Most businesses are aware of the potential social media sites to reach customers. But simply signing up to Twitter and Facebook is not enough. Discover how you can maximise your opportunities on social media in six easy steps
1. Improve your online profile
Your social media profile is a valuable online calling card that can impress your target audience or leave them cold. It pays to spend some time creating a compelling profile - it's also a valuable piece of marketing collateral that you can use time and again.
So if you haven't updated your profile since you first registered on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, now's the time to make some improvements.
- Get the basics right - say who you are and what you do as succinctly as possible. Include your location, a photo and always add a link to your website.
- Update your profile on a regular basis. Is it out of date or just boring? Have you shared your recent achievements? Does your profile reflect your core values?
- Share your goals - people may be able to help you.
2. Take advantage of apps
Social media demands lots of attention and that can be overwhelming. It's important to be seen to be active and above all to be responsive. So how do you keep on top of it?
There are lots of great social media apps that can help you to manage your online communication, even when you are out of the office:
- Echofon automatically keeps unread tweets in sync between all your devices so you don't have to read tweets twice. It can also notify you of mentions and messages.
- Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to manage all your social networks from one website. It also allows you to schedule messages and tweets, track brand mentions and analyse social media traffic.
- Tweetdeck is a desktop and mobile browser that helps you keep up with what's happening on Twitter and Facebook. You can create groups, search Twitter, manage multiple accounts, and post tweets or share photos, videos and links.
3. Create more content
The most successful people on social media are generous with their advice, sharing content and helping others to make useful connections. If you want to gain more followers, it's well worth producing regular content that you can share - it's also a great way to show yourself in a positive light without having to do a hard sell.
- Write useful “how to” content that will help people - and link to it on social networking sites.
- Record podcasts or create infographics - post them on your website and recommend them to your online networks.
- Write blogs that will provoke a discussion online and be shared and retweeted. Ask questions on Twitter and join discussion groups on LinkedIn.
- Post testimonials and case studies on your website - persuasive content that you can share with fans and followers on your social networks.
4. Find your audiences
Are you maximising your opportunities for connecting on social media? It pays to be proactive when it comes to finding the right people to connect with.
There are many different types of people that may be interested in what you have to say - not just potential customers but those that could influence them. And every social media site has its own ways to help you find people. You can also use monitoring tools like Social Mention and Delicious to find your audiences.
Here are some of the groups you should try to reach out to, in addition to customers and potential customers:
- movers and shakers, influencers, thought-leaders
- your own wider network - your partners, affiliates and suppliers
- bloggers, writers and journalists
5. Draw up a social media policy
Anyone tweeting or posting on your behalf has the potential to damage your brand, even inadvertently. Don't let your reputation suffer by drawing up a simple social media policy.
Make sure your employees understand the following:
- they should never mix the professional and the personal on social media sites
- they must not post comments that don't represent the views of your business or that could bring it into disrepute - on any social media site
- they must not reveal any confidential information on social media sites, including the names of customers
6. Improve customer service
Many customers prefer to get in touch with businesses via social media sites like Facebook rather than phone or email. That means you may well have customer queries and even complaints coming in via social media.
This is a chance to show your commitment to customer service. You can:
- encourage feedback from customers and respond swiftly - especially to complaints
- follow up suggestions to improve your product or service
- monitor mentions and reviews of your business on social media sites and other websites using tools such as Google Analytics