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5 top tips to make social media work for your business

Many small firms believe social media to be of little help to them in finding new leads and growing their businesses. Whilst it is true that social media won't suit all types of business, it could provide a cheap and effective marketing tool to many. Here we tell you how to make the most of the benefits available to your business.

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Social media is not a shortcut to success, but it is a way to manage your reputation, identify new prospects, communicate with customers online and source ideas for new products and services.

If your business already has a website, then social media can offer a powerful new way to communicate with website visitors, current and prospective customers. Think of it as a complement to your other communication tools rather than a whole new field that you don't understand.

If done well, benefits of social media for your business include:

  • Increased awareness of your brand and more traffic to your company's website
  • Better management of your reputation
  • It allows you to put a human face to your business and to talk directly to your customers
  • Creates natural links to your website – which can help to get your website further up search engine rankings!
  • Networking opportunities - without leaving your office
  • It costs you nothing to participate in social media if you manage it yourself – the only output is your time.

Here are our five top tips to make social media work for you:

Set goals

It is important to establish from the outset what you want to achieve from engaging in social media. This way you can easily see whether social media provides you with a return on the investment of your time.

For example, you might aim to make twenty new business contacts on LinkedIn, or to get mentioned on a popular industry blog. Keep measuring your success against your goals. If something isn't working then don't be afraid to change it or try another type of social media.

Decide which social media site is best for you

Not all types of social media are suitable for all businesses. Spend a few hours looking at the most popular sites to get a feel for them and try to find out if they're the kind of place that your target market meets online.

For example, if your aim is to establish strategic relationships with others in your industry, the most appropriate site would be LinkedIn, but if you wanted to market a product to teenagers then your campaigns would be better suited to Myspace or Facebook.

Get started

What do you have to lose by trying out social media? Get started by creating accounts on the most popular social media sites.

Even if you never use them, at least you have reserved the name for your business, should you need it at a later date. Plus, signing up to these services will allow you to trial them and many include step-by-step tutorials.

Always be honest about who you are and where you're from. Never ever pose as a satisfied customer of your own products! One of the key tenets of social media is honesty, so it can be very damaging for your brand if you're caught out as an imposter.

Get involved

The whole point of social media is that you engage socially with other users on the web. This can include replying to someone else's post in an online forum, 'retweeting' an interesting Twitter post on your own page, or sharing your company's latest presentation on YouTube or SlideShare.

There is a certain amount of reciprocity involved in social media. So, the more active you are and the more you share, the more trusted a member of that site's online community you'll become. This can help to give your company credibility as experts in your field and raise your profile within your industry.

Keep it simple

The time it takes to manage your social media presence can be a turn off to many small business owners, but it doesn't have to be that time-consuming. You only have to create one piece of content for each social media channel – it can even be something that is already on your website, like a press release – then disseminate it via your blog, social network profiles or Twitter page.

Encourage other people to comment on it, thus starting a discussion around your business and creating brand new content for you!

Forum members can get download a free guide to using social media in their business. To find out how we can help your business grow, call us on 0845 130 1722.

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