So, what is ‘social media’? Some have already labelled it as ‘a fad’ but for business, it’s a revolutionary new way to reach out to potential clients.

Social Media works for business because it enables connections with a wide range of people. Engaging directly with existing clients, suppliers and potential customers helps to create trust and a reliable, relevant network. It is the online equivalent of the traditional networking event but instead of swapping business cards, companies can develop mutually beneficial relationships via websites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.

For online marketing purposes, building the right image is key. Visual content works brilliantly with social media as users respond to images which help them to recognise products and brands. This is especially true of Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. Networks such as Twitter are perfect for engaging with a wide range of people in a short space of time whereas LinkedIn can be utilised as an online CV for showcasing individual as well as company expertise. Businesses can use a range of social media accounts to publicise their brand, products and services with maximum impact but  without the financial burden of a traditional advertising campaign.

If a business has a creative nature, photography and info-graphics can be used effectively on a range of social media platforms. The trick is building connections and therefore engaging with as many people as possible to get noticed and regarded as a trustworthy, reliable organisation. Social media is utilised by a high percentage of businesses in the UK (according to The Social Media Benchmark by The Chartered Institute of Marketing,71% are currently using Twitter) so it makes sense it is widely used as a successful marketing tool.

But not all social media platforms are suitable for every business. The best approach is to be selective and focus on the networks where potential customers are likely to be. Also, the key word here is “social”. To get the most out of social media marketing, companies need to engage and not just announce news or updates. They should also be prepared to be responsive – establishing a presence on social media means making an invitation for people to communicate. Ignoring them would be a waste of time and highly unprofessional!

Just like the business world, social media is constantly changing and evolving. Businesses should make sure that they regularly measure responses and monitor activity on their social media accounts. If visual content generates a lot of interest, keep using it! If articles or editorial aren’t working, be more creative with content and create links to websites/blogs which provide the best examples of your Unique Selling Point or USP.

Remember: Business is all about relationships. Use social media to be generous and interested in other people. Although social media is largely cost-free, a large amount of time and effort should be invested to ensure the best results.

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