How to get social media right for your business

social media

Social media is something every business should have got to grips with by 2015. But, if you don't have social media accounts at all, set them up today and get posting, before you're left behind.

Choosing your social networksNot all social media sites are created equal, and who your target audience is and what you're trying to communicate to them will largely dictate what platform is best to use.

For example, LinkedIn is aimed at business decision makers, so if you're looking to attract new partners or higher-level, bulk customers, start here.

In contrast, Twitter is regularly used to deal with customer service issues, as it provides users with a direct line to the company that doesn't require them to sit on hold for several hours with a call centre.

Facebook is a top place for running competitions and offering coupons, plus generally piquing interest in your company.

Then of course, there's Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, StumbleUpon and a whole heap of other social networks you can use depending on your business type. If you're starting off, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the three that can get you the fastest results and most attention from a range of different people.

Who should run your social networks?

You don't need to set up a team of social networking experts to oversee the delivery of updates, as it is possible to build the task into existing processes.

For example, you want better brand awareness? Your marketing department should know who your business is targeted at and can post the most relevant content to those people.

Customer services should have access to the customer database and already have expertise to fix any support issues. If you're looking for new leads, it should be your sales team building relationships on and offline, with them knowing how to close a deal and what potential leads are looking for.

Some companies opt to use an outside content marketing agency to oversee their social media activity and, if you have the budget, it's worth considering to ease the pressure on your existing teams.

Ensure you use a company that is already posting on behalf of companies similar to yours, so they understand your brand from the word go. Your aims and objectives should be clearly laid out before you start working with the company so you can get the most from outsourcing your content.

What should you post?With social, you have very few words to attract attention, so you have to make the ones you do use count.

What's the purpose? If it's to get customers, post a coupon or promotion allowing them to use your service at a reduced rate price or as a free trial.

If you just want to gain attention, post something random, funny or that's likely to go viral (infographics, shocking content etc).

If you're looking for business deals, make the most of LinkedIn Pulse to write a thought leadership piece (this shouldn't be promotional, but should demonstrate your knowledge of the market).

Use pictures to illustrate your point and make your content more clickable. Don't forget, you can always include a link to a longer post on your website, if you're short of characters.

A company blog is key to a successful social strategy - if you don't have one, this should be the first step in setting up your social presence.

If you already have a company blog, ensure you promote each post at least five times over the course of two weeks, with each post using different wording. Then continue to promote them because content shouldn't expire.

Don't be afraid to retweet or share interesting, funny or impactful content from other sources but make sure they're relevant to your business. Also, if you have enough space, add in your reasoning for re-posting the content, including the handle or page of the source.

Be an active responder and commentator by responding to other companies' posts and favoriting tweets.

Should you pay for increased exposure?Promoted posts are a great way to get your brand in front of more people. Obviously, they don't guarantee clicks or custom, but they play a key role in increasing exposure.

Facebook has decreased the impact organic company posts have, so boosting posts should be an essential part of your marketing spend for 2015.

Be selective about the ones you choose to boost, thought, and only use those that provide a lot of information about your company or that have real potential to draw in more custom.

Text-heavy pictures can't be boosted on Facebook, so ensure any photos you post have little or no text, but still illustrate your point. You can also create promoted posts that allow you to target ads at more specific audiences, but these tend to be more expensive.

Measuring successYou can measure the success of your social efforts by analysing how many new followers you gained, how many people clicked on a link to your site, or how many leads you acquired.

Like measuring any business success, it's important to refer back to your objectives to ensure you are achieving the task you set out to do. If you find you're gaining more followers, but not getting any leads, you may have to tweak the content you're posting or the social network you're using to improve conversion rates.

Social networks change their algorithms all the time, so keeping on top of what's changing and adapting your strategy accordingly will help you ace social and boost your brand.

Half-hearted doesn't work with social. You need to go in full throttle to see real results and meet your company targets.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.