So you’ve heard all of the hype about social media and you’ve decided that your business needs to be a part of it! You’ve made the right decision if you have relevant information that you want to share, a customer base that wants to engage with you and the resources to devote to developing a quality social media strategy. Now how do you get started? When establishing yourself on social media, it’s important to do it right, because doing it wrong can damage your brand and your reputation with your customers. If you’re a business owner or marketing professional, you probably understand that referrals are a strong source of business, if not the strongest. Think of social media as an extension of the referral process. Why do customers refer business to you? It’s because you have the products/services they’re looking for and you can deliver them in a way that is desirable to your consumer. The concept is the same with social media. You need to make sure you have relevant content for your audience and that you’re delivering it in their desired fashion.

Information is delivered and shared in different ways on social media platforms. The four big players for most businesses to consider are LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. LinkedIn is a great business-to-business tool where people primarily post industry specific information and take part in conversational boards. Twitter is used for more quick tidbits (140 character max) in a constant stream of information, often linking to sites where users can read more. Pinterest is one of the newest players in the social media game, but has already made its mark, with over 20 million users. Information is shared visually on Pinterest, as users “pin” photos of their interests. Facebook can be used in a variety of ways to present the best information about your company that you can not only through text, but through graphics, visuals, images, etc.

It is very important not to constantly push your own products and services through any of these channels, but to provide content that is of value to your audience. Quality content encourages your audience to develop a deeper relationship with you through following and engaging with you on social media. So if you own a photography studio and you have content that is relevant to brides and families, for instance, you would want to think about how that audience likes to receive information through social media. Pinterest and Facebook would be great choices for you, since information on both of those outlets can be delivered in a highly visual way through pictures and links. Both of these channels will give you the opportunity to have boards or photo albums devoted to your different areas of business and to engage with users who share similar interests.

Once you’ve determined the right social media channel for your business, be a good social media citizen! Keep the information you post relevant, educational, and helpful. DO NOT promote your products and services with pricing! People don’t want to be sold via social media; they want to develop a relationship with your brand. Instead, promote your company as a solution and be sure to cross-promote your customers or clients. Make sure you respond to any comments made directly to you or on anything you share through social media. Practice all of these things and soon your social media audience will be selling for you!

written by: Kathryn Bulman