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This has to be one of our favourite comments from clients, primarily in the SME sector. There is so much flannel going around about social media, just type the phrase into Google and you’ll get 101 different opinions on how to use it, when’s best to use it, why should I use it, what if I don’t use, will I lose my hair if I don’t use social media etc. etc.

It ranges from the useful to the nonsensical, but one thing that many many commentators and ‘gurus’ always seem to miss is that there really is no trick to utilising and getting the best out of Social Media. I guess that’s part of the mystique, the smoke and mirrors if you like.

So without further ado, our no nonsense approach to Social Media.

Choose your weapon

Like any job you’re about to embark on, choose your weapon carefully. After all, you wouldn’t bring a teaspoon to a gunfight!

Here’s a brief rundown of all the channels out there and our own opinions on them.

Facebook – everyone has Facebook, right? And you use it to engage and keep up with your friends and family. So where does the business bit fit in? That is precisely the issue most businesses have with Facebook, the lines between personal and business are so messed up that it’s often difficult/impossible to separate the two. Equally Facebook’s varying privacy rules which change on an almost weekly basis (not really, but they seem to!) means that sometimes you inadvertently post things up for friends only and your business community gets an eyeful of your Batman fancy dress outfit at the local nightclub!

On a more serious note, our one top tip if you’re considering using Facebook as a channel to market your business and engage with your ‘followers’ – create a completely new Facebook profile, you need never post as the personal side of your new Facebook profile just use the business page you set up.

In terms of what sorts of businesses would benefit from a Facebook channel, primarily B2C (business to customer) businesses, if you’re a firm of accountants, or solicitors, management consultants or some other B2B type business don’t bother with Facebook, seriously. Would you go looking for an accountant based on his ability to run a ‘Spot the VAT error’ competition on his timeline?!

Click here for Facebook’s own instructions on setting up a page.

Twitter – Twitter gets alot of stick, mostly because it undermines the entire journalistic/editorial process in that you can be at the scene of an incident/event snap a picture on your phone, tweet it and bingo, it’ll go global in seconds (if it’s newsworthy of course, photos of your gran’s 80th birthday cake aren’t likely to go viral…sorry!). So the mainstream media still struggle to understand its usage.

From a business point of view, how would you use it? Due to its nature, 140 characters is all you get to tell the world about your new widget, Twitter needs to be used as effectively as possible to get the message out there. So that’s the first consideration. The other consideration is the content.

From our own personal point of view, we use Twitter to reflect the personality of our business, we very rarely post up anything to do with our industry because frankly there’s 101 other people doing that and if we did that we’d just be jumping on the conveyor belt of spam that most people end up opting out of (unfollow) so we mix up random nonsense posts (cats on the internet always win) with ‘here’s a site we just launched’, throw in some general conversations and that’s pretty much worked for us so far.

We’ve used it as an extension of our own networks, physical and social. That’s not to prescribe you do the same but that’s just one way to use it. Don’t what ever you do though plan too much in terms of what you’re going to say or it’ll just look like most of the other endless reams of spam out there.

With Twitter pick a few people to follow first and see how they use it, celebrities and various writers are always worth a follow because they use it very well, then follow people in your industry to see how they use it. Pick and choose the bits you like, throw in your own personality and away you go.

Linkedin – Linkedin has been many things since it launched but it’s finally settled on its ‘the business social network’ moniker. Where Facebook does well for B2C industries, Linkedin does very well for B2B. I don’t really use Linkedin as well as I should (which I’ll cover a bit further down) and needless to say there’s a ton of articles out there on how to effectively use it. If you’re in the Hertfordshire (UK) area reading this, there’s several really good courses running on utilising and maximising Linkedin (again a bit more commentary on that too below).

 

Google+ – Having just breached the 1bn user mark Google+ was the outside runner in all things social until now. In a word, as a channel for communicating to various audiences and targetting your messaging and engagement it is phenomenal. All the issues you may have with Facebook and it’s blurred personal/business lines are non-existent in Google+ thanks to Circles. You create circles for friends, business, whatever and each post just choose the circles you want to see your messages.

Google+ also encompasses Google Hangouts (free videoconferences, no more grainy skype), Google Helpouts (get paid for giving advice online) and the very awesome Google Communities which in the right hands can develop your brand into a communal affair where the sharing and nurturing of ideas and communication can lead to a far greater reach than you’d ever expect to get through more traditional marketing.

We’re big fans of Google+ and are starting to see the benefits of it already even without having built our own company presence in there yet (yep, we’re like a bald hairdresser!)

Other social media networks of note are:

Pinterest – Got a very image heavy style of marketing – restaurant, video, nightclub, retail, crafts etc? use it, it does very well on search used correctly

Instagram – Similar to Pinterest but as it’s more tied in with Facebook (they own it), it’s really focussed on a more personal/individual level. Follow Jamie Oliver for a good example of how he uses Instagram or if you want to be extremely jealous follow Tony Hawk (of skateboarding fame), his Instagram is just chock full of what an awesome life he has!!

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