One of the most common misconceptions about businesses using social media is that people think it is easy and a cheap alternative to traditional marketing. You can just picture it. The boss walks in to the office and asks who is on Facebook, some luckless member of staff puts their hand up and, hey presto, they are the new social media manager.

Business use of social media cannot be used on a whim, as a knee jerk reaction because someone, somewhere read an article about it in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter. Handled badly social media interaction with existing and potential customers could actually do your business more harm than good.

Silence Is Golden

Your first action when starting social media is not to rush out and blast the Internet with sales pitches – it is to listen. Using the tools available in Twitter and Facebook first see if anyone is already talking about your company. If so the odds are it could be detrimental, but just hold that thought, don’t charge in to try and rectify any collateral damage.

Next, see what others in your business sector are doing and what the clientele is talking about, Make notes about the style, tone, messages and profile that your rivals are using and see how the people are reacting. Why reinvent the wheel?

Audit your audience. Look at the social profiles of your existing and potential clientele and choose your social media platforms accordingly.If, for example your products or services are largely directed at a female audience then Pinterest is a must over and above Twitter or Facebook.

Audit your existing web presence. Make sure that your web site can accommodate link buttons to your social media platforms, Is all the information there that potential clients need to do business with you?Get some third party input from people who might be able to spot gaps or mistakes.

Social Media Is Human

Nobody uses social media to have sales messages rammed down their throats. Create your social media profile to be approachable, friendly, trustworthy – all the traits you would look for in human friend. A sense of humour is great, just remember that everyone’s idea of what is funny varies tremendously. Used wrongly humour will please some and alienate others.

One of the best ways to humanise your business is to create a blog, write about the people in the business, case studies from satisfied clients, run posts from key members of staff about their take on business or even their charity walk. If your social media presence is an online equivalent of the annual report you’ve blown it!

Setting Goals And ROI

While business social of social media should be enjoyable don’t lose track of the fact that it is another marketing tool and like all marketing activities it should make a positive contribution to the bottom line. The most obvious goal is to to monitor how effective it is in bringing in new business. It’s pretty simplistic but log how many sales enquiries you receive or have received before your social media campaign launched and then log any increases one it has started.

Setting a goal gives you focus, to understand why you’re blogging and using Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest anyway. Goal-setting is always an exploration of purpose, so take the time to explore. Don’t fall into the trap that the only metric that matters is popularity and the number of readers, followers, friends, subscribers, and viewers you can amass.

Long Term V Sprint

Don’t fall on your sword if your goals aren’t achieved in the first few months. Social media is a long term strategy, not a sprint. Examine your goals and strategy to re-tweak if necessary but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater in an attempt to justify your campaign.

As a guide to goal setting you cannot do better than read the advice of Ching Ya, take time to read her past and present blogs, there’s a wealth of advice there.

Finally you will need tools to help you sift through all the data. I cannot praise HootSuite enough which is why it is one of the few affiliate programmes that I subscribe to. Do thge job properly and buy the Pro versions and you have an all in one social media tool that helps you push your message out and to receive reports on how effective you are.