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Author: Ryan Hirsch, NASBA Multimedia & Video Services Manager
Posted: May 17, 2012

In the ever-changing world of online marketing and public relations, businesses are now utilizing social media to interact with consumers in a very personal manner. As a result, long-lasting bonds are being created, and these connections are increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction. Social media is a great tool for businesses to use to cultivate customer relationships and learn how to engage their audiences, but businesses also have a lot to consider when using social media. Below are several tips explaining some of the best practices for companies using social media to connect with their clients.

Develop a Social Media Strategy

    This may sound like a simple step, but many businesses skip this process and jump into social media without setting specific goals and objectives. Determine whether your company is seeking to increase brand awareness, generate additional revenue or achieve a different marketing objective. Meaghan Edelstein warns companies not to "get so caught up in the social media frenzy that you forget to set goals that are both realistic and on point with your business' overall goals." Understanding your desired outcome is essential to establishing effective strategic and tactical plans of action to accomplish your objectives.

    Schedule Posts and Updates

      You can't be in two places at once… or can you? Content scheduling services like Spredfast and Hootsuite give users freedom and convenience by allowing them to schedule messages to be delivered at future times across multiple platforms. This can be an effective method for providing updates regarding special promotions, articles and upcoming events. These services also allow companies to decide which social media platforms to utilize based on the specific information being disseminated.

      Talk With Your Audience, Not At Them

        As previously mentioned, scheduling posts can be a great tool. However, it is essential to understand how to balance this feature with personal interaction. One-way communication strategies are better suited for billboards; the idea of social media is to connect and interact with real people. Eric Savitz of Forbes Magazine likens the concept of promoting without listening to "meet[ing] someone who constantly talk[s] about themselves. It's a real turn off. Social media is very similar; if you constantly talk about your business and what your business offers without listening or engaging with others, your network will fall flat." Failing to respond to customers on a personal level often creates a perception that your company is merely concerned with self-promotion, rather than serving your customers' needs.

        Respond to Negative Feedback

          It may be tempting to only highlight and respond to the positive comments about your company, but ignoring negative comments is a big mistake. This may be your only opportunity to respond to customers' concerns and convert their negative experiences into positive outcomes. You may not be able to resolve every customer complaint, but you can try to work toward a solution and help customers understand that your company values their business. Note: Individuals can often detect a patronizing or condescending tone; remember to maintain a positive attitude while addressing their concerns.

          Measure Your Success

            Analyzing the effectiveness of your social media campaign is essential to evaluating how your company should allocate future resources for online initiatives. Analytic reports will help track the number of people reading your articles, watching your videos and viewing your pictures. Many reports even indicate the top locations, viewing days and times your information is being viewed. Tools such as Google Analytics and Yahoo! Web Analytics can help businesses keep track of this vital information. Utilizing these services can also help you identify target markets that are not yet being reached.

            The best friendships and partnerships are often developed through relationships that are mutually beneficial to both parties. Customers understand companies want their business, but they also understand they can choose with whom to spend their money. Therefore, listen to the needs of your audience, engage them in productive dialogue, and create a compelling reason for them to choose your company over others.

            "Top Ten Social Media Tips for Businesses" Meaghan Edelstein 3/20/2012
            "10 Social Media Mistakes Small Businesses Can Avoid" 8/4/2011

            Other Suggested Reading

            "Measuring Social Media ROI: 3 Things to Consider" Erica Swallow 11/15/2011

            "Social Media Marketing Video" Lighthouse & Co.