Karl Havard, managing director for the Search, Online PR and Social Media agency Propellernet (w.propellernet.co.uk), provides ten top tips for brands considering delving into the world of social media.

Brands should, by now, have recognised that the consumer now has the power. Push marketing messages broadcast to thousands of people are no longer effective. Consumers are much more selective with their time and attention and will seek out what is important to them. They will also trust feedback from fellow consumers about products and services, and see this information having a much higher value than information from the brands themselves.

So how does business adapt to this change? Well, a good place to start is to focus on exactly who their target audience is and where they spend their time online, specifically looking at social media. Listen to the conversations (positive and negative) and then work out the best way you can get involved. The main aim should be to help and support the consumer as opposed to looking for ways to make more money.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Precision – Find and identify the areas where the people who engage with your brand are talking about you.

2. Observe and Monitor – Listen to the conversations, look for sentiment, authority and reach.

3. Don’t Dive In – Before reacting and getting involved in groups, blogs, forums etc. think carefully about your approach. Sometimes it’s best to let your advocates do the talking, sometimes it’s good for you to take part in a subtle manner. If the tone of the conversation is negative, be polite, be honest and offer support.

4. Give – Always offer something of value and do it for free.

5. Entertain – If you’re creating groups, apps or widgets in social media/networks make it entertaining and fun.

6. Right Time & Place – Be there for your target audience when they want you and where they already spend their time.

7. Be Social – Don’t always be about “YOU”. People will quickly become bored if you’re always talking about your brand, product or service. Take an interest in the people you want to engage with.

8. Think Awareness – If your involvement in social media raises your awareness, in a positive manner then that is great. If it also creates interest and involvement then that’s a bonus. Don’t expect to sell anything.

9. Forget ROI – Measuring the return from the investment in social media is probably impossible today. (Coca Cola have recognised this.) Don’t expect to be able to calculate the Y return from your X investment in social media alone. It can’t be done.

10. Do It! – Plan your approach; open your brand up to your customers; encourage interaction and synchronise your activity with your other marketing initiatives. Ask yourself what the cost could be if you don’t get involved.

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