Social media is a powerful weapon in a marketing manager’s arsenal, so it’s no surprise that more and more companies want to take advantage of this tactic.

Done well, social media can enhance an organisation’s reputation by allowing it to communicate directly with customers and build up personal, ongoing relationships. It can help to improve customer service. And it can help position a company as an expert in its field.

Here lies the crux. To achieve any of these objectives, it needs to be done well. But of course, it rarely is.

The problem is, that social media looks easy. In fact, to do it badly is extremely easy. You simply open an account – whether that’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+, to name the most popular examples – and then just post away to your heart’s content. Sure, it gives you an online presence, but does little to achieve your marketing objectives.

The problem is that most organisations simply use social media as another broadcasting tool, yet it has the potential to offer so much more.

Here are our top four tips for getting the most out of your social media marketing:

Research

Most organisations skip this vital phase. It’s odd, because you would never book an advert without seeing the publication and understanding its readership, yet most people take a very ad hoc approach to social media. It is therefore essential to undertake regular research to establish the influencers and commentators in your company’s markets, as well as the ‘hot topics’ of conversation.

Content

Who hasn’t heard the term ‘content is king’ yet when it comes to social media, this maxim is often forgotten. Most companies simply use social media to promote themselves. This is a missed opportunity – rather than selling to your customers it can have the opposite effect, switching them off altogether.
As a rule of thumb, divide your social media content into thirds – one third company news, one third industry information and comment and one third (or less) company promotion. Which brings me nicely on to our third tip:

Engagement

It’s been said that social media puts the public back into public relations – but only if you use it effectively. Engaging with your followers means actually reading what they post, commenting on their content and signposting them to information that they will find interesting and useful. This gives you credibility and, in time, will align your social media content with your marketing objectives.

Post regularly

Finally, it sounds obvious, but post regular updates – for LinkedIn this can be once or twice a week, while for Twitter several times a day or more. Social media takes time, but then all good relationships do. So sit down and plan a schedule which can then be enhanced with daily updates based on topical issues and comments that will interest your followers. After all, what is the point of doing all the ground work, if you then rarely use the tools?

Remember, people do business with people – and social media is a great way of showing the personal face of your business. And that can help convert prospects into sales.