A few years ago, a journalist (in Europe) told me that Twitter and Facebook is a fad and that it would not have any place in business. Fast forward to today – he’s eaten his words and got on the bandwagon himself.

There are still a few businesses in these parts that still have the same attitude and are ‘terrified’ of becoming social. Whether they like it or not, there is probably someone out there that has spoken about them or referenced them. And, like “no comment” to a journalist means they can draw their own conclusions, a “no response” on social media is likely to be construed as indifference. It’s time to take stock and get social. Safely.

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Here are a few dos and don’ts of tipping your business toes in the water.

  • In order to effectively use social networks, let it reflect the identity and a reputation of your offline business.
  • Know your audience and understand their specific online habits and interests as well as things like lifestyle, age, geography and profession. Take the time to observe your personal business network before you begin posting as a business. Discover how your audience communicates best and start a conversation. Be aware that people are more likely to respond to you personally rather than your business – so make your posts (both business and personal) worthy of interaction; not just about the business.
  • Learn who the more influential people are, interact with them knowledgeably i.e. contribute to discussions rather than a hard sell, share resources even when they are not your own but related. Becoming an influential member of the network can be time-consuming and difficult, but it will make it much easier to gain attention for important items once this is established. Try not to spread yourself too thin by attempting to be everything to everyone on all social networks. Develop a network of individuals that share a common theme or interest.

[Related: My (not so) social media tricks and tips]

  • Add at least two contacts per week on networks that are relevant to your business. It’s a great way to connect with people and get opportunities flowing.
  • Stay away from the over-hyped, all-purpose social networks that don’t drive traffic or influence people. They are out there and they want to suck your time. Don’t let them. If they can’t get you decent traffic or links, don’t waste your time. Sometimes finding one active online forum in your niche sector might be the way to like a LinkedIn Group. Introduce yourself and get involved – use the private messaging features to introduce yourself to other influential members. Remember – when introducing yourself, DON’T sell.
  • When posting new items, pay particular attention to the Title you use. The title is like a headline, and it should “grab” attention without misleading anyone or being too vague. It is often helpful to evangelise and promote the social network itself.
  • Creating video is a perfect way to reach a wide audience and get people talking about your product. Take advantage of Google Universal with video optimisation. Create one video for your business and put it on YouTube. Build links to it.
  • Spend some time per day contacting a new person from the key social networks via instant message and forging a bond. You can usually locate this information on their profile page.
  • RSS feeds are an important way to keep people informed and updated automatically with the latest products or services offered.

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Marketers are using these tools to the best of their abilities and attracting more of the right followers than ever before. Some elements, when put in place, can add tons to that content. As you can see there are many ways to make your social media presence gain momentum and build on relationships with your target audience. Some of these elements are obvious and simple to include while others take more creative thought and energy.

So what’s stopping you now?

It was written by Mita Srinivasan, Director at Market Buzz International, a consultancy, providing strategic PR and communications support to existing small to medium enterprises operating in the Middle East with a focus on B2B businesses.