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The four golden rules of social media use

So you’ve set up a business Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account, ready and raring to dive into the world of social media. But doubt begins clouding the optimism and you wonder how you’re supposed to know whether you’re doing it right? Follow these golden rules to get your social media use off to the right start.

Social media delivers a wide range of benefits to business, like increased web traffic, improved brand reputation and the ability to identify new product and service opportunities – to name just a few – but as a newbie it can be difficult to navigate this social world and its many unwritten rules of use.

While there’s no surefire formula to getting it right 100 percent of the time on social media, following these golden rules should get you close.

1. Be generous

This is the best piece of advice any social media newbie could be given and is generally a good explanation of why a business or brand has a large number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes. If you’re generous with the information you share on social media, users and potential customers are far more likely to connect with your business and form lasting relationships. If you spend too much time on self-promotion, you’ll never get the leads and new business you’ve been dreaming of.

Take Dynamic Business’s Twitter account for example. We tweet links to information useful to our small business audience at least once an hour, 24 hours a day and as a result we now have close to 10,000 followers and extremely high engagement levels.

Yes, we’re a publisher with a lot of information at our disposal to share with our community, but we’re also just experts in our area, exactly the same way you’re and expert in your industry and this is what potential customers are searching for. So share that interesting industry article or whitepaper you read the other day, re-tweet that blog post or business leader’s comment relevant to your sector and spend five minutes replying to those customer questions and comments.

Social media isn’t about pushing your agenda and endless links back to your business homepage, it’s about being generous with your expertise and using this to create value for your online community. Think of it like becoming an online resource in your industry – be open and share what you know.

2. Be consistent

Consistency is the key to any social media campaign. I know many of you are time-poor and can’t commit to spending the day in front of Twitter and Facebook, but there are a number of free tools on the market to help make your social media activity a little more consistent.

Think of it this way: You have 500 Twitter followers from various time zones around the world – what are the chances they’re all looking at their account at the exact moment you publish that one tweet per day? Slim to none. This is why you should be using a free tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, and spending 20-30 minutes a day on scheduling tweets and Facebook posts that will be sent out throughout the day.

The Dynamic Business account might send out tweets 24 hours a day, but that doesn’t mean I’m sitting behind the computer until all hours of the night. I spend around an hour on Hootsuite each day scheduling what I want to go out to our online communities, and although I do monitor what’s happening on our accounts throughout the day, scheduling allows me to shift focus and move onto the other things I need to get done.

It’s also good to note here that it’s not a great idea to schedule the same posts for your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Tweets should be much more frequent than Facebook posts, and if you apply the same strategy to both platforms you’ll end up alienating Facebook users who don’t want their News Feeds clogged up with endless business or brand updates. People use Twitter and Facebook for very different reasons, and your social media strategy should take this into consideration.

3. Be yourself

Just because you’re running a business account, doesn’t mean you can’t inject a little personality into your social media activity.

Don’t post like a robot – introduce your online community to your staff members and share photos of any exciting happenings in your business. Use the platform to ask for comments or criticism, and act on them, and get involved in online discussions with other people in your industry.

Not only is it fun to connect with a business or brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, potential customers love to see the human face behind an organisation they’re thinking of doing business with. It’s all about building trust and lasting relationships.

4. Be thoughtful

It’s good practice to think twice before posting anything on social media, to check whether what you’re saying could be misinterpreted or misconstrued in any way, shape or form.

Some brands have failed badly at this recently. Remember when Coles asked its Twitter followers to finish the sentence “In my house it’s a crime not to buy ____________”? The supermarket giant was quickly inundated with sarcastic responses, such as “@ExStaffer: fruit & veg from a place that pays their farmers fair prices & sells seasonal fruit not store in a freezer or artificially ripened.” Qantas and Woolworths have copped similar criticism recently for some poorly thought out Facebook posts and tweets too.

It can be very tricky to rebuild an online reputation, not to mention devastating to see your hard work undone so quickly,  so the lesson to take away from these major social media fails is to read every post twice before publishing or scheduling it. And if you’re still not sure, get a second pair of eyeballs to look over it too.

What do you find most difficult about using social media?

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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