the ‘what’ to say. People don’t like to be sold to and undertaking social media training is the best way for your ‘why’ to be honed into an effective social media marketing strategy.

Many organisations avoid using social media and prevent staff for embracing the channel as it is difficult to police and can lead to reputational damage. Like any marketing activity, perform a risk assessment and consider the opportunities and threats that social media presents to your business but remember it is often better to be a voice in the conversation than to be silent.

When For social media to work it must flow. This means not just logging on once per day, it means being aware of what’s going on and getting involved. Be reactive and pro-active, you can use software such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to make your social experiences more efficient. Using software can help you look out for trends, keywords and phrases that are relevant and you can also time your broadcasts so that you can comment automatically.

By following the conversation you will be able to engage at the right times, this means in a timely conversational manner, not hours after the subject has moved on. Engage, don’t interrupt – follow the conversation and make a point if relevant, not for the sake of it. Don’t just dive in; treat an online conversation as you would if you were to join a conversation in the supermarket, with people you don’t know.

Using social media well is about being natural, don’t dive in, but be prepared to give your opinion, you may need to take action to create an opportunity to build a new relationship.

We hope that you enjoy getting involved in social media for your business. Having a plan and good awareness will stand you in good-stead as you develop the social tone of your business, online.

Ascensor are a Digital Marketing Agency based in Leeds and London

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