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Social Media is a topic we have covered many times in the past in one way or another, and is something we will continue to mention in in the future, as well as a revolution in our daily use of the internet, it is a key element to any forward thinking business’ marketing strategy.

Research by Convergys Corp. has shown that a negative customer review on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook can cost a company around 30 customers, and vice versa for positive. Yet despite this, businesses (whether Fortune 500 or a local SME) go into Social Media with a ‘slapdash’ approach, without much thought or time put in to what they actually want to achieve.

First and foremost, you must ask yourself “Why?”. Gaining clarity on why you want to be there is the first step in getting organised and achieving your goals. Is it an ego boost? Do you want to collect followers and connections to ‘show off’?  Do you really want to engage with those you are connected with, or do you just wish to promote yourself and products? Are you joining just because its the ‘done thing’ and everyone else is there?

Once you have this established, you must be willing to put in the time and commitment to make this work. There are numerous tools available online, but if you don’t have the time to invest, find someone who does – outsource. Your Social Media presence in its very nature is instant. In the “right now” world we live in, it is a great way for your clients to see what is happening and being said at your company. Empty blogs and twitter feeds reflect poorly on your brand, damaging your image (and the potential of their future custom) in the process. Be consistent, compelling and engaging, and half the battle is already won.

Secondly, ensure that you are branded. Companies spend thousands each year on logos, web design, advertising, yet Social Media is neglected and forgotten. This is the area your customers are potentially going to see EVERY DAY. Have relevant contact details in your profile, have an interesting background, have a profile picture. Be well designed, sleek. Grab people’s attention. The best way to do so is speaking to the professionals. Here at Codastar we have a Social Media Package available to do just that.

With this in mind, we have put together a few key facts and pointers for the main channels you should consider to help guide you along your way in 2012:

Twitter is a real time information network, that lets you connect to the latest information about what you find interesting. At the heart of it, are ‘tweets’, 140 Characters to share as much or little as you would like. Whether its product updates on current news and weather, links, pictures, or videos, the list is endless.

“Hashtags (#)” are easy ways of tracking what people are saying about various topics. These can be searched on and used to what purpose you need them. For example, the Internet Retailing Expo in London use #irx for people to track conversations, talks throughout the day, and importantly, feedback from visitors and exhibitors.

You gain “followers” by adding value to their timeline. You need to be interesting. It is best to gain these organically, and will gradually build over time. Publicise your products and services, but don’t overdo it as this will be perceived as ‘spam’ . Comment on relevant conversations, look out for leads. If people message you, respond. Interact. Listen to what is being said. Use the opportunity to ask what people want to see and read and act accordingly.

Network and keep an eye out for industry specific hashtags and comments (you can free text search any key word or phrases on the main page). Use ‘lists’ for contacts and keep these updated and fresh (a clear out every few weeks any ‘dead wood’ so to speak).

There are more than 800 million active users on Facebook, with 50% of these logging in every day. With the average user connected to 80 community pages, groups and events – is your page going to be one of them?

Ensure you post relevant content every day. 2-5 times should suffice (this will vary depending on your service or product).  . Like Twitter, this is a perfect forum to interact directly with your customer base.

Use “Insights” to keep track of your on-page activity. Simply put, it is the Facebook version of Google Analytics. It is easy (and free) to use, and a must if you want to make your page a success. Review and analyse the data, schedule posts during high traffic periods.

Now owned by Google, You Tube is a free video sharing website with over 3 billion views every day. And with 150 years of YouTube video watched every day on Facebook, and more than 500 tweets containing YouTube links each minute, the numbers speak for themselves as to why you need to be involved.

“V-Logging” is a popular trend in the internet community, using the age old adage of a picture speaking a thousand words. Use the site to create unique content for your website and for use on your other social platforms. Interview employees, MDs, talk about your new product, your thoughts on the market, get customer referrals and recommendations. Even the odd spoof or well written comedy advert will get your name out there. Having this content will increase your following, and as a result your customer base.

Linked In is the world’s largest professional network, with over 120 million members. It connects you to your contacts with the ability to exchange knowledge, ideas and to create business opportunities through referrals and recommendations.

Linked In’s layout is similar to that of Facebook, with Groups and Networks to join that are relevant or interesting to the individual. Take time to join and be ‘active’ within these communities. This is your chance to shine and ‘show off’ your knowledge and build trust in who you are and what you do. Comment on discussions, create conversations, ask and listen to others thoughts and opinions.

You are also able to give (and receive) recommendations. Some can be contrived (and obviously so when reading) so encourage happy customers and colleagues to write them to build on your credibility.

Google Plus is the newcomer to the Social Media Scene, set up with an amalgamation of features and elements from other sites. It is still deemed as a slow runner in marketing circles, but it is by no stretch one to be ignored as it has continued to grow steadily since it began. We wrote a post not so long ago showing how to set up your Business Page with is worth a read if you are new to the area.

Again, using G+ is applying the same rules as above. Be courteous, interact. Be relevant and interesting, and show your customers that you are trustworthy and credible. With those in mind, you will be well on your way to being successful in Social Media in 2012.

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