“Social media is not just a spoke on the wheel of marketing. It’s becoming the way entire bicycles are built.” – Ryan Lilly, author

Social media, two words that were relatively non-existent 15 years ago, have now become a vital part of everyday business, so much so that entire campaigns are now focused around them. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are some of the top social channels used by businesses today.

Before your company dives deeper into social media, it’s important to remember what your company stands for and what you want to portray across each platform. Your brand, target audience, leadership team, company policies and imagery all play key parts in how you will be received on social media.

While each business and brand is different, the following tips can help you prepare as you dive headfirst into social media:

  1. Identify your target audience. In the advertising and marketing world, knowing who to target is an integral part of any strategy and choosing the wrong demographic can be seriously detrimental to the success of your campaign. There is a bit more flexibility when it comes to social targeting. Social media allows you to set up campaigns and target specific audiences, but pressing send on a social ad or paid campaign doesn’t mean you have to cross your fingers and hope it works. You can track the success of a campaign and alter the target audience based on how it is trending. Even with this flexibility, it is still important to identify your key audience early on, because knowing who to target will also help you with the next step – choosing the right platform.
  2. Choose the right platform(s). While many businesses implement multiple platforms in their social media campaigns, not all platforms are the right fit for your brand. Each platform serves a different role and encompasses a different style of user. LinkedIn is primarily a business platform and is a great way for businesses and business professionals to reach out to other businesses, customers, employees and job seekers. Facebook and Twitter serve a more social role by incorporating more personal information, and Instagram and Pinterest focus more on sharing through images and captions. Thinking through who you want to target and how you want to portray your content will help you choose the right platform for your brand.
  3. Be unique to your brand. If you choose to implement multiple platforms in your quest for social supremacy, your brand needs to be equally identifiable in each platform. This goes for imagery as well as tone and the quality of content. Create a tone and voice that is unique to your brand. If you have multiple people in charge of creating and sharing content across your social sites, make sure everyone is in sync when it comes to the type of content and phrasing you want associated with your business.
  4. Know the rules. Each platform has a different set of rules as to what is acceptable in terms of content and interactions. For instance, Facebook penalizes content that appears overly promotion or might be considered “click-bait.” Penalties like these could affect the placement and frequency of where your ad is shown. Familiarize yourself with each platform’s guidelines before making the decision to join.
  5. Join the discussion. Post engaging content and ask questions to connect with your followers. Reply to comments on your posts and wall or newsfeed to keep the conversation going. By engaging with your followers, including working to resolve issues or problems, you help grow brand loyalty and encourage users to return to your page for updates. You can also use hashtags when appropriate to join larger conversations and organically put your content and brand in front of users who may not already be part of your following.
  6. Have fun. This may be one of the most important aspects of social media. For most brands, success stems from storytelling more than product news. When appropriate, and only as it applies to your brand, have fun with your audience. Be inviting, make jokes and go with current trends in the marketplace. This can be tricky for brands that have a more professional tone and voice, but an occasional fun post can be refreshing to your followers. It’s okay if your brand doesn’t necessarily allow for you to share the funny cat video or meme currently trending on social media. You can still look for ways to make your content more engaging without losing the character of your brand. Know your audience and your brand and find the connection between them.

Previously published on The M/C/C Blog.