10 tips to get the most from social media in your business

In simple terms, social media describes the tools people are using to share text, video, images and information online. From a broadcast medium to a massive online conversation, networks they are using to connect with each other, it’s the evolution of the internet where free, easy to use tools, available 24/7, give users the ability to share and spread information (both good and bad) quicker than any other communication channel.

The feeling in the business world about social media tends to be polarised between those who think it’s an enormous waste of time and those who are embracing it in full.

Organisations who choose to ignore social media risk being left behind completely, alienating internet savvy customers and future employees in the process.

Organisations that jump without strategic thought will waste a lot of time because they have no overall plan and are caught up with the different forms of social media available while those organisations that have a clear, strategic social media plan will gain enormous competitive advantage by using the right tools to suit their business and target market.

While the Social Media tools are simple, aligning them with the organisation can be complex so here are a few tips to consider in developing your organisation’s social media strategy.

1. Use Social Media internally first.

Improve communication between team members and your best customers with collaboration, meeting/IM social network tools such as Basecamp HQ, Gotomeeting and Gmail chat.

2. Set ground rules.

Write a short social media policy for employees, customers and partners. Your policy should clearly outline how employees should behave online, what they should and shouldn’t say, and include a response guide on how you will respond to good and bad online comments about your organisation.

3. Start listening.

Social Media is best described as a series of online conversations. Just like in normal life good conversationalists are great listeners so listen to what the leading organisations in your field are doing, listen to what your customers are saying online, keep up-to-date with industry blogs. Use Google Alerts, Socialmention.com, LinkedIn groups, Twitter search and OpenFacebook Search to listen.

4. Identify your target market.

As with any communication plan you need to know exactly who you are targeting. Often, sending out a well-structured survey on surveymonkey.com will provide you with more clues as to where and what you should be communicating. Combine this with point 3 and you are on your way.

5. Start responding.

When you understand what people are saying and where they are saying it, start responding on specific industry blogs, joining Twitter discussions, commenting on Youtube, and slideshare.net or starting discussions on LinkedIn and you will start to get noticed by the online influencers in your industry.

6. Create your own initiatives and get others involved.

You’ve done the research, now dive in! You will by now have a feel for which tools, initiatives and type of content best suit your customers. Focus on spreading content that adds the most value to your target market. Ask customers, partners and others that can add further value to contribute a guest post or video.

7. Measure.

Everything online is measureable. Check your analytics regularly to see what is working and not working. Are you achieving your KPIs? Keep doing more of what’s working. If something’s not working change it or stop doing it. See point 8.

8. Fail fast.

Social media tools are free and quick to set up. The most wasted resource will be the time of you and your team. Once you have a plan for a tool set it up and test it. Find out how much value it can add as quickly as you can. Measure carefully and try different tactics. If it’s not working move on.

9. Syndicate.

Connect up the various social media tools so that you only have to create a message once and promote it via all your social media tools and networks. Tools like Hootsuite, Ping.fm, Bit.ly, Tweetdeck and Postling enable you to do this automatically. This ensures you get your message your target audience in multiple places, with little additional effort.

10. Train and educate.

Train your team to use the Social Media tools you decide best suit your target market. Train your partners and customers on these tools so they understand how to get the best from the information and value you provide. Oh and finally, train and educate them again, and again and again.

What are your thoughts on social media?

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