By Gillian Kelly, Account Manager, The Scott Partnership

Social media is a relatively new medium that enables businesses to interact with their customers in a quick and cost-effective way, providing invaluable marketing opportunities. Used correctly, social media can boost profit, encourage customer loyalty and influence values and attitudes.

"Great! Where do I sign up?"

While social media is an accessible and cost-effective marketing tool, it is important to prepare thoroughly before embarking on your interactive voyage in order to get the most out of the medium. It is necessary to create a policy for your company outlining the do’s and don’ts of social media communication as well as the aims and objectives of engaging in online activity.

Implementing a policy will enable your employees to harness the power of social media in an informed, focused and effective manner in line with company strategy. Developing an escalation process is essential in helping guide employees through potentially difficult digital situations. They can mean the difference between a cleverly considered response and a lasting negative impression. Digital landscape mapping is also fundamental in the exploration and assessment of the environment into which you will be launching and help determine where to focus efforts.

Here are a few recommendations to help you use social media safely and to your advantage:

Always substantiate. Misleading or incorrect statements can lead to consequences for your company. Don’t make a statement like ‘leading’ or ‘best’ unless you have the evidence to support your claim. Be wary of mentioning competitors. New laws are strict on product or service comparison. Remember that what you publish on social media sites has a long life and is widely accessible so an online blunder, could cost your company its reputation. Always bear in mind that all posts should be representative of core business values. An online presence that is consistent with business values will go a long way in building a strong brand reputation. Responses to both negative and positive comments should be considered carefully with the aim of informing in a tone appropriate to the company.

Although it may be tempting to focus on being vocal on social media platforms, listening can also prove particularly useful. Communication platforms are an excellent market research tool and can be used to inform a company’s marketing strategy. An online conversation is live consumer feedback and therefore invaluable knowledge to a growing business.

Be selective and don’t waste time. Ask any university student and they will tell you social media is a great tool for procrastination. To ensure efficiency, make sure that you use social media strategically. Social media can be addictive, so keep an eye on the time and make sure you can justify your actions with definable benefits.

Following these guidelines will help you kick-start your social media presence online and maintain a healthy relationship with your consumers. When used strategically and efficiently, social media offers a gateway to both new customers and existing customers, enhancing brand visibility and improving profitability. Good luck and happy tweeting!

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