Marketing Bootcamp

4 Do's and 4 Don'ts for Businesses Using Social Media

4 Do's and 4 Don'ts for Businesses Using Social Media
Image credit: Jason Howie/Flickr

As a business owner, you know the importance of social media as a way to make a connection between your business and customers. Whenever potential clients are looking for a new product or service, they generally start their search on social media, not only to learn more about your brand, but also to see what others are saying about a brand or business.

While more companies are creating social media strategies in their marketing, not every strategy is effective.

Related: 6 Ways To Get 'Instaresults' to Grow Your Instagram Account

If you want to guarantee a more effective strategy, Caitlin Burns, a New York-based business strategist for media companies, has outlined a few social media tactics for brands to definitely use and ones to avoid.

1. Know who you are.

Understand your identity, your brand's identity and the voice of who is speaking on any social media platform. You’re the one who knows your product, production, company or brand best. Being able to communicate that is the first thing I recommend for clients so that on whatever platform they use, people have a sense of who is doing the speaking. The rest of the tactics come down to language, and specific things that you might do to turn a phrase on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. 

2. Don't wait until after the fact.

You don’t want to find yourself without a sense of what’s coming next, or responding to controversy in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s coming from the same person who created a status update or tweet. You can get in a lot of trouble if you say one very appealing thing, but you can’t replicate it. Another problem is if what you say goes against what you do in the company.

3. Understand your audience.

It’s important to know who you’re targeting. What do they do? When do they live online? With a savvy social media expert, you’ll be able to figure these things out. Understanding your goals will allow you to see how your successes and failures are working -- social media allows you to see that faster than any other platform.

4. Don't make assumptions about your audience.

It is a mistake to think your audience is going to act a certain way just because you think they will. Treat your audience as a subject, not as an object. Your work on social media is a dialogue, a conversation between you and that individual.

Look at how your audience is changing. Learn about them by communicating with your social media team on a regular basis. They are the front-line people who can help you understand what’s working and what isn’t -- what people are really engaging with and what they couldn’t care less about. This is an opportunity to quickly understand how your brand is being received. 

Related: How Your Brand Can Host a Celebrity Takeover on Social Media

5. Plan ahead.

Unless you yourself are a savvy social media strategist, it’s probably worth the energy and expense to bring in someone who is an expert. You need someone who is immersed in these platforms to help you measure your goals. Whether your team is very experienced or inexperienced in application, a good strategy is going to put you in a great place to execute. 

6. Don’t assume that your presence on social media means you know everything about it.

Having a personal account is not the same thing as understanding the scope of what Facebook ads and Twitter-promoted posts can do. Because these platforms are refining and changing these specific things all the time, having an expert on call is going to save you a lot of heartache in the future. It helps to have someone whose job it is to stay up to date on what’s going on. 

7. Adopt a test and learn methodology.

Start out with your strategist and social media team to test the waters. Put out a variety of concepts to see what is working with your audience and what isn’t. The more you test out an idea and see if that hypothesis is validated by audience data -- which you can get very easily from social media platforms -- the better feature concept you’re going to be able to build. Learn what works and budget away from the things that don’t. 

8. Don’t get comfortable.

You want to make sure that you’re engaging in a creative experiment to communicate with other people. If I’m out with friends every Friday and tell the same story over and over again, I wouldn’t have friends to go out with on Fridays for very long. You want to keep engaging and developing partnerships with relevant communities. They can help you understand the broad strokes of all the things they’re interested in, which will help you keep your brand interesting. 

Finally, take a hard look at your social media strategy and make changes and additions where necessary. Always keep in mind that social media can potentially make or break your business. You want to use the strategies that drive people toward you and your business and make them come back for more.

Related: To Leave a Mark on Social Media, It's Less About Execution and More About the Message