04/12/2014

By Olivia Brooke, Account Manager, Maltin PR


Social media is an inexpensive tool that can be a valuable asset in the development of your online reputation. The explosion of social media in recent years can be daunting, but understanding where to direct your efforts is key to streamlining your approach and maintaining a successful social media presence.

Before You Begin
One of the first things to consider before creating your social media presence is what you want to achieve from it. Is your goal to raise awareness of your visual brand or your ideas? Are you looking to expand your network of contacts or to raise the online profile of your business? Knowing your goals will be key to identifying which platforms are best for your business, as well as to shaping your behaviour on your social media platforms. Creating and maintaining a successful social media presence takes time, and you shouldn’t waste yours; decide what you want to achieve before you begin.

Equally important in choosing the appropriate social media for your business is knowing your audience and understanding what they are interested in, where they will be looking, and what will gain and keep their attention. You should also understand that the client is not your only audience when it comes to social media, and that journalists, industry contacts, thought leaders and recruits are all audiences you should consider. The platform that is appropriate for your audience may also change from country to country.

Looking at your competitors is a great way for beginners to social media to shape their approach. Look at where your competitors are online and how they are behaving, and think about whose social media you aspire to - and whose you don’t! As with any element of business, you don’t want your competitors to take your market share of social media attention. Equally, what is right for one company may not be right for another, and social media is constantly encouraging innovation. If you see a gap in the market that your competitors have missed, you may well be rewarded for utilising alternative platforms and behaviours.

Which platform/s should you choose?
Understanding the service provided by each social media platform will shape your social media approach.

· Visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram work well for visual brands and businesses, including those in retail, travel, food, design and luxury goods.
· Video platforms such as Vine, YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram are great for a range of businesses, ranging from brands with video content and adverts to anyone giving explanations or sharing their expertise. Experiment with the types and lengths of videos (Vines, for example, are only 6 ½ seconds long) that are appropriate for your audience and will keep their interest.
· Text platforms work well for businesses looking to promote their ideas, especially within the professional services marketplace. Use platforms such as LinkedIn to post blogs, take part in discussions and promote you and your business as a thought leader in your field.
· Twitter is one of the most popular and influential social media platforms in the world, with 232 million active users. Most businesses will therefore want to be active on Twitter, which is global, fast moving and has a broad spectrum of users and is also a particularly good platform for getting the attention of journalists and other thought leaders in your industry.
· Facebook has 1.23 billion users but is not suitable for B2B business. Facebook should be reserved for B2C marketing, so consider whether this appropriate for your business before jumping straight in.

The Significance of Google
Having an active social media profile is important to boosting your online reputation. Variety is also a key element; different audiences favour different platforms, and social media users rarely limit themselves to just one platform. Furthermore, Google favours those businesses that have a variety of fresh content, and in order to rank well when searching for your business on Google, it is important to have an active presence across an appropriate range of social media. It should also be born in mind that the Google ranking algorithms may favour those platforms owned by Google itself, so those looking to improve their SEO standing should certainly consider including YouTube and Google+ in their social media mix.

Get Involved
Ultimately, there will be no point in your business having social media if you aren’t an active and engaged presence. Post regularly, expand your network, get involved in discussions, and engage with your audience. Once you have chosen the platforms that are right for your business, take the time to make the most of each, and you will feel the benefits of increased search rankings, as well as specific website visits and enquiries on those specific topics you discuss on social media.