Love or loathe social media, it's a great form of marketing for millions of businesses. Not all networks are for everyone though, and it's not as "free" as you might think - not just because of maturing ad platforms on the popular networks, but just because of how much time (that most precious of all commodities!) it takes to plan, create, manage and analyse a social media marketing campaign.
Yes, analyse. You don't need to just churn stuff out onto Twitter or Facebook to tick the social media box - you need to know if what you're doing is working and learn what works and what doesn't. There are so many tools out there to help you with this, and this section of our site hopes to - over time - bring you up to speed on what's available for you
For best results with social media, remember that it's a two way street. The worst uses of social media I see are organisations just putting stuff out there with no regard to people's replies. Social media is exactly that – "social". Make sure you reply to people who speak to you, only post information that's of interest to your customers, and don't make it just about ramming your sales pitch down everyone's throat. Using social media well, you'll often mention other companies or organisations you like and share links to other blogs or interesting articles, but you won't just repeat stuff other people have said parrot fashion; you'll offer insights and ideas, as well as your experience. Try and get your client base involved with your social media activity as that's the way to get noticed by potential new clients, as if your followers/fans/clients join in your discussion their contacts will see what they said, and be led back to you.
Don't be afraid of social media. I knew a big brand who didn't want to go on Facebook because they didn't want anyone to write anything bad about them. Well, if you're a big brand, it's going to get said on Facebook somewhere! So you should have a profile set up and in action so you can respond to anything that's said.
Another concern with social media is that it can soak up company time with no real results, and that is a possibility. But if you plan a strategy, you need only spend 10 minutes a day keeping up with things – tools like HootSuite can help you manage various social media sites from one place. There are also a lot of tools out there (including premium features on HootSuite) which let you update your social media profiles automatically from blog posts, or according to schedules. This can be fine as a basis for your accounts, but shouldn't be relied on / your only activity – as I said above, social media is a two way process and just only tweeting the latest posts from your blog won't make you a run away twitter success. ReadWriteWeb carried out (allbeit accidentally!) a very interesting study into manual vs. automatic social media updates.
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