1. Identify what you want social media to achieve for your firm, whether it is building relationships, generating sales leads, promoting offers or reinforcing your brand.
2. Understand your customers’ needs and assess how you can address them with social media — whether your customers need easier access to product information or better after-sales service.
3. Work out where your customers are as there are a range of social media platforms customers are likely to use. It is no use building a Facebook presence if your customers choose to network on LinkedIn, for example.
4. Evaluate whether and how your competitors are using social media to market their businesses. Consider what you can learn from their approach about what works.
5. Tailor your approach to the culture of the social media platform you are using.
6. Establish realistic, achievable, goal-driven objectives, and set out how you are going to measure success or return on investment.
7. Research the tools available to help you measure your impact on social media platforms.
8. Incorporate social media marketing into your marketing plan — use it to complement your existing marketing activities, not to replace them.
9. Create a strong profile on your chosen social media platform/s — think about the essential information you want to convey and the image you want to promote of your business.
10. Make sure your marketing messages are relevant to your customers, informative and engaging.
11. Avoid persistently broadcasting to your audience or delivering hard sales messages; instead, share your knowledge and expertise.
12. Respond to feedback and your customers’ attempts to engage with you, even if they are critical. Ignoring feedback can damage your reputation, responding gives you a chance to build your profile and your credibility.
13. Monitor your social media use, measure your progress and make changes to your approach if it is not working.
14. Be patient — it will take time to learn how to use social media successfully, and to build your reputation within your chosen networks.