Would you class yourself as being social media savvy? Don't be put off by the jargon, rules and time that it takes up. Instead, consider the advantages – customer engagement and increased brand awareness – you'd be really ditzy to miss out!

Don't just rush in, all guns blazing – research and prepare.

Social media strategies may be new to you, or yours may be in dire need of a revamp. Whichever the case may be, it is fairly certain that you will need to 'go social'; to do this you should already have an answer to these questions:

  1. Why you want to 'go social' in the first place
  2. What your expectations are
  3. When you want to start seeing results

A good way to get started is to compile these answers, then research the vast landscape of social media marketing.

Two brilliant infographics to help with this research and planning are:

36 Rules of Social Media (by Fast Company) – Helps you to consider the pluses and minuses of social media and prepares you for take a crash course in what's OK; what is just plain wrong and what you hadn't thought of at all...

Social Media Work Flow (Intersection Consultancy) - Social media and web branding take time, but just 'how much' is debatable. Realistically, just what time can you set aside? It probably won't be the amount that the infographic suggests, but it's a good indicator of just how much time a strong strategy can take.

Reckon you're ready for just why it is vital that you get involved in the great social media jungle?

Audience reach

As of December 2012, the UK was accountable for 33 million of Facebook's users (source: Internet World Stats) – your audience is somewhere in that mass of people. So, consider this - a business who reaches just 1000 likes, sees a 185% increase in overall web traffic (source: Communication Made Simple).

Facebook also now allows users to post recommendations of businesses and companies, so you can gain excellent feedback from genuine customers, ultimately increasing your online reputation. If that wasn't enough to tempt you, when a user likes your page, you appear to their Facebook contacts too – free advertising! On average, 75% of men and women would happily share their preferred brands online, with further stats suggesting that 58% of businesses have seen reduced their costs since moving to methods of social media marketing (source: Webpresence.tv).

Audience building is just as easy on Twitter, with the #hashtag tool allowing users to seek out a particular audience. Twitter has also recently seen a rise in networking hours (aka Tweet-ups); in which people from a particular area promote their company and services, for free, to locals.

Whether you call it networking, social media or new technology, it is a less time-constraining version of attending events, making pitches and handing out business cards. Although, they are all still superb marketing tools, in a world where there is never enough time or money, social media is an unmissable, inexpensive opportunity.

Increased sales

Sales-based companies should have a grasp on social media. Facebook competitions, adverts and Twitter's 'Follow Friday' (#FF) should be integral to your sales strategy.

If that went over your head, don't fret, learn to understand why they are important. Social media can make or break your reputation, depending on quality and quantity, but the balance is hard to get right. Facebook's 'recommendations' feature ensures your customers/clients can say it all for you, with positive reviews and five-star ratings up for grabs. After all, 50% of shoppers admit they have made a purchase based on a social media recommendation (Communication Made Simple).

Businesses whose sales strategy is 'you have to see it' to understand, such as restaurants and retailers, there is Pinterest. It is an image-sharing network that is quickly becoming the place to be seen. Cleverly combining Facebook and Twitter's sharing tools, Pinterest generates more referral traffic for businesses than LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube combined, says Shareaholic.

What are you waiting for?

"How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?"
- Seth Godin, author of Small is the New Big: And 183 Other Riffs, Rants and Remarkable Business Ideas.

Never be afraid, just because you don't know it, learn it! The number one lesson with social media is to remember it's always evolving, so don't be ashamed to say you don't quite understand, or, 'I need help with this'.


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