If you’ve neglected to create a social media presence for your business, or you’ve been slow to adopt using social media as a digital marketing tool, now is a great time to jump on the bandwagon. Using social media is a great way to increase brand awareness, develop relationships with potential customers and associates, and to increase traffic to your web pages. As with anything else, there are always best practices that will help you to get the most out of your efforts. Here are 15 rules for using social media as a digital marketing tool. #1. Choose Platforms That Fit Your Audience And Branding Unless you have a very robust marketing staff, you cannot adequately participate in every social media platform, nor should you. Be selective about where you choose to spend your marketing efforts. If the answers to the following two questions are not yes, chances are a platform is not for you: Is this platform a good fit for your brand? Do your target customers participate here? #2. Your Social Media Marketing Efforts Should Dovetail With Your Overall Strategy Social media marketing strategy is not something that you create in addition to your overall marketing strategy. It should be integrated into your overall strategy. This may require modifying some policies and documentation, but it will be worth having a complete and cohesive strategy. #3. Participate Don’t Dominate You want your posts to earn shares, and to encourage conversation among your followers. By all means, participate in those conversations as well. Answer questions, and weigh in where it is needed. Just be sure to avoid taking over conversations. The dominant voices should always be those of your followers. #4. Content Quality Comes First It’s been many years since somebody coined the phrase “content is king”, but the sentiment is as true today as it ever was. If your content isn’t well-written, relevant, and trust building, it isn’t worth publishing. There are also a variety of tools and educational resources that will help you to improve the content that you write. #5. Reach Out to People Outside of Social Media Once a week or so, identify a few people that you would like to connect with outside of social networks. These might be loyal customers, influencers, top commenters, and even vendors who have been active on your social media pages. Then, send out a getting to know you email, or invite them to a get to know you session over Skype. #6. Use Google Analytics to Measure Results If you are new to using social media for content marketing, you may have some people in your office who need convincing that it’s worth the time and effort. In fact, the person who needs to be convinced might even be you. Using Google Analytics to measure your social media results will give you the ability to prove what is and is not working. You can use this to prove the benefits, and to determine which strategies need to be reconsidered. #7. Build Relationships With Influencers Influencers are people who have developed reputations in a particular industry as being particularly knowledgeable, and who are seen as a source of information. A large part of social media marketing strategy isn’t only based on what you have to say, it’s based upon who is interested in what you have to say. Follow influencers in your niche on social media, comment on their posts, and get involved in their conversations. Eventually, they may follow you in return, and provide valuable insights into your posts. #8. Manage Your Follower Lists on a Regular Basis Spend about 30 minutes each week going through both your own subscriptions and your lists of followers. If the profiles are inactive, or if they are not following you back, it may be time to do a bit of housekeeping. #9. Enhance Your Posts With Images And Videos If you want people to stop on one of your posts, give them the incentive to do so by including a video or other image. It increases the likelihood that folks will stop and read what you have to say and that your posts will be shared. Even posts that are intended to be all text can be enhanced by laying the text over a background image such as a sign or thought bubble. #10. Participate Consistently Don’t allow too much time to go between posts and updates. If you have a blog, commit to setting a day each week to publish at least one post. Ideally, you will post more than that. In those cases, there are tools that will help you to plan your posting schedule. #11. Ensure That Social Media Posts go Through an Approval Process Once you begin using social media, there is a good chance that multiple people from multiple departments will want to participate. This is a good thing, as long as each post is vetted out by a social media expert before it is seen by the public. #12. Don’t Neglect Promotions Don’t waste your time by publishing interesting things, but never promoting them. Each piece of content that is produced should be enthusiastically promoted. As an additional note, if your audience crosses time zones, your publishing and promoting might be impacted by that. #13. Create a Written Set of Guidelines And Supplemental Materials A social media toolkit will help all people who participate in digital marketing to get up to speed, and understand what needs to be done to maintain brand integrity. These guidelines might include information on acceptable fonts, writing style, and logos and color schemes. #14. Review Your Participation on a Regular Basis Part of your marketing strategy review process should include reviewing the social media platforms that you participate on, and the ones that are available to you. It may turn out that a particular platform is not working out for you, and that a previously ignored platform offers opportunities that you have missed. #15. Remember That Social Media Participation is Also Part Customer Service Every interaction you have with a potential customer or client should be considered as much about customer services as it is about marketing. Be polite, responsive, and helpful when you are approached with questions or comments. Conclusion Adding social media to your existing marketing strategy is a great idea. Stick to the guidelines above, and you should be very successful. Images: ” Software, social media concept. Colorful icon buttons sphere on the computer keyboard / Shutterstock.com“ ____________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. 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