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November 5th 2017

Do you need social media?

The rise of online social media over the past two decades has been characterised by constant change and a seemingly never-ending stream of new ‘must-have’ services. It's no surprise that many organisations struggle to take advantage of it, are overwhelmed by it, or become disheartened from their experience of it. So much has been written about the power of social media - good and bad, often with terminology that seems to be deliberately exclusive - that it has become marketing's double-edged sword. Is the reward worth the risk? Can social media *really* be of benefit to your business?

The short answer is yes. Absolutely.

We all know how prevalent these tools are in everyday life (you may well be checking your notifications while reading this). The average Internet user spends two hours a day checking and updating their accounts, and this pattern of usage has been on an upward trend since the early 2000s. Organisations who have adapted a coherent social media strategy see measurable benefits - efficiency savings, speed of communication, lead generation - all of which contribute to revenue.

Where to start

Your starting point should be the foundations that underpin your strategy - developing a strong online brand identity, and working on the creation of a pool of unique, repurposeable content that demonstrates your expertise in your sector. The development of this content, through on and offline publishing, combined with promotion and interaction on social networks, are the beginnings of establishing a social audience for your brand - one that will stay loyal and view you as a voice of authority within your field. The end result? When you speak, people listen.

Numbers don't count, influence does

There is a misconception that follower numbers or page likes are what makes a profile successful. Volume is important, but you should remember that all social media accounts started with the same audience number - zero - and setting arbitrary targets is not in itself a useful benchmark. Don't chase numbers for their own sake: remember, the initial steps are: · online brand development · content creation · content delivery

If you focus on these, you will find your business becomes more relatable, meaning the goal of becoming an influencer within your field comes ever closer. It does takes time to get social media 'right', as there are no defined rules for success - after all, every business is different and needs to approach social media with achievable goals, but here are some takeaways that can speed you on your way...

Some Do’s and Don’ts

1: Content isn't just words. Twitter and Facebook limit your visible text volume, and the old cliché of a picture speaking a thousand words has never been more valid - only now you can replace a picture with an infographic, animated GIF, video... you get the idea.
2: Promote your credentials. To be thought of as an expert, you need to demonstrate that you *are* one. The real-world accomplishments of your business will lend credibility to your online profile.
3: Don't view social media in isolation - it should be holistically integrated with your existing marketing, enabling you to acquire and retain an audience who will listen to you both on and offline.
4: Don't make it hard for yourself. Start out by using the platform you feel most comfortable with, as this will be where your interaction is at its most natural and sincere.
5: Be social! Engage with your followers - encourage interaction, listen and respond to feedback, cross-promote relevant industry information... and watch your audience grow. Identify key figures in your industry and engage with them too - their interaction (a visible form of endorsement) helps consolidate your *own* legitimacy.
6: Remember - don't chase numbers for their own sake. It's very easy to go down the rabbit hole with social media and become distracted by the buzz of new stories *unrelated to your aims*. Stay focused on your industry and business objectives - your followers will thank you for staying on-message.

Falling under the influence

Thought leader, influencer... terms like these are part of that exclusive terminology we mentioned at the start of this post, so let's look at this in a slightly different way. There are people out there looking for help. You're in a position to help them, but at the moment you don't speak to each other. Perhaps, if you introduced yourself and listened to what they had to say, they'd ask you to help them. And who doesn't want that?

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