Remember a time when a business had to take out advertisements in a newspaper or magazine? Or when the main way to get customers to notice your company was a publicity stunt? How about drumming up interest through good old fashioned word of mouth? It feels like decades ago that these were the techniques marketers were using before the rise of social media.

There are now over 2 billion people worldwide using social media – the population of Great Britain thirty times over – and Statistica predicts that this figure is set to grow to almost 3 billion by 2020. That’s a pretty big untapped market.

1. Are you on the right channel?

It might sound obvious, but a great starting point for building your social media profile is to think about whether you have a presence on the right channels. The most common social media channels include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat. It can seem exciting and worthwhile to sign up to every platform under the sun, but will they benefit your business?

For example, say you’re an IT consultant based in London. It would be useful to have Twitter and LinkedIn profiles set up to help market your business – both are great professional social media channels. Would creating a Facebook page be beneficial? Possibly. Would teen-centric Snapchat or Instagram bring you any leads? Probably not.

The case may be different if you’re a freelance photographer. Your work will predominately be image-heavy and this is a key area of your business that you’ll want to promote. Instagram is a must and you could also invest time in maintaining a Pinterest account to share your influences and inspiration for projects.

When thinking about signing up to social media channels, consider whether the time and energy you’ll spend putting into marketing yourself on a channel will generate any business and subsequent revenue.

2. Know who to follow (and who to ignore)

Once you’ve signed up to some channels you’ll probably want to feast your eyes on as many other accounts as possible – see who’s posting what, where, and when. However, keeping the social media accounts you engage with and follow business-focussed is important. Why waste time scrolling through posts or updates that aren’t relevant or beneficial to your sector?

Handily, most social media platforms offer you suggestions of who to follow – this might be a combination of websites, industry bods, and news sources. Twitter, for example, monitors what websites you click on while using its application and suggests users to follow based on that activity.

Streamlining what accounts you follow will not only save you time, but also allow you to focus on people who have relevance to your sector or business.

3. Post regularly

It can be really frustrating finding a business on social media, only to discover that their last update was two years ago. 

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to post once a day – perhaps more depending on your chosen platform. It’s not uncommon for businesses on Twitter to post five or even six times a day and Instagram two or three times a day.

Worried that you don’t have much to say? Try incorporating relevant third-party content into your social media calendar. Not only will this give you something to share, your audience will make the correlation between you and the third party content, which will help shape your brand identity.

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4. Engage with people

If someone asked you a question in person, you wouldn’t ignore them (unless you were incredibly rude). Social media is no different. Potential customers will ask you questions and expect answers.

Answer all questions and queries as quickly as you can. It pays to have notifications or alerts set up on your tech so that you never miss a mention from a customer or prospective customer. Respond positively, in good time, and depending on the nature of their engagement, continue the conversation.

5. Customer service platform

When you’re active on social media, it’s important to remember that the whole world can see what you’re saying and who you’re talking to. Every interaction is exposed and an opportunity for prying eyes to analyse how you interact with other people. This is why it pays to be as polite as possible and not to have a social media meltdown.

View your channels as an opportunity to perfect your customer service. Chances are you’ll have plenty of feedback from clients – some good and others possibly not so – to practice your customer service style responses.

For example, a customer Tweets and informs you that they didn’t enjoy your IT consulting skills, are going to be using a different person from now on, and lampoons your skill set. The gut reaction might be to let that burning frustration and annoyance spill onto social media.

Far better to respond in a more measured way, such as “I’m really sorry to hear that. Would you be able to send me a DM (direct message) and explain what went wrong for you?” This will not only allow you to take the conversation into private but also lets you see why your client is so upset.

The bottom line when it comes to social media is that it takes patience. The old film proverb, “If you built it he will come” also rings true for social. Start from the ground up, build a following, engage with them, and watch as the business rolls in.

Want some more useful tips, including what tools you can use to save time and create great-looking content? Download our free social media management guide.

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