Using social media effectively

A useful guide

As social media growth continues unabated we provide a few guidelines to help your business be aware of some of the risks and be successful in these fast-growing digital networks.

Plan

If your company decides that social networking is an area that will benefit you, plan where possible and incorporate it into your marketing plan. If you have any major events coming up that will need promoting decide when you will start talking about them so you can be ready with all the information when needed.

Behave responsibly

This may sound obvious, but this rule of thumb can often go awry when speaking to ‘faceless’ people. Act as you would face-to-face and respect others – don’t swear, don’t attack or humiliate other individuals, groups or companies, and don’t use discriminatory language.

When commenting publicly or otherwise e.g. through direct messages be aware that there are a number of laws you could easily infringe upon. If you think you have made a mistake, the best thing to do is acknowledge it and correct it.

Understand the medium

Social networks are viral by nature and information can easily spread across the web. Make sure you have your privacy settings right, and be aware that once you have posted a comment or blog, that there is no going back. It quickly leaves your control. Don’t let this put you off, just be careful in what you choose to share. Think before you press send.

Get facts right, and make sure you have permission to share them

Make sure you have your facts straight and use your common sense when sharing knowledge – make sure you aren’t infringing any confidentiality or copyright laws. If you get an image from elsewhere on the web – make sure you have permission to use it.

If you are going to talk about a client, make sure they are happy for you to do so.

Keep it fun!

Social media is less formal than traditional forms of communication. This allows you to be a little more free and conversational in tone and you can allow your personality to shine through. Just make sure you stick to the common rules of engagement and be polite, courteous and honest.

Maintain honesty

If you have a vested interest in the subject matter, make sure you are up-front about the organisation you work for and what they do. Failing to do so could create a major backlash and show your organisation in a bad light.

Stick to your area of expertise

If you are going to represent your company in social media, make sure you are the right person to do so. If you are going to write a blog, make sure you are the most knowledgeable within your company on the area. Before you start the blog make sure you will be respected by others in your field. This can prevent a negative light being shone on your company.

Make the most of it

There is so much information on the web that it is not always easy to be heard – or read. In order to stand out make sure you’re communicating something useful. If your information will add value for your reader, then talk about it, but don’t just write for the sake of it.

Don’t be half-hearted in your approach

Once you have started your social media venture, make sure you keep it up! People will expect to see regular updates and it can damage the brand to start talking and then suddenly stop. Make sure you will have enough to talk about before you set a page up, and think carefully about the time it will take up.

Monitor responses regularly

Social networking is a two-way process and the aim is to create a conversation on relevant topics. If an individual or company comment on your blog/page/post, make sure you respond. This is important in making you appear to be a main player in your field. If they are commenting on an area that is not your expertise, ask a colleague whose area it is to respond, or admit that it isn’t an area you’re familiar with, but thank them for their comments. Take part in global conversations with other main players – reciprocate – it will help get you noticed too.

Maintain your brand

Make sure that you uphold your band values and design when using social media. Twitter pages, for example, can be personalised; why not use your company’s branding and colours? Maintaining your brand at all times is important; social networking is just another part of it.